Why Nike built a sneaker that can be taken apart? 

The Brooklyn Half Marathon was staged in New York for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. This was the first time the race had been held in the city since the pandemic began. After finishing the 13.1 mile race, a young runner who was in his thirties passed out and was subsequently pronounced dead from what was presumed to be a heart attack. In spite of the unseasonably high temperatures and high humidity, the FDNY said that there were sixteen persons sent to the hospital on that particular day. The man was one of those individuals.

A weekend with record high temperatures over most of the United States and Western Europe has delivered summer to us a full month before the season is technically supposed to begin. According to reports that were published in January and April by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which is sponsored by the European Union, the last seven years have been the hottest on record, and the frequency of summer days with high levels of heat stress is increasing.

According to the C3S European State of the Climate report, severe surface air temperature has a variety of effects, including but not limited to those on agriculture, the demand for energy, and most importantly, human health. Athletes from every sport will be affected by climate change, which is being driven by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, which act as a blanket for heat and cause the globe to warm.

According to Vincent-Henri Peuch, Director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, who was quoted in a statement that accompanied the January findings, “Carbon dioxide and methane concentrations are continuing to climb year on year and without signs of slowing down.” “2021 was yet another year of extreme temperatures, with the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, not to mention the unprecedented high temperatures in North America,” Carlo Buontempo, the director of C3S, added. “This year’s record-breaking high temperatures in North America were a direct result of the warming trend that began in 2021.” These occurrences serve as a clear reminder of the urgent need to alter our behaviours, take decisive and efficient actions toward a more sustainable society, and make progress toward cutting net carbon emissions.

The “Move to Zero” initiative from Nike promises to completely do away with emissions.

Nike will recycle worn-out shoes of any brand and turn them into material for the Nike Grind line of products. This image was provided by Nike.

2019 marked the beginning of Nike’s collaboration with the Climate Impact Lab, an organisation that brings together more than 30 climate scientists, economists, analysts, and other specialists from some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the United States. The collaboration demonstrated how rising temperatures will and already are impacting the work that athletes do: a continued increase in extreme heat could shave two months off the training calendar by 2050 for sports such as American football, and the number of quality practise days for snow sports could decrease by 11 to 22 percent during that same timeframe.

In conjunction with their work with the Climate Impact Lab, Nike launched a campaign called “Move to Zero” with the goals of drawing attention to the connection between climate change and athletics and outlining the company’s own plan to move toward production methods that generate zero carbon emissions and zero waste. The plan includes a number of different initiatives, such as phasing out the use of single-use plastics across all Nike campuses, powering distribution centres with renewable energy (just like their facility in Belgium does), diverting used footwear and manufacturing waste from landfills and repurposing them into a material known as Nike Grind, which can be incorporated into running tracks, basketball courts, and gym tiles. In addition, Nike refurbishes and resells shoes that have been used but are still in good condition at a reduced price.

The inherently flawed process of product development that takes the future into consideration.

The labour that is put in by hand in order to get a pair of sneakers ready for recycling because not every component can be recycled. This image was provided by Nike.

In order to have the least possible negative effect on the environment, the process of designing a product must take into account the product’s eventual disposal. The recycling processes that are in place around the world at the present time are not designed to accommodate the recycling of clothing and shoes since these items require manual sorting, separation by fibre, removal of non-recyclable trims, and other forms of disassembly. There are many things that are not yet capable of being broken down because they are made of a combination of materials, include chemicals or plastics, or both, and there are no technological or chemical solutions available to do it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only about 13 percent of clothing and shoes that are thrown away in the United States end up being recycled. As a result, businesses should contribute to the development of recycling methods by incorporating them through a circular design process where waste can become a material resource. At the moment, France is the only country that imposes a mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy on businesses that produce new textiles and clothing for the French market. This policy requires these businesses to assume responsibility for collecting and recycling their used products. As a result, Nike, which is based in Oregon, has been voluntarily implementing a circular design scheme.

