Recycle Flip Flops (and Fire Hoses) Responsibly

10.6.2009
by satu

Living a sustainable lifestyle can propose a bit of a headache for the environmentally-conscious consumer who cannot resist cute new travel gear and trendy outfits, but is committed to minimizing her environmental footprint. If you need to periodically update your wardrobe to include skinny jeans instead of boot cut and peach instead of pink, you inevitably end up with outdated gear, and if the local second hand store won’t have them you are faced with having them buried in a landfill. Many new apparel companies are now focused on providing sustainable fashion, and accessories made out of used materials such as car tires and even fire hoses are now available. Although the new clothes are recycled, the problem of discarding old, unusable clothing and footwear still persists.

As flip flops have become the ubiquitous warm-weather footwear worldwide, they’ve begun to pose a serious threat to the environment when thrown away, disrupting marine wildlife and polluting coasts around the world. The problem is the most severe in Africa; its coastline is burdened with thousands of beached flip flops littering the scenery and straining local communities already struggling to sustain themselves. UniquEco, an eco-minded organization based in Kenya has created a solution to manage the beached flip flops plaguing the continent’s shoreline. The organization collects discarded flip flops and hands them over to local artisans where they are transformed into art, accessories and jewelry providing local communities with a source of income. This innovative solution simultaneously tackles the issue of pollution while supporting micro-economic development in some of Africa’s poorest nations.

As frequent travelers at Global Basecamps we go through several pairs of flip flops a year, and we were happy to learn that Hansen’s, a landmark surf store in San Diego is now collecting used flip flops to support global efforts to reach sustainability and aid impoverished communities.

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