September 07 2011
It was a staggering statistic, but one that I double-checked as I guiltily rifled through my shoe closet: estimates are that 300m shoes are thrown away every year in America, making them the unspoken nuisance of landfill. Made from bonded plastics and various materials, shoes are both tough to recycle and slow to decay. So when I saw the Oat brand sneakers in a concept store in Antwerp, I was intrigued.
The styling is strong – neutral toned, vaguely retro, with a reassuringly hefty sole and low-key, logo-less upper. But what turned me from a browser into a buyer was an added eco-conscious twist: made from hemp, cotton and biodegradable plastic, they’re expressly manufactured to decay. The fabric will rot safely within two months of disposal, the makers claim, and the special plastic in six or so.
The brand’s tagline, Shoes That Bloom, is a tip-off to the final innovation: embedded in the tongue of each pair are some plant seeds designed to germinate using the nutrients in the shoes as they break down. There’s a selection of varietals (my pair came with hot yellow sunflowers).
But only two problems have cropped up for me: the shoes are wearing so well, I don’t see a need to bury them any time soon. And living in Manhattan, where plants live largely in pots, I’ve no idea where I’ll inter them when the time comes – maybe I’ll find a quiet corner of Central Park.