“I was working for a fashion company and I would see myself taking out tons and tons of shoes and a lot of them ended up in landfills,” said Toronto designer Luc Houle.
For him, shoes are not only made for walking, but also to protect the environment.
“So I was thinking to myself, what can we do to improve this?” he went on, speaking to Global News one morning, “and, you know, make a little bit of an impact on the environment that we’re not achieving right now.”
Small steps to help guide families towards a greener life
Your big idea? Creating sustainable footwear, sports shoes, that are totally biodegradable, from the water resistant upper part covered with beeswax to the soles.
“It’s a completely organic upper,” Houle demonstrated for Global News, holding up the white Keds-like looking sneaker she designed.
“There is a cork insole that molds to your feet over time, then the midsole and outsole are made from a specific compound that biodegrades in about three years.”
But that is not all. The soles of these shoes harbor a sweet secret.
“I was like, if you’re going to plant your shoes in the ground to get them to rot, why don’t we put a tree seed inside and then make it grow into a big beautiful apple tree?” Houle said.
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Houle refers to an apple seed, hidden in the sole under the arch of the foot, in a cover of natural fertilizer, where it remains inactive and sealed away from moisture, until the shoes are planted in the ground.
It took three years of development and several designs before the 33-year-old settled on this prototype and a name.Johnny ‘, after the figure of the American folk hero, ‘Johnny Appleseed’ (John Chapman).
“I was like, I have to wink at John Chapman,” Houle said. “He’s kind of a colloquial figure who went all over the northeastern US and Canada and planted apple trees everywhere.”
But why the special focus on footwear as a way to protect the environment?
Houle said shoe soles are typically made of plastic that takes about 1,000 years to break down. Multiply that by 300 million pairs — roughly the number of shoes that end up in landfills each year — and the growth in waste is exponential.
“Plastic is a big problem right now,” Houle said. “It is invading our landfills, it is flooding our oceans. It’s really important to me that while as individual consumers we are doing our part and doing our best, the industry needs to change as well. “
But will ‘Johnny’ shoes biodegrade while on the feet of those who wear them?
“That’s a good question,” Houle said. “Is not.”
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The compound in the shoes needs a combination of moisture, pressure and natural microbes to activate the process, Houle says.
“You could definitely go running with them. It’s okay. You could sweat off your feet as much as you need, it won’t affect it at all until it’s underground. “
Made in ethical factories in China from fair trade materials, it’s the shoe that literally keeps giving.
“Whenever someone buys a pair of shoes, we are also going to plant a tree in their name,” Houle said. “[We realize] that not all of us have access to a backyard to plant our shoes.
“Some people, especially city dwellers, are going to have to dump them in the landfill and they are going to biodegrade there … so we want to do our part and then plant a tree for you so that no matter what, we are offsetting your footprint. carbon “.
For $ 109 including shipping, Houle says Canadians can purchase a pair of these sneakers in white or black at Kick starter, which they will receive next August if the campaign goes well.
“We believe that everyone should be able to do their part and contribute to building a better world,” Houle said.
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