In explaining the Closed Loop Product Cycle and the Cradle to Cradle industrial model, the very interesting book Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, states how human waste does not exist. Instead everything humans dispose of, can be classified as either an Organic Nutrient or a Technical Nutrient.
“waste does not exist, only wasted resources.” – Nancy Judd
The book explains how all products need to be designed for easy disassembly in order to put Organic Nutrients into the soil as fertilizers and keep Technical Nutrients in a closed recycling system so as not to contaminate the environment.
Footwear, the book claims is an environmentally “monstrous hybrid” which cannot be broken down into separate nutrients.
To be sustainable new footwear designs should either be completely Organic Nutrients, or designed for easy disassembly so that the different Technical Nutrients can be recycled accordingly, ideally using infinitely recyclable thermoplastics (otherwise it would be considered Downcycling).
Imagine worn and broken components that go back into the industrial cycle as nutrients, becoming food for the industrial organism and returning to us in new forms on new products.
PUMA recently came out with a TPU BioWeb frame structure which I think would lend itself very well to a truly sustainable performance footwear design.
Below is my initial interchangeable PUMA BioWeb TN football concept evolving the BioWeb design language while following a “Cradle to Cradle” philosophy.
To amortize higher mold costs, the BioWeb frame can be adapted to more sole designs and used on different shoes. But its also worth investigating new technologies to make cheaper molds, or reduce costs by cutting out the middle man and have the brand buy its own injection molding machines and make its own molds in house.
In this case a mechanical assembly system locks the sole into the BioWeb frame without the use of glue. This economizes one step in construction and simplifies disassembly for recycling.
And what if the TN could be sold as a firm ground football shoe and consumers could buy an indoor sole separately for say USD50? A smaller size packaging would lower shipping costs and CO2 emissions, while also offering a better profit margin with very low labour costs..Alternative soles could even be injection molded locally with the right government tax incentives.
Because design is a holistic discipline and product performance can also be measured in environmental and economical terms.
Also if the TPE upper can be made sufficiently elastic, 1 mold could probably be used to make both left and right uppers. The elastic upper molded part would just need to turned inside out to make the upper for the other foot. Similar to the Nike Air Rejuven8 concept.
Or a knit version, with external cage that can also be turned inside out for use on the opposite foot.
Biomorphic inspiration from cells and cellular design, with a nod to Mar Newson’s Nike Zvezdochka.
Similar modular design opportunities with Adidas Sprint Web and Nike Hyperfuse structural aesthetic.