Look in your closet and pause for a moment to consider the lowly shoe. Just how much potential could it have to change the world?
Certainly, you can send your gently used shoes to the local thrift, but what if you want to have a larger impact?
Here are three groups that collect pre-owned shoes and use them to make a difference.
Peace Passers (peacepassers.org) collects soccer shoes, along with any other soccer-related equipment, to promote the simple joy of playing a sport available to even the poorest community. “Used shoes are definitely considered ‘like new’ when they reach people in communities where shoes are a luxury,” said Candice Cooper, director and co-founder.
“I connect with a lot of parents here in the U.S. who have kids that are constantly growing out of their shoes, so we serve as platform of recycling the shoe and putting it back into play.”
Cooper explained the benefits: “The outcomes of being involved in the game of soccer are everlasting in promoting mutual respect, unity and positive relationships.”
Soles 4 Souls
Contact Soles4Souls (soles4souls.org) to donate your unwanted “gently worn” footwear to people in need. The organization will clean and ship them around the world, to people who will treasure the gift for years to come.
Since its inception following the Asian tsunami, Soles4Souls has distributed more than 14 million pairs to people in 127 countries. Three dropoff locations are located in Miami, or you can ship them to a Soles4Souls warehouse.
Beyond response to disasters, Soles4Souls believes that micro-enterprise is an effective tool to eliminate poverty, creating a way to support a family and build a community.
“It allows us to utilize used shoes that aren’t appropriate for crisis relief -- such as high-heeled shoes — and shoes that need cleaning or conditioning in order to be useful,”said Keith Woodley, vice president of Soles4Souls.
“It also provides a low-cost source of shoes for the local population without undermining the local economy with a large supply of free shoes.”
Nike Reuse-A-Shoe (nikereuseashoe.com) takes very worn-out shoes that would otherwise go to into the trash and turns them into a resource.
They take old athletic shoes and use a slice and grind method to cut each shoe into three slices — rubber sole, foam inner and fiber upper. Each material is processed by grinding for a different purpose: rubber for track surfaces, gym flooring and playground surfaces, foam for cushioning for outdoor basketball and tennis courts and fiber cushioning for indoor courts.
The resulting Nike Grind is available to qualifying groups filling out an online application for resurfacing a community playground or sports court.
Nike offers online information on oganizing shoe collection events; afterward, you ship the shoes to their facility. One and a half million pairs of used shoes are collected for recycling each year.
-- Karen Beal is a member of the Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about the four Rs -- reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (compost). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.