“I think as I understand Parley, the idea is to create an atmosphere of collaboration and to bring disparate parties together who might not meet each other and might not know that they can work together in something.” This, according to Dianna Cohen, co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, is what will facilitate more environmentally conscious people – and companies. For Cohen, it’s identifying the amount of plastic we use and finding creative ways to reduce consumption and the corresponding waste.
How do running shoes figure into the success of Parley, “to find ways to synchronize the economic system of humankind with the ecosystem of nature.” Like Dianna Cohen, footwear giant Adidas has jumped on board by way of the immensely popular Ultraboost, Ultraboost X, and Ultraboost Uncaged. “Adidas is getting serious about its sustainability initiatives and showing that going green doesn’t have to make customers blue,” said Denis Green, a writer for Business Insider.
According to Green’s article, each Ultraboost model is made of 11 plastic bottles. Furthermore, recycled plastic is also incorporated into the laces, heel, and covering for the sock liner. What seems clear with the Parley partnership is that Adidas is clearly focused on a sustainability trajectory. In the words of Paul Bowyer, head of U.S. Adidas Running, “We’ve been able to scale up to the point where we were able to launch three shoes on the Ultraboost platform, and 80% of all Ultraboosts will be made with Parley recycled plastics, so we’re looking to scale the sustainability story in 2018.”
In light of these efforts by Adidas to develop a product that’s eco-friendly, I’m certainly curious how other running shoe companies are taking steps to reduce waste and “green” their respective shoes. Nike, routinely criticized for their business practices, is using Flyknit to reduce waste (which is much more efficient than a cut and sew process). Along with integrating Flyknit into their shoes, Nike is also focused on reducing their carbon emissions to a level that aligns with the global carbon budget (which was agreed upon by 195 countries at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris).
“Running may seem like an environmentally-friendly sport. After all, there’s little equipment needed. But running shoes are a complicated product, and it pays to know exactly what’s in them and how they’re made. Not to mention how to get rid of them when you’re done, since most estimates say a pair of runners can take up to 1,000 years to break down into the earth,” said Belle Beth Cooper in a July 2015 article for Attendly.
Running is a straight forward sport as the only major financial outlay is a good pair of running shoes. But as Ms. Cooper made clear, shoes are comprised of numerous pieces – and those pieces require cost in labor and materials. Therefore, any part of the shoe that can be constructed in a manner that reduces the time to decompose is a worthwhile undertaking. Take Brooks sports. In 2008, the company introduced BioMoGo, a midsole compound that breaks down 50 times faster than conventional (i.e. EVA) midsoles. “Environmental stewardship is an important business pillar for Brooks, and we’re committed to creating products that help preserve and, whenever possible, enhance the environment,” said Jim Weber, President and CEO of Brooks, in a press release.
While I’m a fan of Brooks running shoes, particularly the Ghost, the Parley Ultraboost is highly unique in that it transcends the running shoe category. In other words, the Ultraboost, be it Parley, Triple White, Triple Black, or any other catchy color combination that Adidas designers envision, will sell well. Very well. “Part of Adidas’ recent surge can be attributed to their ability to take technical performance models and convert them into true lifestyle options,” said Brandon Richard of Sole Collector.
Adidas is helping Parley reclaim the oceans and make lots of money in the process (the Parley Ultraboost retails for $200 by the way). Parley says as much on their website. “Make environmental protection fiscally lucrative for pacesetting major companies.”