January 16, 2017

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Adidas: A Step In The Right Direction

Adidas Ocean Plastic Shoe

 

Adidas: A step in the right Direction

 

Well now this is news. Adidas just put every single surf brand to shame (including us I suppose) and dropped a shoe made from 95% recycled ocean plastics. It’s called the UltraBoost and retails at $220USD. Which for a top of the line runner is actually a fairly competitive price.

 

This is groundbreaking on so many different levels.

 

Creating a product from non-virgin materials is the future (it needs to be). Anytime you consume a resource, no matter how sustainable, you are making a considerable environmental impact. Even organic cotton (which we use) still requires planting, watering (a lot of watering), harvesting and replanting. This takes an incredible toll of agricultural land and uses a lot valuable resources. This fibre then enters the manufacturing process, which adds additional impact, then it enters the supply chain, which is probably the worst of the three. By re-using existing materials we can eliminate a large portion of this process and skip the first step. You reduce end waste, and for argument sake, take 1/3 of the impact out of the production process.

 

We have so much in material circulation that is wasted because it costs more to recover than it does to create more of it. Money is driving this trend like everything else. Figuring out ways to re-use existing materials and create competitively priced products is how we will really change the world. Once recycling products becomes cheaper than creating them, you will see everyone doing it. Adidas just took the step by proving this is possible (yes, pun intended).

adidas ocean plastic shoe

They created a competitively priced product. In the capitalism driven world we’ve created, money rules all and if you’re not making it your idea isn’t going anywhere. That’s the next huge accomplishment. They have created an affordable product and are making money! They released 7000 and intend to continue to produce them, which leads me to believe they are making a profit. This isn’t a charity stunt, it’s a real product. Seven thousand isn’t even that many, it’s incredibly impressive they achieved this with that sort of volume. Yes, the shoe is expensive but not out of this world. For example, their competitors (Nike) sell their top of the range shoes for $265USD, midrange are around $190USD.

 

They also proved a lot of people wrong by accomplishing this. Recycled fishnets from the ocean are being used more and more to create recycled products. Bureo makes skateboards from fishnets recovered from the ocean. Kelly Slater’s brand Outerknown makes clothing from fish nets (mind you you’ll likely have to take a second mortgage and give up your first born for a hoodie). To my knowledge this is the first mass produced product from dredged ocean plastics. If you research creating products from ocean plastic, you’ll find the main argument is that by the time the plastic is collected the sun has photo-degraded it to a point where it is no longer able to be recycled into a new material. This is also one of the main arguments against Boyan Slat’s ocean clean up project (this is probably the foremost project in development to clean up existing ocean plastic). He plans to sell the collected plastic at market value to continue to fund the clean up project. Critics argue he won’t be able to sell it because the plastic’s integrity is compromised by the sun. This was always a little bit counter intuitive to me since a plastic water bottle takes 450 years to biodegrade. Since plastic (polyethylene) didn’t become popular/affordable until the 1960’s, we’re only at about 57 years since the first ones likely made it to the ocean. Did Adidas just prove all these critics wrong?

 

What’s really revolutionary here is this was done by a one of the big boys. Adidas is publicly traded, which means they are motivated by creating wealth for their shareholders. The desire for perpetual share growth which forces companies to continuously find new ways to decrease cost and increase profit is the biggest hurdle for eco-minded projects. They tend to be far less profitable than cheap and easy resource heavy production methods which means most large companies avoid them. (Note that Patagonia, the industry leader in kicking eco-ass, is privately owned. Imagine the investor shit storm if a public company donated ten million dollars in potential dividends to charities like they just did on Black Friday. Nope.) These large public companies are the ones that can really change the industry right now and shift the trends towards responsible production. Figuring out ways that socially and environmentally friendly projects will make good money is how we will make a noticeable difference in the world and reverse the trends we’ve started. 

 

Adidas I reckon you just kicked down a heavy door. Lets see who follows.

 

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