Recycling just for kicks (Day 362)…

recycled sheos

For whatever reason, I’ve always thought Nike was evil (Ed note: that reason is most likely this woman), and have lumped it in with all the other big retail corporations like Gap, Coke, Nestlé and so on, avoiding the swoosh at all costs if I had to buy athletic wear. But when I was looking into how I might get rid of some old running shoes, I remembered hearing about this thing called Nike Grind, a material used on basketball courts and race tracks made entirely from recycled kicks.

The more I researched, the more it seemed Nike wasn’t so bad after all. They have a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2011 and have eliminated fluorinated gases from their products, they’ve got the Nike Foundation and campaigns like Let Me Play, are incorporating organic cotton into more lines, giving $315 million in grants and donations to those in need and seem pretty open about all their manufacturing standards and wages.

While they do have a strong Canadian presence — in 2006, Nike opened a new sports training facility in Scarborough with a Grind track, made in this case from some 50,000 shoes donated from participants of the previous summer’s Nike RunTO — they unfortunately do not seem to have a drop-off location for the Reuse-A-Shoe program anywhere north of the 49th parallel. I can apparently mail my sneaks to one of their recycling depots in Wilsonville, OR, but that seems like quite a steep carbon cost.

Another option, if I want to keep things more local, is this organization in Ottawa called Sole Responsibility, which sends new and gently uses kicks over to Africa (which, fine, isn’t very local at all and would involve even more of a carbon cost, but I figure it’s justified).

Anyone want to cast a vote on which route I should go?

Image from Nike Grind

29 Responses to Recycling just for kicks (Day 362)…

  1. Phyllis says:

    I had never heard the part about carbon neutral, though I had heard the part about recycling the shoes.

    The problem most people have with Nike is its track record (ha!) of hiring 12 year old East Asian kids to make shoes and paying them slave wages, using the local military to intimidate workers, busting unions, etc etc.

    So I guess it comes down to which issue you choose as most important for you.

    But personally, I get my Converse (also a Nike company) knock-off shoes from

  2. jofrombc says:

    Why not give your used shoes to the local Sally Ann or Salvation Army?

  3. debbie says:

    Any chance there is a little wear left in them? Might donate to a charity.

  4. blah says:

    I like your option the best. Either option is good and certainly better than just chucking them in the garbage, but donating them to someone who can use them seems to me a better option.

  5. debbie says:

    I wonder if this fellow is still practicing his old shoe distribution.

    Or now that you are famous, maybe your shoes should go here?

  6. MamaBird says:

    so timely!! i just bought new running shoes last week and this was on my todo list.

    thanks for the nike link, i was going to donate via this organization as it has a local box for me but will also check out nike.

    check out tiny choices’ post on this awhile back, i bookmarked it, they have 20 ways to recycle your sneakers.

  7. Donate locally – that’s my feeling. You raise a great discussion point though about Nike’s very public campaign. I think we will see a decade of greenwashing, that is essentially about more consumption, resource usage and unjust labor issues despite big publicity of some sustainability aspect. I would love to see instead our support of the growth of socially conscious small organizations.

  8. arduous says:

    Personally I think sending your sneakers to Africa is the more socially responsible option? I mean I think it’s great that Nike is making tracks with used sneakers, but I also think it’s important for people to have shoes. So that would be my call.

  9. arduous says:

    P.S. Vanessa out of stupid curiosity, why do you have your comments time-stamp set to British time? Is it out of a love of all things scone and Colin Firth?

  10. roo says:

    The greenest option is of course to use your shoes (or any other item for that matter) until they are completely and utterly worn out. Then reuse what you can, and recycle what you can’t. Back to the 3 R’s.

  11. arduous says:

    @ roo, I’d agree with you for most things but with sneakers you really do need to change them as soon as your knees start hurting even if they don’t look really worn out. I’ve seen too many people blow out their knees and IMO the impact on the environment that comes from splints, hospitals, physical therapies etc is much greater than the effect of getting new running shoes every six months.

  12. roo says:


    Ahh but who says you need to keep using them for running? If they are good enough to be given away to charity, then they are still good enough to be used.

    Most of my shoes go through a series of stages, first they are ‘good shoes’, then they become ‘nicer everyday shoes’, then the ‘ho hum everyday shoes’, and finally ‘gardening / cleaning / other domestic duty shoes’.

  13. blah says:

    Oh, Vanessa, I just thought of something. Are your running shoes specifically for running or are they all purpose? I’m assuming with you they are all purpose. Well, if they aren’t and you are a serious runner, there are running shoes available that are basically nothing more than rubber coverings for your feet. Apparently it’s supposed to mimick running barefoot which is supposed to be better than all the padding and whatnot we use for our feet. It doesn’t make that much sense to me, but I was reading about it in a running magazine and thought that since there is less product used to make the shoes, you’d be into it.

