Welcome to another EHS Moment from Encamp… This time I want to talk about two things that don’t even seem to fit in the same sentence: My interest in shoes, and my interest in the environment, sustainability, and lowering the carbon footprint. Because what do shoes have to do with the environment, right? (Encamp is all about protecting the environment through environmental compliance.)

The answer is, thanks to Nike, shoes now have everything to do with the environment an (d sustainability — driven by the lowest carbon footprint their shoes have ever provided.

In July 2020, Nike released its Space Hippie shoe collection, and they were reported at the time to be the lowest carbon footprint shoe ever made. Space Hippies consist mostly of recycled material — yes, they’re literally made of trash! — and Nike offers four models to choose from. (My favorite is the Space Hippie 01, which provides the traditional lace-up with the one-of-a-kind Nike Crater Foam outsoles.)

With Nike leading the way, shoe companies’ efforts towards waste-free carbon neutrality and keeping sustainability at the top of mind is a huge step. Nike says as much with their Space Hippie lineup and the approach they’re taking to producing them to provide a minimal carbon footprint.

“Space Hippie,” as Nike puts it, “is the result of sustainable practices meeting radical design.”

When you take a closer look at Space Hippies, the material the shoes are made of stands out. Overall, the fabric is 85% to 90% recycled, with 50% of that coming from plastic bottles and other plastic waste. Along with recycled plastics, 25% of the shoes’ material consists of old consumer goods, like t-shirts. The remaining material is a mix of Nike yarn or other leftover materials in their factories. It’s a low carbon footprint all the way around.

So that’s the upper half of Space Hippies. On the bottom half, the carbon footprint stays low. The cushion sole is made of Nike Zoom X foam, or what Nike calls crater foam, of which 15% is made from grain rubber. That’s where you get the Nike proprietary mix and little flecks and specks inside the foam, which really stands out stylistically. And as a shoe enthusiast, I think the new Space Hippies are really good-looking shoes.

Yet while making shoes from recycled materials is a positive step for Nike and the environment, it isn’t necessarily a new concept for the global shoe and sportswear maker. To date, Nike has already been recognized for diverting roughly 1 billion plastic bottles from landfills to be recycled for greater sustainable good.

Beyond Nike, other shoe companies are also now escalating their efforts toward waste-free carbon neutrality and sustainability in the materials they use. On that list: Saolo, Indosole, Timberland, North Face, MOVMT, and Nike competitors adidas and Converse, among others. It’s a move in the right direction both for our environment and for the business world itself.

These efforts also reinforce what we always say at Encamp: What’s good for business is good for the environment.