GOOD

Adidas is making 11 million shoes out of recycled ocean plastic.

The demand for these shoes has blown away expectations.

Update: Adidas announced they will create 11 million new shoes using recycled plastic that has been pulled from our planet’s oceans.

It’s morning. Another picture-perfect day by the sea. You lace up your new running shoes. Stepping into the crisp, bright day, you fill your lungs with air. Soon, you’re at the beach, hitting your stride.


You stumble. Tangled around your foot is the scourge of coastlines and oceans worldwide: a dirty mass of single-use plastic. Washed up on dry land, bobbing in the surf, bottles, bags, and other debris isn’t just trashing your morning run. It’s strangling life on Earth — above and below the waves.

What if, instead of simply kicking away the trash and grimly jogging on, you — and millions around the world — retrieved it? What if that action was part of a global campaign that infuses our deadly waste with a transformational intention to reclaim it from the waters and return it to use in our lives?

And, what if those shoes on your feet were made from that very same ocean plastic?

That’s the visionary idea behind Parley for the Oceans.

Photo courtesy of Parley.

Founded by activist designer Cyrill Gutsch, the organization — built around the insight that creativity catalyzes change faster than awareness alone — launched a historic Earth Day partnership with Adidas that saw every Major League Soccer team don jerseys constructed with Parley materials that upcycle ocean plastic. There are running shoes made in the same way, too — including a Stella McCartney trainer — and a women’s yoga gear line called Wanderlust.

Why merch instead of public service announcements?

For Gutsch, the answer is simple. Not only is collaboration more powerful than flogging a message solo — it’s more productive, too.

And when it comes to moving people to adopt new ways of seeing and doing, the fashion and art world is the perfect place to make bold new concepts concrete.

In that world, says Gutsch, “people expect to be surprised, to learn new things. and be inspired to change their ways.” Fashion, he laughs, “has the power to create trends which make you do things that often make zero sense.”

Jerseys created from recycled ocean plastic. Photo courtesy Adidas/Parley.

With a cause as monumental as saving the oceans and marine life, trends can be leveraged to reach straight for heart and soul, not argument and analysis.

“Environmentalism, for a long time, was all about protest, all about warning,” he explains. “It was not fast enough to bring the economy to change, even though it is a fast-growing movement. We will not be able to convince everybody on this planet by presenting scientific evidence. We have to find a catalyst and that is what these products are that we make: symbols of change.”

That’s where the science comes in.

“With creatives, I include a scientist on the same level as an artist,” Gutsch says. And Parley’s technicians, who turn discarded ocean plastic into the textile-like material woven into Adidas athletic garments, are truly scientific artisans.

“We believe that if you want to replace something that does harm,” he notes, “you need to come with something that is better. You have to question product but you also have to develop new product ideas.”

Photo courtesy of Adidas/Parley.

Without a tangible, concrete improvement, there’s no value proposition for the brands and companies, according to Gutsch, you need to bring fashion breakthroughs to global markets. “They just can’t justify a change of course if they don’t have a replacement,” he says.

That’s what won over Adidas. In 2017, the company produced 1 million Parley shoes. In 2018, the goal is as many as 5 million shoes made of Parley’s ocean plastic.

Sadly, there’s more than enough floating detritus to push numbers like that even higher.

Virgin plastic is everywhere, and, as Gutsch underscores, “everything ends up in the water.”

The evidence is abundant and damning. This spring, a study published in Marine Policy reported that “plastics are ubiquitous” in ocean waters as deep as 20,000 feet, with 92% of the waste made up of single-use products.

In a shocking show of how infested the seas have become, a single-use plastic bag was found in the Mariana Trench, 36,000 feet below the surface. For living creatures from mammals and fish, to reefs and invertebrates, Gutsch says, we have maybe 10 years to turn things around. Meanwhile, he adds, nearly three fourths of Earth’s oxygen comes from sea life. That “one simple fact,” as he puts it, that “should actually be convincing enough” to drive change.

But pushing those changes through the marketplace alone takes time.

Even National Geographic, which made the plastic crisis its current cover story with a dramatic image of an iceberg-like bag, initially mailed out copies of the issue double-wrapped in, yes, plastic.

That’s why Parley’s newest initiative is centered so strongly around the exponential effect of human love and care.

Photo courtesy of Adidas/Parley.

While changing the economic and business role of plastic is key, it’s not sufficient. The spirit of communities and nations must change. And once again, collaboration, not argumentation, makes it possible. Already, with Adidas, “what we have proven is that luxury is redefined,” says Gutsch.

“Its purpose is not any more the pure material value but the intention that you have — the energy you use to charge up these materials.”

Adrift, ocean plastic has negative value. But precisely because “it takes a crazy effort to get it off the beach or out of the water, the moment when a person decides to touch it, remove it, and protect life,” a tremendous new positive value arises.

Therein lies the path from market-driven change to community-driven change.

Photo courtesy of Adidas/Parley.

Parley put it to work through a sweeping partnership in the Maldives, the archipelago nation southwest of India. More than 200 in-country collaborations — encompassing the private and public sector, resorts, schools, government offices, and government-owned companies — are committed to implementing Parley’s aptly-named “A.I.R.” approach to ocean rescue: avoiding virgin plastic, intercepting plastic waste, and redesigning ocean plastic from a material infused with death to one that sustains life.

“They never really swim,” Gutsch says of the Maldives residents plagued by plastic. “They’re scared of the water.”

But through the new partnership, once in the water, “they start to see their country differently. There is this magic universe of life. They become proud and excited to explore and protect it.”

Soon, the kids educate their parents, creating a new culture of ambassadorship and guardianship of the oceans. “Suddenly it all fits together,” Gutsch reflects. “It’s the first time in six years that all the theoretical approach and abstract ideas show that they actually work. And that is more than exciting. That is for me something touching and overwhelming.”

In the next five years, Gutsch says, Parley intends to be fully operational and intercepting ocean plastic in nearly 40 countries worldwide, working with brands like Corona. And if you want to get involved right now, you can take global action locally. “Just let one plastic item go,” Gutsch asks. “Observe it well, think about, and post it on social media. Explain that you’re letting go. Ban it from your life and challenge somebody else.”


Articles

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture