I've been riding my bike to work for years and hate cramming all my "stuff " into a backpack. My footwear was always the bulkiest object. So I set out to create a lightweight, easy-to-pack shoe that gives back to the earth at the end of its life. What started with a selfish motivation has grown into a passion and desire to contribute in a positive way to our environment and society.
According to Soles4Souls.org, we throw over 700 thousand tons of apparel and footwear into our landfills annually and 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year. As a designer, statistics like this make me cringe and I didn’t want to create another pair of shoes that would contribute to environmental pollution. This motivated me to consider the full life-cycle of the shoe, including where the materials come rom, how the shoe is made, who makes it, who wears it, how it’s disposed of and what it does to the earth after disposal.
Most sustainable products are made to last, but they eventually still find their way to the landfill. While the EarthBaked PlusMinus shoe is durable, it’s not intended to last a lifetime. Materials like wool and natural rubber make up the shoe and are intended to enrich the earth when properly disposed of. Wool is a naturally sustainable material because it’s soft, antimicrobial, breathable, moisture-wicking, water repellent, and durable. Once wool is introduced into soil, it works as a slow-release fertilizer. With a little heat, moisture and time, the fibers break down and release valuable sulfur and nitrogen into the soil.
We wanted to make a shoe that would be beneficial for people around the world. According to Samaritan’s Feet International, two billion people worldwide are currently plagued with parasitic diseases that could be prevented by wearing shoes. The minimal design and lack of tooling and molded parts in the PlusMinus shoe will allow it to be mass produced at an affordable price. With an industrial sewing machine, scissors, a pattern and material, a family in Africa could start their own shoe business and try to prevent foot-born illnesses in their communities.
The PlusMinus shoe strengthens feet by allowing an almost barefoot walking experience with comfort and protection. It also strengthens the earth and our conscience by serving as fertilizer, not landfill fodder at the end of its life-cycle. If you’d like to support a biodegradable shoe that could give back, support our campaign on Kickstarter.
This project will be featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.
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