Having grown up in the landlocked state of Vermont, I never really had any connection with the ocean. All this changed when I joined the Parley for the Oceans project in April 2015 – just before adidas presented a prototype shoe made from ocean plastic at the United Nations in New York. There, we as a sportswear company committed to turning that concept into a consumer-ready product within a year, while I took on one of the most exciting and challenging projects of my career.

My role in the Parley for the Oceans project is pretty fundamental when it comes to this shoe: I was responsible for turning gillnets retrieved from the water by Parley partner Sea Shepherd into a workable material which would essentially become part of the shoe’s upper.

 Partnering up

Innovating with ocean waste – this is the unusual raw material that brought the adidas x Parley shoe to life.

One of the textile suppliers involved in the Parley project was very interested to see if they could help us, since they were also interested in the concept of recycling fishing nets. At first, they weren’t sure if they’d be able to assist due to the type of nylon, but they were more than happy to see what they could do. Since this was something we’d never done ourselves, we took all the help we could get!

It was now fall 2015 and we only had a few months to secure workable yarn and the pressure was on – if the yarn failed we had almost no time to recover!

 Cleaning the gunk from the junk

In addition to entangling fish, gillnets also cause harm to a variety of ocean wildlife.

For our supplier to be able to work on the raw material, test and produce it, it needed to be clean… and they needed 150kg of it. Manually unpacking the cords, shaking out the ocean gunk, and hand washing and drying the material took forever, believe me, so one of my colleagues suggested using a washing machine. Pretty simple idea, but we weren’t sure how it would work out, so off I went to the local laundromat with one small box of netting and it worked! Now all we needed to do was expand the scale of this operation to 150kg of the stuff.

One thing’s for sure: I’m pretty certain none of this was in my job description!

 The feeling of success

Fast forward again to January of this year and I finally got the email I was waiting for: the yarn trial was successful!

I received a sample of the most beautiful teal green yarn. I made everyone look at it, I told my children about it (who frankly didn’t get what was so exciting about it!), I oohed and ahhed over it. It is quite beautiful, though I may be a little bit biased!

One of my proudest moments was receiving this beautiful teal green yarn.

Now that we have the understanding and the knowhow which could potentially provide the solutions for future manufacturing processes, we’re in a pretty good place to further enhance our operations in the future.

What I’ve taken from this project

This project has been really exciting for a couple of reasons. First off, I am really a “hands-on” sort of person – I am happiest in the lab trying to solve a problem. I’ve also loved getting back to my textile education and feeling the grassroots-ness of this all.

Also, I read recently that an organization tested fish from every ocean and it turned out that every single one of them had plastic in its system. This really brought things home to me, as we eat a lot of fish at home – this has gotten personal.

To get a better idea of how waste is affecting our planet, watch this Parley Talk on YouTube.

The harder we work on getting waste out of the waters through initiatives such as Parley for the Oceans and making the process of creating products out of it more affordable, the better chance we have of growing this program and the greater the impact will be on our environment.

We have succeeded in creating something quite spectacular out of trash, but in an ideal world we shouldn’t need to.

Want to know more about the Parley movement? Click here.

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by AMAN ANAND 07.06.2016
impressive work. Kudos to this team for making a real change:)
Reply
by Margaret Raabe 07.06.2016
Wow what a story! I love the moments when you have a project break through and are SO excited, and then try to explain it to people outside the project (like your kids!) and they don't understand the excitement at all. haha! Cant wait to see these awesome shoes in person.
Reply
by Paul Olah 07.06.2016
I NEED these shoes. I have been following the production since the day I heard they would be announced last year. Cannot wait to try and score a pair.
Reply
by BR 08.06.2016
I am excited about this shoe! Just last night I ran across the "Parley talk" on You Tube (admittedly I saw Pharrell's name and clicked) and shared the link with a friend after watching and today in my email your story appears.

Looking forward to the release of this shoe.
Reply
by Jennifer Nolfi 08.06.2016
Kelli, what a great story. Thanks for providing us with an insight into the creative and innovative design, materials and product development process!
Reply
by Stef 08.06.2016
Hi,

i have a lot to do with waste and recycling management in my job and love the idea to create new products and save the environment. Can't wait to see when your product is available.

All the best
Reply
by Richard Winters 08.06.2016
Great job! How can I buy the shoe?
Reply
Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Richard Winters 13.06.2016
Hi Richard,
you don't buy the shoes you earn them ;)
Please check the brand adidas instagram channel of one of the following countries China, France, Russia, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, UK, US and Spain to find out more.

Good luck,

Nina
Reply
Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Richard Winters 17.06.2016
Hi Richard,

you can't buy them, you have to earn them ;)
Check out the brand adidas Instagram channel (of one of the following countries China France; Russia; Germany; Australia; Indonesia; Philippines; UK; US and Spain) to learn more.

Good luck and best,

Nina
Reply

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