For the purpose of assisting customers in maximising the amount of use they get out of their sneakers, Nike not only refurbishes and resells shoes that have been worn infrequently but also provides product care advice online. This image was provided by Nike.

Nike acknowledged in a series of published statements on the issue of establishing a circular system that their team does not yet have all of the answers. However, the company has established 10 principles of circular design through the construction of an open-sourced workbook that has more questions than commands. These 10 principles are something that the company’s own designers are urged to consider when approaching new projects. In the publication “Circularity: Guiding the Future of Design,” which is open to the public, questions concerning design are posed such as “Can components safely degrade without the use of chemicals or oxo-degradability? Does each individual portion have worth even when taken out of the context of the complete product? The question was, “How could you possibly sew repair kits, complete with instructions, inside the garment?”

“We are galvanising and empowering everyone to make smarter changes, and we’re building diverse, inclusive teams to drive relentless innovation for athletes and the planet,” stated Noel Kinder, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We are building diverse, inclusive teams to drive relentless innovation for athletes and the planet.”

Nike’s circular products are designed to be disassembled in order to make the recycling process more manageable, which is the fourth principle of circular design. “The concept that a shoe is a shoe is one that has become second nature to us. However, what we have here is a veritable treasure trove,” the text says. Exactly here is where the future release from the corporation comes into play.

The Nike ISPA Link is now being introduced.

In the month of June, the Nike ISPA Link will be made available. This image was provided by Nike.

Improvise, Scavenge, Protect, and Adapt are the four tenets that are embodied in the ISPA acronym, which describes the circular design concept. The ISPA design team was able to sidestep the typical bonding adhesive that makes disassembly, and consequently recycling, extremely tough. This was accomplished without compromising the functionality of the product. Shoe recycling is often achieved through a process known as shredding. According to Nike, this is an energy-intensive process that restricts how the recycled materials can be used.

The ISPA Link design incorporates three modules that are able to link with one another without the use of glue. Additionally, the midsole is made up of pegs that are able to fit into apertures that have been designed into the upper. By doing away with the time-consuming step of glueing, Nike was able to reduce the amount of time required to put together a pair of Links to eight minutes. Additionally, the design does not call for any energy-intensive procedures, such as heating, cooling, or conveyor belt systems; as a result, it reduces carbon emissions throughout the production process as well as during the recycling process. Shoes could potentially be disassembled by customers before they reach Nike’s recycling and donation service if the disassembly steps are made simple enough for customers to perform on their own. This would eliminate the need for some of the additional hands that the company would require as part of the recycling process.

Pegs in the midsole are one of the elements that make up the glueless, interlocking modular architecture of the ISPA Link. This image was provided by Nike.

According to a statement released by Nike, forty athletes logged around two hundred hours in the ISPA Link prototype, which was used to assess the comfort and stability of the product. The Vice President of Catalyst Footwear Product Design, Darryl Matthews, stated that “our hope is that these concepts and aesthetics become commonplace, accelerating our capacity to imagine how shoes will continue to grow in the future.” “Our objective is that these ideas and aesthetics become normalised,”

Beginning in June, the ISPA Link will be sold through Nike retail locations as well as on other online shopping platforms. Although the pricing has not yet been disclosed, a 2020 ISPA Flow style can be purchased at retail for 180 dollars. The ISPA Link Axis will be released in the beginning of 2023, and it will replace the conventional cut-and-sew method (which was used to make the Link) with a 100 percent recycled polyester Flyknit upper that is precisely engineered to fit over the outsole, thereby eliminating seams as the next iteration of advancement in the disassembly process.

According to John Hoke, Chief Design Officer at Nike, “By focusing on progress and not perfection and by making better choices, we embrace the chance to reconsider our craft in the hope that it forms a groundswell of change.” This is what will ultimately yield the next set of innovations in sustainability. Practicing the patience and persistence of an athlete and improving, little by little, is what will ultimately yield the next set of innovations in sustainability.

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