Recycling Flip Flops From the Ocean Shores of Kenya
The world’s oceans are vast, floating dumps for plastic pollution. Without a serious plan for cleaning up the world’s oceans, this situation is dire and becoming worse every day. With a goal of retrieving and recycling 400,000 flip flops a year from the coast of Kenya, one small start-up in Nairobi is making a big difference.
The incredibly creative team of artisans at Ocean Sole transform the retrieved flip flops into colorful masterpieces. Safari animals, including lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and warthogs deliver an important message about marine conservation with their delightful, whimsical creativity. These recycled flip flops from the ocean shores of Kenya are creating global awareness about our careless human footprint.
The Terrible Threat of Plastic Marine Pollution
Millions of flip flops float in the oceans of the world, annually suffocating fish and other animals. Wallowing with multiple tons of plastic debris, they wash up onto coastlines and obstruct turtle hatchlings from reaching the sea. Spoiling the natural beauty of both oceans and beaches, flips flops are a man-made nightmare endangering an already fragile ecosystem.
According to World Ocean Review, plastic marine pollution represents another terrible threat that does not get enough attention. Plastic items are nearly indestructible, they can drift for years, and for thousands of miles.
Many marine species adopt floating plastic debris, such as flip flops, and “hitch-hike” all the way across the oceans on them. In this way, invasive species spread to new habitats that would have ordinarily been impossible for them to reach without these “rafts.” An entire ecosystem’s equilibrium can be disastrously upset as a result of plastic marine pollution.
The Heart and Soul of Ocean Sole is CSR
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the heart and soul of Ocean Sole. From inception, their goal was to have a positive impact by taking responsibility for their environment and community. Company founder Julie Church worked as a marine scientist for WWF and the Kenya Wildlife Service on Kenya’s coast, when she first saw children turning flip flops into toy boats.
When Church saw turtles hatching on the beach having to fight their way through the plastic pollution to get to the sea, her idea for the start-up flip flop recycling company hatched, too. Church’s eco-friendly business plan to clean up the debris by creating artistic and useful items gained momentum when WWF ordered 15,000 key rings.
Working with local communities, beaches and waterways of Kenya are being cleaned, employment is being provided, an eco-friendly product is being developed and distributed, recycling and environmental awareness is being encouraged, and ultimately, albeit piecemeal, the world’s oceans are being saved.
A Creative Cycle of Recycling and Re-recycling
To prevent littering and polluting the oceans, marine life, and ultimately humans, Ocean Sole organizes city and beach cleanups. They have a recycling hub for the local community, where glass, plastic, clothes and tin cans are recycled. Their product is made from the recycled rubber.
Water used for Ocean Sole’s production is collected from rain. Their products are handmade, with simple tools requiring very low energy consumption. Energy saving light bulbs, reusable printer cartridges, and very little paper waste are office policies, and they pay people to bring them recyclable materials. Even the waste from their creative recycled product is re-recycled, for example, as soft flooring for children’s playgrounds.
Generosity Breeds Loyalty in Kenya
Working with women in remote coastal areas with high unemployment, Ocean Sole’s operation started in 1997. The same local women still do piece work for them today. At their workshop, 40 employees from Kenya work full time, Monday through Friday, with free lunches provided. Workers are trained in many skills, and receive paid medical bills, as well as paternity, maternity, and 21-26 days of annual leave.
In Support of the Greater Good
Working alongside many NGOs and charities, Ocean Sole offers donations of their products and assists in fundraisers. In support of the greater good, they generously support the works of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) – Giraffe Center, and Kazuri Beads.
Ocean Sole’s recent donations have helped raised funds for Riding for The Disabled, The Rhino Charge to fund the water towers of Kenya (Aberdare mountain range, Eburru Forest Area and Mountain Kenya), Save The Rhino International, and Friends of Dagoretti.
They have also created the Ocean Sole Foundation, initiating a global drive for supporting the clean-up of oceans with the innovative use of plastic marine debris and reducing the use of plastics. The foundation campaigns actively for better management and protection of the ocean’s resources, ecosystems and habitats. 5% of all profit from their product sales goes toward funding their foundation, as well as 25% from the sales of giant recycled flip flop sculptures.
To say that Global Sole is passionate about the ocean, its ecosystems and marine wildlife, is clearly an understatement. They are a shining example of clever ingenuity, artistic creativity, and environmental activism melded and molded into a company as fascinating as their products.
" It’s not every day that you get to watch your garden grow while wearing some fashion-forward digit bling. The Growing Jewelry collection by hip Icelandic product designer Hafsteinn Juliusson is ideal for green thumbs who not only care about the environment but also want to spread some eco-love by sporting tuffets of moss as jewellery. We have been waiting for an upgrade on the Chia Pet for years now, and with Juliusson’s sleek handcrafted collection there is finally an alternative to micro gardening for the design set.
You might already be a bit fatigued by this year’s fashion mantra ‘Green is the new black’, but with rings and things that trade gold for the sparkle of real Icelandic moss, there is some relief in sight. You know that we love our public moss art here at Inhabitat, and we think real live vegetation that you can nurture and wear is even better. What better message to send when it comes to caring for the environment and properly tending to things at arm’s reach? Growing Jewelry’s hand rings feature inset Icelandic moss that the owner has to lovingly water and trim. One might conclude that the ‘carat’ of the patch depends upon just how shaggy you want to grow it.
I have been aiming to get cracking on a green roof project for years now, but I think that I just might start things off with a ring from Growing Jewelry. My bonsai trees definitely keep me engaged, but I am excited by the prospects of heading out on the town with this knuckle ring gone eco. It’s SO bad and good at the same time – or shall we say ‘rocking’? "
Now, we have to consider what materials and processes are helpful for human beings and environment to keep our planet.
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