A couple of times a year, I come to a point where I have to face the inevitable conclusion that it’s time to starting looking for a new pair of running shoes. Most runners go through several pairs a year, and those shoes (much like the fur bunnies from my dog) can multiply like rabbits.
I have several pairs that are now ready to move on to the great shoe box in the sky — one pair are the first runners I ever bought (for the learn to run clinic I took last year), another pair are the shoes I trained and ran my first half marathon in. Sentimental? Yes. Ready to go. Double yes!
This brought me to thinking about what to do with them. I don’t want to just throw them out, but wasn’t sure what other options were available. This also got me to thinking about the much talked about carbon footprint, and how we as runners can reduce ours.
A little google-foo has revealed many ways runners can recycle their shoes, which range from having them donated for second use by shelters (or shipped overseas to Africa), to having the rubber, foam and mesh ground down separately, and being used to make athletic surfaces such as running tracks, basketball courts, and tennis courts (see Nike’s reUse a Show program, which unfortunately is not available in Canada).
[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=running+shoe&iid=254151″ src=”0250/f74c4cdf-aed8-4ac8-bfc3-bba6881458b5.jpg?adImageId=9242035&imageId=254151″ width=”380″ height=”255″ /]In Ontario, there appears to be two good options for recycling your old running shoes. The first is to donate your used running shoes to a group called Sole Responsibility — an Ottawa-based nonprofit organization started by a group of runners who send the used shoes to Africa for people who need them. The second option is to take your used shoes to your local Running Room store, who then donate them to charity (the North York and Commerce Court locations donate them to the St. Michael’s homeless shelter). If you’re outside of Canada, you can find international options here. Runner’s World also has a list of organizations here. If you know of other local options, please drop me a note either through the comments or through the contact me page – I’d love to know about them!
In addition to recycling shoes, I also found out that companies like Brooks are reducing the packaging of their shoes by not putting those bunched up (highly annoying) papers inside their shoes, and reducing the paper used inside of the box. They have also included instructions on how to reuse or recycle the boxes that the shoes come in and have added a compound to their bioMoGos midsoles that reduces the time they take to break down in a landfill from 1,000 years to 20 (still sounds like a long time, but it seems to be a step in the right direction).
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=recycle&iid=233992″ src=”0230/b2c3f7fd-0258-4e09-8f84-503451b37642.jpg?adImageId=9242140&imageId=233992″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]Other companies have also introduced clothing lines that feature bamboo in their fibres, which reduces the amount of pure synthetics, but overall running gear is still pretty far behind the times in terms of it’s ecological friendliness. This is where the reuse option can come in handy, donating technical wear you no longer want to used clothing stores like Goodwill or Value Village.
There are some other, lesser-known companies that have come out with eco friendly running shoe lines, doing away with frivolous features such as plastic appliqués. They are opting for environmentally friendly shoe materials, such as recycled plastic containers, corks, and bamboo.
So now I turn it to you — what are you doing as a runner to be more environmentally friendly in your sport?