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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

A Step in the Right Direction

Meet the Companies That Are Upcycling
Ocean to Turn the Tides on Shoe Manufacturing

Adidas Parley mid-sole is 3D printed from recycled ocean waste. Image:

By Chris Gillespie

When it comes to carbon emissions, the textile industry is the world’s second biggest polluter behind the oil and gas industry. A significant portion of the textile industry’s footprint comes from footwear. With their multi-material designs, paper-intensive packaging and short-sighted style and durability, an overwhelming amount of the 25 billion pairs of shoes manufactured each year are not made with sustainability in mind.

Fortunately, apparel and footwear companies around the world are realizing that they can lessen their own carbon footprint while simultaneously working to help solve another environmental crisis: the amount of plastic in our oceans. After recovering, or in some cases, intercepting, discarded plastic from coastal habitats, manufacturers are able to upcycle the plastic into materials which can be used to make most, if not all, of a brand new shoe.

With this in mind, if you or your family are in the market for new shoes this fall, whether for back-to-school or for early holiday shopping, consider supporting one of these innovative, ocean-friendly shoe brands.


In 2015, iconic sportswear brand Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans with the goal of using ocean plastic to make high-quality athletic wear that would be indistinguishable from goods made with virgin plastic. Nearly five years later, Adidas and Parley have sold over a billion dollars’ worth of shoes crafted from upcycled ocean plastic and have helped keep over 2810 tons of plastic waste out of the ocean. In addition to this, Adidas has begun incorporating recycled plastic into their clothing, completely eliminated plastic bags from their stores and aims to use 100% recycled polyester in their products wherever possible by 2024.

For more information, visit


Sperry’s BIONIC ® Collection creates shoes using yarn spun from plastic recycled from marine and coastal environments. Image: www.

As a brand that specializes in boat shoes and other nautical-inspired footwear, Sperry feels a special obligation to keep the oceans that their products evoke clean and healthy. Earlier this year, Sperry released their new Sperry BIONIC ® Collection, which creates shoes using BIONIC’s signature yarn which is spun from plastic recovered from marine and coastal environments. Together, BIONIC and Sperry’s other mission partner, Waterkeeper Alliance, have, to date, recovered the equivalent of 4.2 million plastic bottles from marine environments, using an average of five upcycled plastic bottles for each pair of Sperry BIONIC ® shoes.

For more information, visit

Rothy’s collection of stylish flats are environmentally-friendly and durable. Image:


Rothy’s is a women’s shoe company built on sustainability. By using upcycled plastic bottles to create the knitting for their shoes, as well as vegan, recyclable, carbon-free rubber for the soles, Rothy’s collection of stylish flats are ecological and durable. In fact, Rothy’s products are so durable, they can even be machine washed, allowing their owners to maximize their lifespan and continue enjoying clean, sheik shoes for miles and miles. In addition to this, Rothy’s shoes are shipped in 100% recyclable biodegradable shoe boxes that are made from 85% post-consumer recycled material and are durable enough to be shipped by themselves, as to prevent box-in-a-box shipping.

For more information, visit


SAOLA shoe collections are manufactured from recycled plastic bottles and environmentally-friendly materials. Image:

Named after one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, SAOLA is as passionate about finding new ways to implement eco-construction techniques in their shoe development as they are wildlife conservation. SAOLA’s collections of men’s and women’s everyday shoes are built from recycled plastic bottles as well as several other innovative, environmentally-friendly materials. By partnering with Bloom Foam, SAOLA has been removing harmful algae from lakes and rivers and using it as a main ingredient in their shoes’ soles. SAOLA then uses cork, a highly renewable material, to finish their soles with extra comfort and odor-resistance. On top of this, 1% of all SAOLA shoes sold will support volunteer efforts to supply sustainable water systems to wildlife communities in Africa.

For more information, visit

Indosole uses discarded tires to produce its footwear collection. Image:


Certified B Corporation Indosole is working to reduce the build-up of another impervious man-made substance in our natural environment: tires. Similar to plastic, tires are practically indestructible when it comes to decomposition, so discarded tires have been collecting and damaging waterways and other habitats around the world for a century. The team at Indosole intercepts old tires before they are thrown away and cuts them by hand into soles of various shapes and sizes. These soles are then attached to the upper halves of the shoes, which are woven from various natural materials like grass, banana leaves and organic canvas.
Indosole is best known for their ESSNTLS line of flip flops and slide-on sandals, however, they also sell a variety of other flats as well.

For more information, visit

Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for Green Energy Times. He can be reached at

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