In a post titled ‘The Chuck Taylor and The Environmental Design Offset Theory‘, I discussed how a successful brand could make a very profound statement by making their most sold design also their most environmentally friendly.
A design that people most care for and also one that cares the most about people. A design which reduces the environmental impact that it’s higher production volumes create.
Compensating for the environmental impact a high selling product/shoe has, is the essence of the principle of proportionality that I call The Environmental Design Offset Theory.
In my previous post I chose the Converse All Star/Chuck Taylor as an example of a best selling shoe that could benefit from also being known as the most environmentally friendly design.
What follows is my initial design exploration at reducing the environmental impact of the Chuck Taylor, while adding design value to the product. Exploring new environmentally friendly design directions that not only benefit the environment but stimulate greater creative thinking, creating better designs.
As far as footwear pollution goes the Chuck Taylor design has a lesser environmental impact than most athletic shoe designs. But although it’s cotton canvas and metal eyelet upper is biodegradable enough, given the high volume of materials involved, improvements could be made by the materials suppliers to the nature of their dyes and prints. And possibly the polyester thread used to make the shoe could also be replaced by cotton.
The most environmentally impacting part of the Chuck Taylor is probably the multi-part sole. The sole although vulcanized is not natural rubber and could be redesigned to be more recycle friendly. Compared to other injected soles it’s probably also more labour intensive/expensive to produce, especially given the high production volume.
To reduce environmental impact and costs, the Chuck Taylor sole could be injected as a one piece part of ground contact EVA.
This would have many benefits, making the sole:-
1. More cost effective.
2. More comfortable.
3. Easier to recycle.
4. More versatile to create new sculptural design languages.
To reduce the environmental impact further an additive called EcoPure® can be added to the EVA to catalyze the biodegrading. EcoPure® essentially causes the plastic to be an attractive food source to certain soil microbes found in landfills, encouraging the plastic to be quickly consumed and processed into methane. More information on EcoPure® can be found on a previous post HERE.
A big problem in recycling footwear is that the sole cannot easily be separated from the upper. A stitch-out sole construction would simplify sole separation, as well as reducing manufacturing waste from the die cut lasting boards. This type of construction is already widely used.
But the Environmental Design Offset Theory can be applied to any product.
Below are some more interesting iterations of the theory using best selling footwear from other brands.
The Doctor Martens Classic 1490 and the 1461 designs, could benefit from a lighter and more technical EVA sole. The company once famous for it’s oil and acid resistant, Bouncing Soles could do well with new technologies that might include ‘eco-techonolgy’.
The bold stitch-out construction to allow easier sole separation, would lend itself especially well to the signature yellow Doc. Martens stitch. It’s time to put some ‘Bounce’ back into DM soles and the yellow EVA sole would communicate this well.
Not only, but additional cultural expression could also be added to a footwear design that already symbolizes individualism and anti-conformism.
New sculptural expressions in soles molded to suit many consumer cultures.
The Clarks Wallabee is another best selling and iconic footwear design. Imagine if the Wallabee sole were made from recycled rubber instead of using a natural rubber, helping to clean up the planet by absorbing some of it’s waste. At the same time the sole could also be molded into fascinating and complex designs to meet it’s various consumer culture styles.
What if the ‘e’ in Wallabee stood for ‘eco’?
And what if consumers could one day switch out their old soles for new ones, custom made on their Makerbot advanced replicating machines? Sole designs downloaded from the internet, from a major footwear brand, an aftermarket company, or even self designed and 3D printed, maybe even using recycled plastic.
Using 3D printers to create sculptural outsoles, so complex and detailed they would be otherwise impossible to mold by conventional industrial methods. Elevating the form language and design to new levels.
It comes down to simplifying construction to reduce energy and costs, becoming more environmentally friendly and making products more culturally versatile.
Design is a holistic discipline, its not just about who designs it and who uses it, but also about who makes it, how its made and lastly how its disposed of or recycled.