In a recent interview with FDRA’s Shoe-in-Show podcast, Alan Lugo of Natural Fiber Welding gave an in-depth response to a question about sustainability and circularity. His response triggered a thought which was enlightening and important. What many sneaker companies are doing isn’t really circular. A circular program takes into consideration the End of Life of a product. Alan Lugo states that when a product can be safely returned to the soil it was born from and has a timeframe for how it will break down in the soil safely, that is circular.
What Sneaker Impact and programs like Timberloop and Made to be Remade are doing is what Sneaker Impact is labeling EXLOS: Extending the Life of Sneakers. The acronym isn’t as pretty as the word circularity, but it’s honest and equally as important. Until companies can return a sneaker to the soil without harming the environment, what they are doing is EXLOSing. EXLOSing as a term may not become a part of the language and other companies will probably avoid using a term we’ve decided should become a part of the vernacular, but a bit of clarity should help.
Timberloop™ will take both clothing and shoes but there are parts of these items which may not be able to be reused. In these instances, those items could potentially reach a landfill, unless Timberland decides to warehouse those items until a solution is created. This is the same as Veja’s Darwin and adidas’ Made to be Remade programs, both of these are great concepts and extends the life of a sneaker, but because those items were not created sustainably, they will eventually find their way into the trash. These programs are EXLOSing, which is important, but it is not circular. The Trekker shoe by Timberland is as close to circular as any product on the market at this moment, but when building new items, Timberloop may be using virgin materials, which places the product back to square one.
Is that clear? Timberloop itself includes products that aren’t made like the Trekker which can be completely disassembled, and every part of the shoe can be reused. Trekker is circular, aspects of Timberloop are EXLOSing. This post is not to single out the incredible program Timberland has created which takes in any of their products. The Trekker is the exception and that’s important to note. When you look at the new programs like Made to be Remade from adidas and Move to Zero from Nike, the fact that these billion-dollar brands are making an effort to improve the products being created should be celebrated. In short, this is not a dig at Timberloop, but it’s a request for companies to reconsider what we at Sneaker Impact are beginning to reconsider. While Sneaker Impact has long chosen to use the word circularity, Sneaker Impact will begin to implement EXLOS into the dialogue. That’s what is being done. When you send your sneakers in we are Extending the Life Of those Sneakers and that’s a good thing. When the technology catches up and sneakers can go from sole to soil as Alan Lugo stated, it’s our duty.