Like many items we use or wear every day, our shoes are often made with hosts of artificial chemicals and substances. With so many concerns vying for our attention, most of us don’t think too much about the sustainability of what we put on our feet.
Luc Houle, founder of Johnny Footwear is trying to change how people buy, wear and most importantly – dispose of – their shoes. The name comes from Johnny Appleseed, a mythical American nature hero.
“Most people don’t realize the shoes they wear are harmful to the planet. They contain plastic that floods our oceans and landfills and sticks around for up to 1,000 years,” explained Houle. “Our compound feels like traditional athletic shoes, but they biodegrade in 3 years rather than the typical 1,000.”
The shoes are made from mainly simple organic materials like cotton treated for water resistance with beeswax and naturally antibacterial cork insoles. Although it may seem concerning to some that the shoes may degrade while being worn, the company claims this won’t happen. Instead, for the shoe to break down, it must be underground for a bit of time. After just 18 months, 53 percent of the midsole will biodegrade.
And the namesake – as the shoe breaks down an apple seed is released as well. The company brags their shoe is the “first that grows into an apple tree.” Although this is not strictly true, the shoe itself may nourish the seed hidden within to create a new wild apple tree.
While apple trees are all helpful for supporting the environment and wildlife, they do not necessarily bear good fruit. Apples from seeds are quite variable and don’t always produce very edible fruits.
But if wild apples are not a good enough incentive, the company will plant a new tree for every pair of shoes sold.
“This is a new product, a new company and a new way of bringing innovation to the world,” said Houle.
By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Staff Writer