  14. arduous says:

    Roo, excellent point. You’re right that they are probably still good enough to be used in some capacity, though I don’t really know how many pairs of shoes people need for general cleaning etc. If you’re a runner and replacing your running shoes every six months I would guess you’d still have a surplus of shoes that you could give to charity.

  15. Lupa says:

    I had thought the Nike recycling program was for shoes that were already too worn out for anyone to wear. I have a couple of pairs that have holes in the soles that I’m saving to send once my current pair wears out.

    My biggest gripe with Nike is their use of sweatshop labor. I’d feel much more confident about their green practices if they’d also show more social responsibility.

  16. ashley says:

    It’s so hard to figure out anymore what is real and what is greenwashing.

    Maybe you can create a guide for us over your last couple of days as a Super Hippie. 🙂

  17. Aimee says:

    My local running store collects old/used running shoes and donate them to the local homeless shelters. Just another option.

    Usually, our old shoes become lawn mowing/gardening/muddy day shoes, but I agree with the previous comments – how many pairs can you need for this purpose?

  18. Elise says:

    I sent mine into Nike, as they were too worn out to donate. The guy at the post office made fun of me, claiming “It’s so much easier to just throw them out. Why waste your time and money?” Ugh.

  19. mark says:

    nike was actually the first athletic shoe company to figure out how design the sole so that the pieces wearing off of it over time were not toxic to the environment.

  20. Julia says:

    Nike has strides left to go, what with the sweatshop labor and all. However, their green campaign isn’t a new-new thing. About five years ago, I was working for Portland (Oregon) Parks & Recreation, running a playground program during the summer months. The park I was at is in a fairly low-income part of town (as are a number of PPR parks), and Nike had done a lot for the park, including a recycled-top basketball court. Granted, I think Nike is based in Portland, but still, they have been trying for a while. Now I live in Gloucester (UK), and I think the basketball court down in the public park is also a Nike recycled one. They’ve been trying for a while, more than most of the other big corporations that are jumping on the greenwashing bandwagon.

  21. sue says:

    What about their poor human rights record? Anyway, probably first on my list would be to find a local women’s shelter and see if they would like the shoes. Second choice would be sending them to Africa – reuse then recycle. 🙂

  22. sue says:

    or you could be truly lazy and freecycle them. that’s what i do with most of my shoes.

  23. Julia says:

    this is unrelated – going back to your bicycle move, it seems to becoming a trend! i found a video of a bike move in brooklyn, inspired by a similar bike move in portland. thought you might like to know!


    When I came home, I took off my blazer,pants and shirt, quickly put on my jogging pants, toque, and running shoes and ran non- stop for an hour. You do not believe how angry I was at what happened.

  25. Jeffrey Caba says:

    i’ve never heard anything about Carbon Neutral, Im very surprised with nike, and after reading this i don’t feel so bad about having so many nikes and not knowing what to do with them.

  26. Rajeongkim says:

    Hi. I’m a student of Laguardia community college. I visit your blog for the first time and I get impressed so much. you show how we can protect environment yourself, so I can realize importance of environment so much.

  27. katherine says:

    Help your business go green!

    My name is Katherine and I work for a Television Production Company called Creative Bube Tube INC. out of Toronto. I just wanted to let you know that if you are looking to take your business green, I know a very cost effective way, which will help everyone out in your office too. We recently changed our water cooler over to a bottle less water cooler. There is no heavy lifting with the refills and because there are no plastic bottles to replace its much better for the environment. It’s a small change but has a big impact. Also, no one has to refill it; the cooler is connected to a water supply in the wall. You can also choose hot or cold, it’s so cost-effective. Water bottles produce bacteria and with this bottle less water cooler it has water purification inside it so you don’t have to worry about that. The best thing about not having to lift these heavy bottles is the fact that you don’t have to worry about storing them anywhere too. It really is the easiest way to take your business green, as well as being cost effective and easy to use, it’s a great choice. Oh, also if you would like some advice on where you can purchase them, you can go to that’s where we got ours at City Water International. It’s a Toronto business and they have any info you need on these bottle less water coolers. Thanks and I hope you will do the same as us.


  28. Great Blog, Dude! I am always on the watch for new and interesting sports sites and postings… which is what led me here. I certainly plan on visiting again! Cheers

  29. XinXin says:

    we can reclaim the idea that here in this country, you can make it if you try. In the end, that’s all most Americans are asking for. It’s not a lot. You don’t expect government to solve all your problems. You want to be self-reliant and independent. You want to be responsible for your own lives and take care of your own families. But what you do expect is a government that isn’t run by the special interests. What you do expect is that if you’re willing to work hard, you should be able to find a job that pays a decent wage, that you shouldn’t go bankrupt when you get sick, that you should be able to send your children to college even if you’re not rich, and that you should be able to retire with dignity and security.

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