B1 Intermediate US 1351 Folder Collection
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You can tell a lot about a person based on their shoes.
And today, there's a ton of options.
In 2018, footwear was a $250 billion industry.
With over 24 million shoes produced globally.
Just look at Kanye.
His shoe and apparel line is valued at $1 billion dollars.
The problem is, lots of shoes, especially sneakers, aren't made to last.
They're made of plastic, and we can't recycle them.
So a lot of them end up as trash.
So the question, can sneakers become sustainable?
The average American, in 2018, bought seven pairs of shoes.
But let's focus on the sneaker, which wasn't always so popular.
Here's where it started.
It's the late 1870s.
Lawn tennis becomes popular, which allows men and women to compete against each other.
Or tennis and chill.
That game also created a new must-have item, these.
Sports became really popular.
Basketball, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, golf.
And by 1919, almost 20 million pairs of tennis shoes were being produced in the US.
Brands like Keds, Converse, and PF Flyers launched the very beginning of the sneaker market.
This is Pensole Footwear Design Academy.
And this is D'Wayne Edwards, its founder.
Shoes are very complicated.
Also, one of the first black footwear designers.
His resume includes LA Gear, Sketchers, Nike, and Jordan.
So plastics made their way onto sneakers in a few key areas.
First, in the outsole for support.
And then in the heel counter for structure.
In the 1970s jogging becomes super popular.
Companies introduce polyurethane foam into the midsole.
Which makes jogging more...
Uh, comfortable.
But they don't stop there.
They start to focus on the athletes.
The goal was, if you can make their footwear lighter, then you can make the athlete faster.
Molded EVA replaces polyurethane in the midsole, which...
immediately cut the weight down in half almost.
And almost simultaneously, synthetic leather is introduced into the upper, which impacts the fit, weight, and maybe more importantly, the design.
My name is Nicoline van Enter.
I am the founder and creative director of the Footwearists.
Nicoline is a footwear forecaster and shoe designer.
Her job is to see trends before they even happen.
Everybody could imagine classic sneakers, for instance, that you collect from the late 80s or early 90s. Often now when you open the box the sole just crumbles away.
Hey, what's up everyone?
Check it out.
Midsole.
You can see is just flaking off there.
That's essentially what happens to plastics.
And that's also why it's difficult to have a plastic shoe, recycle it into another plastic shoe.
So right now shoes are essentially a hodgepodge of materials, which means when you wanna recycle an old shoe your options are donating it, grinding it, or throwing it away.
And that's a pretty short lifecycle.
But, the future, it's actually really exciting.
As consumers, there are more sustainable options than ever before.
The World Footwear 2030 report predicts that sustainability will drive innovation in the footwear industry.
And it's already happening.
Big brands are experimenting with things like biofabrication, like using mushrooms to grow the materials for their shoes.
And 3D printing, which significantly reduces waste during the manufacturing process.
One example of this is the Adidas Futurecraft Loop.
Here's how it works.
If you have a shoe of only one material. You can grind that up, take it back to pellets, melt that again, and turn it back into the same TPU that the shoe was made of.
But companies still don't know how many times that process can be repeated.
Another consideration: can a sustainable shoe still appeal to sneaker culture?
Sustainability, right now, does not have a design language.
You can hold up a sustainable material and a non-sustainable material in the form of a synthetic, a textile, a leather, a plastic, a foam, and not be able to tell a difference.
That's a problem.
If you want consumers to truly embrace sustainability you have to win the aesthetic game.
And the aesthetic game is allowing sustainability to have its own natural aesthetic.
So back to the question, can sneakers become sustainable?
It's going to come down to how much companies are willing to invest, what consumers want.
And if technology can drive the change that will give us a material that's, well, better than plastic.
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Your Sneakers Are Part of the Plastic Problem | National Geographic

1351 Folder Collection
Mackenzie published on October 25, 2019    Mackenzie translated    Steve reviewed
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