Over time, sneakers have become a pinnacle part of people’s style and in many ways, a part of people’s identity. Its growing influence can be attributed to the fusion of basketball, fashion, hip hop and youth culture that fathered what we now identify as the sneaker culture.
This community of people has continued to grow exponentially and sneaker consumption is on the rise globally. However, as the world continues to battle with climate change, there is a growing concern about the negative impact sneaker manufacturing may be having on our environment.
Consumers of today are aware of the importance of sustainable fashion and are asking more from the sneaker companies they support. Concerns come as no surprise since one sneaker alone could produce as much as 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Every year, over 23 billion pairs of sneakers are manufactured, and over 300 million pairs of shoes are tossed out and wind up in landfills.
It can take anywhere from 30 to 40 years for sneakers in landfills to decompose.
Rest assured, new promising changes are happening in the sneaker world that are revising production methods. Companies like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have responded by adopting new manufacturing processes and material innovations.
Considering the long-standing environmental implications sneaker consumption may have on society, people are challenging themselves to make better choices and even to take action like the founder of Sneaker Impact, Moe Hachem.
He is no stranger to the recycling game, as a matter of fact, he grew up in the industry and has worked in the business for over 25 years. Moe has spent most of his career exporting recycled goods to fund micro-businesses and has the logistics down to a science. After decades of experience, he decided to combine his knowledge and passion to be a driver of change by launching Sneaker Impact.
Sneaker Impact is a social enterprise business that is determined to tackle environmental problems associated with sneaker- waste by recycling reusable sneakers. They take new and gently used sneakers and recycle them, helping to keep them out of landfills and into the hands of micro-businesses in developing countries to strengthen the local economy.
Their work has helped prevent millions of shoes from ending up in landfills and being destroyed through a method known to be harmful to our environment. I spoke with Moe to discuss sneaker production, his impact, and the future of Sneaker Impact.
Q: From your experience, what is the environmental impact of sneaker production and which sneaker brands do you feel are improving their sustainability efforts?
A: First and foremost, we’d like to encourage everyone to do their part in an effort to combat climate change. Whether that means recycling your used sneakers with us, ditching plastic bottles for reusable bottles, or reducing your energy consumption. We all have a part to play, and need to work together. Currently 300 million pairs of used shoes and sneakers end up in landfills every year, and some of those sneakers can take up to 1000 years to decompose!
Q: What inspired you to start sneaker impact?
A: The sneaker/shoe industry has quadrupled in the last few decades and about 19 billion shoes/sneakers are purchased every year. We need to find a solution to keep these used sneakers and shoes out of landfills and Sneaker Impact has found the solution.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your process and why you think it is important that you work with micro-businesses in developing countries?
A: At Sneaker Impact we’re offering everyone an opportunity to easily recycle their used sneakers, rerouting them from landfills, to micro business merchants in developing countries. These merchants are then able to sell your used sneakers at an affordable price point to someone who wouldn’t have been able to afford or find them otherwise.
These sneakers are vehicles for many people in these countries. It’s their transportation to and from work or school. The micro businesses we work with oftentimes refurbish the sneakers if needed as well. Washing, deodorizing, painting, re-lacing, etc.. Which in turn creates more jobs for people who may not be able to find one otherwise.
Q: What countries are these sneakers going to and how many sneakers do you ship out a month?
A: The volume ranges based on location and market. We ship all over the world.
Q: What impact have you seen in the work you do and where do you see your company in 5 years?
A: We’ve received heartfelt videos and testimonials from our micro-business connections in other countries and it’s inspiring. They’ve been able to provide for their families through their small markets. By refurbishing these old sneakers that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, they are able to make a living and also provide a pair of footwear for someone in dire need.
Q: What can consumers do to address their environmental impact?
A: As I mentioned before, we can all do our part in recycling. Whether it’s a local church, homeless shelters or even families in other countries, it is vital that we prevent sneakers from ending in the landfills. There is always someone out there in need of footwear. Sneaker Impact’s mission is to spread awareness on giving your sneakers a second chance.
Q: How can we change this conversation and better educate the sneaker culture?
A: Spreading awareness is key. The same way we recycle plastic and paper; it’s the same concept with footwear.
Q: Have you partnered with any brands and if/not what type of partnerships do you see for Sneaker Impact in the future?
A: Sneaker Impact partners with schools, gyms/health clubs, retailers and like minded individuals all over the country. We are currently in touch with a number of major brands to partner with and support their corporate sustainability efforts. And we’re constantly working to spread the message by having retailers place Sneaker Impact bins in their stores.
Q: How can people support you and join your movement?
A: To help Sneaker Impact specifically, we just want to continue spreading our message and try to reach as many people as we can. We want people to know that their sneakers don’t have to end up in a landfill, when they can be recycled and reused by someone who needs them. You can recycle your sneakers with Sneaker Impact in 1 of 2 ways.
- Go to www.sneakerimpact.com click recycle, and print a prepaid shipping label, at no cost to you. From there you just package them up and send them off.
- Go to www.sneakerimpact.com, and find a local drop box. If you don’t have a local drop box, ask and encourage your local gym, sneaker retailer, school, etc., to get one. All they have to do is e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request a bin. Our bins are also provided at no cost, and come with a prepaid shipping label.
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Sana is a consultant, social entrepreneur, activist, and freelance writer. She is eager to bring information centred around social impact, fashion law, and women rights. In addition to running Sana crown, a fashion and social enterprise brand, she splits her time consulting with fashion businesses on brand strategy, writing as a freelance contributor and managing the Fashion Law Africa Summit, a platform centred around the empowerment of African fashion.