Following a growing trend toward more eco-friendly business practices, Reebok has launched its first shoe made from all natural materials. Its competitors, such as Nike, have already made similar moves.
I love innovation like this. I love the idea of using farm products in some unconventional ways. It helps the environment, helps farmers, and is useful for consumers.
Reebok’s Cotton + Corn shoe is designed to look as stylish as the other shoes in its line-up. It currently retails for $95, similar to the company’s other products. They are the first ever USDA certified biobased shoes. Those all natural ingredients consist of corn and organic cotton.
Organic cotton? But I thought we were going for sustainability here!
We all know that organic production generally has lower yields than conventional, meaning it takes more land and resources to grow the same amount. And organic production doesn’t allow for the use of bioengineered crops. Cotton has be modified to produced the Bt protein, which means farmers don’t have to spray insecticides.
Now, what about the corn? It might be BE corn. Various news sources (including the one linked above) have reported that the corn used is field corn. Most field corn grown in the United States is modified, but I haven’t found a confirmation that Reebok is using corn grown here. Much like cotton, corn has been modified to be more environmentally-friendly.
I also think this line is worth mentioning:
Though the shoe is sustainable, it’s not yet biodegradable.
But, wait, isn’t that the problem? Lots of shoes end up in dumps each year — 300 million to be exact. But this shoe isn’t going to help solve that problem at all. In fact, it isn’t going to do anything about it. Reebok hopes to release a biodegradeable version later this year.
This is why I feel as though these companies are just paying lipservice to the idea of “sustainability.” They want some positive press about trying to make eco-friendly products. So they come up with press releases that use words like “organic” and “natural.” But they aren’t actually thinking about the environment or the technology available to us.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate when companies try to get innovative and find ways to solve longterm problems. This type of approach sure beats the more grandiose ideas about foregoing all of civilization’s progress in the last 2,000 years and reverting to a hunter-gatherer society.
So Reebok is on the right track. It just needs to stop with the trendy buzzwords and focus on what matters.