Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recycle Your Shoes

I go through a lot of running shoes. I tend to buy ones I don't need and I tend to keep more pairs on hand than I will ever use on a regular basis. Lately I've been trying to reduce the number of old shoes in the house. I used to save them up for our local running club's collection at their big annual trail run, but I'm not even sure they still do that collection anymore (they donated the shoes to a local shelter). Plus, my shoes are more trashed than they used to be--that's what trail running does to shoes! Goodwill, Salvation Army, homeless shelters...none of them will want old beat up trail shoes. I need an alternative way to dispose of my shoes in a responsible manner.

I could just throw them in the garbage. That seems the wrong way to go since they'll end up in a landfill and almost never decompose. But I noticed an interesting occurrence last Monday when I tossed 2 pair on the top of my trash can...the garbage man took them for himself (don't ask why I was up at 4:30am looking at the garbage man collecting my trash). Hey, that's sort of recycling (reuse is good!). I probably can't count on my local garbage man to keep my old shoes. What else can I do?

Shoes4Souls collects shoes and redistributes to needy people around the country (and world). A great program, but you need to get your shoes to them. Fortunately, unlike many other programs, they seem to have more collection sites--many Finish Line stores will take your shoes. The shoes need to be in OK shape...that eliminates almost all of my used shoes. Maybe yours will qualify, mine don't.

Shoe4Africa will take your shoes and distribute them to needy people in Africa. Of course, you need to send them your shoes (or find a local collection site). Not an easy task since I am in central Illinois with no large cities around. If you live in a big metro area, there probably are collection sites or running stores you can easily visit. Another good program, but not for me.

So if I can't donate shoes to a good cause because my shoes are in poor condition, what alternative do I have except trash? Fortunately, the Nike Reuse A Shoe program will take any type of shoe in any condition! They don't distribute the shoes to other people, they rip them up and turn them into "Nike Grind" which can be used in playgrounds, sports facilities, and even in future Nike products. Again, you need to get the shoes to them. I found that their outlet stores are often drop-off sites. We have an outlet store within a 30 minute drive so I will try them next time I have a bag of shoes to dispose of in a responsible manner. I won't drive there just to deliver the shoes (that seems like a waste of gas), but the store is located in a big outlet mall where I can shop for other more shoes!

Another way to be more environmental conscious is to not go through shoes so quickly. Keep them for more miles. Go barefoot. Tread lighter so you don't beat up the shoes. And the shoes you do buy could be more environmentally friendly too--try companies and shoes that are sensitive to environmental issues: END footwear, Brooks Green Silence (and their BioMoGo midsole shoes), New Balance (many are made in the USA and are PVC free thus reducing pollutants and overall carbon footprint), etc.

For more ideas about being a good "ecological runner" (beyond recycling your shoes) see the Eco Runner web site (basically the idea is to pick up trash while you run). Here is an article with tips on being an overall "greener" runner.

Let me know if you have more suggestions on how to recycle my old running shoes...or ideas on how to be a greener runner. Thanks.


Ragfield said...

I'm glad I'm not the only grown man in central Illinois with an apparent shoe fetish. Fortunately, you probably don't also have as many cycling shoes as I do (road, tri, mtb, cyclocross, commute).

Thanks for these links. I'll have to check some of them out pretty soon.

Chris Ⓥ said...

Yeah, but how many soccer cleats do you have? Indoor...outdoor...firm ground...soft ground? Training? Match day? I do have a shoe fetish! And my new Vibram five fingers aren't helping.

Ragfield said...


Heidi E. Carpenter said...

Great post! I'd also like to mention that one should always try to recycle the boxes the shoes come in!

(I'm still keeping my suede Converse One Stars from 1993. They're antiques of the grunge days and belong in a museum.)

Chris Ⓥ said...

Yep, we need to recycle those cardboard boxes too.

Paz123 said...

I love running.!! Therefore I am constantly going through running shoes. Its really a great idea to recycle our old shoes.