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Over the years my style has shifted, though not by much. I cycle through color schemes, oscillating between what feels like two ends of the style spectrum. On one hand, I have seasons where all I want to wear are neutrals and basics. Then there are times where I fancy a bright pop of color, or color blocking two or more bright colors, celebrating the way complimentary colors pop. However, when it comes to footwear, I tend to be a lot more consistent: hand me a pair of white sneakers. They need to be practical, comfortable, and able to pair with my many different style moods.
Stepping Into Sneaker Culture
Even though sneakers are my main footwear of choice, I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a sneakerhead. True sneakerheads speak a language I don’t quite understand. Frankly, I’m fascinated by it. Data compiled by Cowen Equity Research suggests that sneakers are an “emerging asset class,” meaning their social and cultural value are increasing so much overtime they are considered an investment. In the U.S. alone, sneakers are a $21 billion dollar industry, meaning American consumers make up a little bit more than one-fifth of the total global sneaker economy, valued at an estimated $100 billion dollars.
Because I wear sneakers practically every day, I replace them pretty often. When I calculate just how many old pairs of mine have ended up in the trash can throughout my life, I shudder. Just as I was reflecting on my own sneaker waste, I couldn’t help but think about the waste in the sneaker industry as a whole. Sustainable measures in footwear are emerging, but they still lag behind the overall production and waste. In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 9.7 million tons of clothing and footwear waste ended up in landfills. The same researchers who estimate the massive size of the sneaker industry also find that the global sneaker resale market is estimated at $6 billion dollars. While that number demonstrates an incredibly expansive sector of the sneaker industry, compared to the total global market, there’s a long way to go to lessen the gap.
The sustainable footwear market is growing in size in an effort to solve some of our waste problems. One brand in particular, Thousand Fell, is taking the right steps.
Meet Thousand Fell: A Sustainable Sole-ution
Okay, pun aside, Thousand Fell is a brand worth talking about. When it comes to the environment, Thousand Fell has set out to make a lasting impact. The brand’s goal is simple: not another shoe in a landfill. Considering that 97% of shoes end up in landfills, it’s nice to see this brand commit to being part of the solution instead of being the problem. Created three years ago by retail alum and entrepreneurs Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum, Thousand Fell is responsible for footwear made up entirely of recycled or natural materials, including but not limited to recycled rubber, castor beans, recycled water bottles, sugar cane, and aloe vera. Thousand Fell’s sneakers, which I am particularly interested in, are stain-proof, vegan, and water-resistant.
In an effort to keep shoes out of landfills, Thousand Fell has a recycling program called Super Circle Footwear. It works like this: when you buy a pair of shoes, you can pay an additional deposit to join the recycling program. Once you are done with your pair, you can send it back to Thousand Fell (the brand covers the shipping cost). If your shoes are in good condition, they are donated through Sole4Soul, a nonprofit that distributes donated clothing and footwear. If they are not in a condition to be donated, they are taken and recycled into a new pair of Thousand Fell products. Once your sneakers are turned in, your deposit is applied towards your next pair of products. Currently, the recycling program only accepts Thousand Fell products, although the brand has partnered with For Days to do a NYC-based textile recycling of any shoe earlier this year.
In addition to its recycling program, Thousand Fell has a handful of other sustainability measures. Current projects include investing in a composting initiative in the Lower East Side, a cleaner beach program in Ghana, encouraging zero-waste initiatives on a college campus, and planting trees in the wake of devastating wildfires in California.
A Shoe Worth Considering
When I first tried Thousand Fell, I wanted to see if I would like my pair enough to ditch my staple sneaker: the Adidas Superstar low-top sneakers. Rocking the white women’s lace-up with a touch of aqua on the back of the heel, I took my sneakers out for a day of errands to see how they would hold up. Priced at $100 with an additional $20 deposit for the recycling program, these sneakers are a little bit more than what I currently spend on my go-to. (If you’re a student, you are able to get 20% off all products.)
Style-wise, Thousand Fell feels like a minimal aesthetic with a limited variety of offerings. Thousand Fell products come in three varied looks: lace-up, slip-on, and court. The colors of the shoes are white, grey, and black, with a range of accented logos. I’m looking forward to seeing the brand evolve and expand beyond these three main offerings (so far, the Court style has the most design and color variety, including a bright pair of neon sneakers in the color “washed acid,” priced at $110). The shoes arrived in sustainable packaging and even come with a reusable tote bag.
I have to be honest, I’ve been surprised at how much I like these shoes. These sneakers are so comfortable -- and there was no need to break them in. As a basic sneaker design, they go with practically everything in my closet. Thousand Fell scores major points for comfort, style, and sustainability.
Maybe you’re like me and want to reduce your textile waste. If so, it might be time to chuck your chucks. I know I’m working on it. Now, with Thousand Fell, I’m going to take sustainability one step at a time.
Five More Reasons to Try Thousand Fell:
- A step towards sustainability. Wearing Thousand Fell products is an active and conscientious choice to be better to the environment.
- Students can get 20% off. With the Student Beans affiliate program, registered student users can snag an additional discount on Thousand Fell.
- Fully recyclable footwear. Considering how much textile waste there is, Thousand Fell is committed to using materials that won’t take so long to break down.
- Joining the brand’s Inner Circle means you’re one less step towards a landfill. Send in your shoes for credit towards your next pair. Depending on your shoe’s condition, they either end up donated or upcycled into another shoe.
- Thousand Fell gives back. There are a handful of community initiatives Thousand Fell is working on, from California to Ghana.