Fox Chapel Garden Club gives new life to old tennis shoes


About 1,000 pairs of gently used shoes will be given new life as playmats, running tracks and basketball courts through the efforts of the Fox Chapel Garden Club.

The annual collection by club members is underway, marking the 15th year of the program which has had an impact near and far.

“Shoes that are in excellent condition are donated to community groups, such as the Free Store in Braddock,” said coordinator Ellen Romsaas.

The rest that is worn out or otherwise unusable is shipped to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, through which tennis shoes are ground up and converted into underlay, athletic fields and rubber mats.

“We wouldn’t have any success without the involvement of the community,” said Romsaas.

“Each year, community members filled the collection boxes located at various sites in the community.”

Approximately 2,000 shoes are donated each year.

Founded in 1990, the Nike program has collected 28 million shoes for recycling.

According to the company’s website, the program welcomes shoes that “can’t walk another mile, stumble on the court, or cross the court.”

Athletic shoes at the end of their journey are recycled as part of the Nike Grind program, an offshoot of the company’s Move to Zero journey to zero waste.

The program is an easy way for materials to live from product to nest, according to the website.

All brands of athletic shoes are accepted as long as they are spikeless. No sandals, boots or street shoes will be taken.

The shoe collection was started 15 years ago by Garden Club member Susie Williams.

She has piloted the project ever since.

Brightly colored boxes began popping up all over the community, in places like local churches, gymnasiums, schools, libraries and community centers.

The project will last three months, until the end of October. Collection sites are monitored by club members, with shoes being collected at regular intervals and if necessary brought to the barn of another club member who has offered the space for sorting.

On October 8, volunteers from the Garden Club Conservation Committee will meet to evaluate the shoes and divide them into good and bad piles.

Each year, around 10%, or 100 pairs of shoes, are donated to local charities, Romsaas said.

“The program is a triple win,” she said. “The shoes never reach a landfill, new products are made with recycled materials and the local community is involved in this environmental cause.

“We want you to get involved! Simply drop the used shoes into our collection boxes and we do the rest.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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