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ben brady

My Shoes

For this week’s assignment we were to look at a product we use or like and try to find out where all the parts come from and their collective carbon footprint.

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I chose to take a closer look at one of my favorite pairs of shoes, the Nike Air Max 180. These shoes are comfortable, but I was curious how bad they were. I found that they were assembled in Vietnam, I purchased them in Italy, then brought them to Seattle, then to Boston. Nike’s plant in Vietnam has had some less than great press about labor laws so in some ways owning these shoes is already somewhat morally questionable. Nike claims to have made a lot of effort to use sustainable materials and organic materials as of late, but as far as I can tell my Air Max’s don’t really take advantage of that.

the first step for me was to really open up the shoe to see what materials were in it. I didn’t really find many “sustainable materials” so to speak, but I did find a lot of stuff.

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the shoe is divided into 3 main parts.

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The upper, which in this case is made of leather, some sort of synthetic mesh, and cotton. There is also some rigid type of PU in there.

the next part is the midsole. The midsole could be made of any of 4 materials Nike uses, Phylon, PU or Polyurethane, Phylite, or EVA. To the best of my knowledge, I believe these shoes have a predominantly PU midsole.

The outsole is the part that actually touches the ground. Nike uses 5 different materials for the majority of their shoes. They use BRS 1000 (carbon runnner), Solid rubber, Durable Rubber Compound, Duralon, or Gum Rubber. I am pretty sure that the outsole is BRS 1000. BRS 1000 or carbon rubber is essentially Solid Rubber mixed with Carbon Black. Carbon in the soles of your shoes is what can make your sneakers make marks on gym floors, so you won’t find this type of outsole on basketball shoes, but the carbon also adds rigidity and durability, which is ideal for running shoes, which these are.

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I researched what these materials were to the best of my abilities. I contacted Nike directly but they were not very forthcoming with any useful information. I did find out that Nike has purchased a large synthetics and rubber company called Tetra Plastics which is now called Nike IHM, Inc. which has operations all over the world. Maybe it is good because they can sort of centralize most of their material sourcing. They have also recently come forward very publicly to say they won’t use leather from Argentina anymore because of poor farming practices.

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Carbon Footprint – These shoes literally have a carbon footprint.  Apparently Carbon Black is added to the outer-sole to add rigidity and durability.  This is the reason that certain shoes shouldn’t be worn in gymnasiums (because the Carbon leaves marks).

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