Here comes Johnny Applesandal.

Now this is an interesting idea:

Johnny Applesandal is eco-conscious footwear that allows the customer to participate in environmental cleansing through the dispersion of soil-cleaning plant seeds.

With the production of over 12 billion pairs of shoes a year, footwear creates millions of tons of waste material. This inefficiency in resources carries throughout the entire lifecycle of the product: from scrap material at the factory to used shoes in the dump. Johnny Apple Sandal not only works to prevent this gross waste of resources, but also takes proactive measures to reverse the effects of pollution.

The Johnny Applesandal allows the customer to buy into a cyclical system of conscientious consumption, proactive environmental cleansing, and material reclamation. Phytoremediating seeds are contained within the sandal. As the footwear is used, the soles wear thin exposing seed channels. This allows seeds to slowly escape. Phytoremediating plant species are known to contribute to the environment by breaking down toxic substances and naturally cleansing soil and water. Once the seeds have been sown, and the soles are worn out, the shoes are returned to the manufacturer for disassembly and material reclamation.

It sounds like a neat idea, but I have to wonder about a few things. First, does it actually work? If it takes a significant amount of wear to release the seeds then there’s always the chance that the seeds themselves would be crushed or damaged in the process rendering them useless. Second, what happens when we suddenly have a ton of plants sprouting up on sidewalks all over the urban landscape? If they end up just being razed because they’re cluttering up the environment then there’s not much point in depositing them there in the first place. Thirdly, there’s the concerns over invasive species. Without knowing exactly what the plants being spread are there could be a problem with folks buying these sandals and wearing them in environments where the plants would be disruptive if they were to take hold.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea—at first glance it seems like a pretty cool one—but I don’t know how much thought was put behind the concept before it was undertaken. It doesn’t seem like this would be the most efficient method of distribution either. How many people walk through highly contaminated areas in sandals where the plants would do the most good? It just seems more like a feel-good gimmick to sell sandals then a good means of helping to clean up the planet, though I do like the idea of being able to send them back to the manufacturer for reclamation of parts when they’re worn out. I didn’t know it before reading up on these sandals, but apparently Nike has a Reuse-A-Shoe program as well. That seems like a better way of helping keep the planet clean in the long term.

9 thoughts on “Here comes Johnny Applesandal.

  1. I’m with you on the recycling, and I think we’d get a lot more benefit out of shoes made from more environmentally-friendly materials to begin with…

  2. I have long be an advocate for people owning less and re-using more of what others discard.  As a result, for all of my adult life i’ve consistently kept my shoe-assets to a bare minimum:

    1) Combat boots (for snow, mud, sludge and other messy operations)
    2) Every day shoes (usually a pair of hiking-like Nikes)
    3) Fancy shoes (so i can wear a suit and subvert the consumerist business factions into buying my web-widgets)

    As we all know, you rarely need to buy a new pair of shoes.  On average, it takes about 1-3 years for a pair of shoes to wear out, depending upon the type of use.  If you’re smart, regular maintenance can also expand that lifecycle by another a year or two.  Best yet, there are plenty of places to buy *used* shoes, especially in urban areas; The only new pair of shoes i own are my #2’s, which cost more than twice the sum of my previously owned #1’s and #3’s.  I can’t tell you how many times i’ve laughed out loud at people who spend $60-$200 for a new pair of kicks (stupid Americani consumerist suckers, ever last one of ‘em).

    While this concept of a seed/spore-releasing-shoe is a nifty idea (especially for eco-bio-terrorists), i think it’s more important to recycle what we’ve already produced rather than innovate using new, yet unprocessed resources.  After all, let’s face it, shoe design has little changed in the last 500 or so years, barring the revolutionary idea of the left-n-right shoe within the last 50-100 years.  We can save the innovation for when we’ve all worn out civilization’s current shoe inventory, in my not so humble opinion.

    Looking forward to that day (i estimate we’ll reach this point circa 2170 CE) i’ve regularly promoted the following:

    Rubber Tire Shoes

    This is a tried and true product anyone can make in their own home or apartment workbench.  And, as the above webpages mentions, it’s an old idea borrowed by from post-WW2 Europeans and the proud Chiapas people of Mexico.  I’ve also seen people in SubSahara Africa use them as well.  They’re actually quite common amongst the more frugal and wise nations of the planet.

    Lastly, i seriously doubt most Americans walk enough regularly to make this a useful concept.  From my observations at mall and supermarket parking lots Americans will do almost anything not to walk a few meters—never mind most of the walking they do is on artificial, non-soil surfaces.  This product idea is probably best suited for those peoples who still interact directly with nature, and that sure ain’t Americans.

  3. You know in Australia & New Zealand, this would guarantee your shoes being impounded and destroyed at immigration/customs!

    Nice thought though

  4. Ugh. Shoe snobs. I have many pairs of shoes and I don’t apologize for it. I have dress shoes (for work), steel toes (also for work), bike shoes and hiking boots. I walk a lot and they get lots of use. Spend $60-$200 for a pair of shoes? Hell yeah, why not, if I need them and want them? Am I consumerist?  Have you ever bought anything? Then you’re consumerist, too. Shame on you!

  5. I only have 4 sets of shoes myself. A pair of infrequently used dress shoes, a pair of sneakers, the boots I got with my new winter coat awhile back, and a pair of sandals. I don’t have any moralistic reasoning for so few shoes, I just don’t have much fashion sense so 4 sets is all I need.

  6. Consumerists are those who enjoy the process of shopping and purchasing and make it a central activity of their lives.  This is particularly an American addiction, and to a lesser extent an industrialized soceity’s one as well.

    One need only examine the garbage of Americans to know this is a widespread problem.  For example, me and the boyfriend (and two cats and three fish tanks (which produces nutritive water for all our plants and gardens)) generally fill up maybe 25% of one town-issued garbage bucket.  Our neighbors to our left, right, and across the street all have two-member households as well.  Each week they, on average, fill up two, sometime three buckets each of garbage, mostly consisting of boxes and packaging for new items they purchase—and quite regularly include discarded items like lawn furniture, grills, shoes (yes), chairs, carpets, etc.

    It’s disgusting and will, in time, be America’s undoing—all within most of your lifetimes.

  7. BTW, i have only purchased 1 grill since moving back to the Land of Excess (circa 1998).  Although most of my grills parts have since disintergrated (Weber’s GoAnywhere Grill), i have gleefully recycled parts from my neighbors oft still working but discarded grills.  And, if i could melt down their thrown-away-but-perfectly-good lawn furniture into something useful, i would recycle that stuff too.

  8. I agree that too many people are too acquisitive and stuff-oriented, but I think it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, which I’m not patient enough or smart enough to figure out. All I know is a typical 3 year old today owns more shit than I did at 20.

  9. …All I know is a typical 3 year old today owns more shit than I did at 20.

    Yes, we have similiar children/Caligulas-in-the-making in my neighborhood, their yard, playroom, livingroom, and bedroom strewn with lotsa bright, colorful plastic toys.  Most of these objects havn’t been touched in ages, now slowly descending into the dirt and sand, save the top poking out like the Statue of Liberty in Planet of The Apes.

    Fear not, most of the toys are made of plastic, which shall be well beyond the purchasing power of most American families in a year or two.

    Come that time, i’m pretty sure these same kids will find playing/working in farm-fields just as entertaining.

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