Smyrna’s Eco Sneakers supplies footwear locally and overseas

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February 17 – SMYRNA – Eco Sneakers is a social enterprise that provides gently used shoes to people in need in Atlanta or people living in poor countries around the world.

“We operate for the good (of the earth),” said Bobby Johnson, the founder of Eco Sneakers. “We operate as a non-profit organization, so what we do is good for people and good for the earth.”

Johnson was born into poverty in Paris, Kentucky. Growing up, he was bullied for wearing old clothes and tattered shoes. This kind of childhood can serve to harden the hearts of many, but for Johnson it set him on a path in which his two desires were to rise out of poverty and have a positive impact on people and the world. , did he declare.

“I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know what it was, I had no idea. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I didn’t want to be poor, and I wanted to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.”

Johnson moved to Smyrna in 1996, and he began what would become his company’s mission in 2003 while training for the Peachtree Road Race in downtown Atlanta at a meet he now described as “fate” or “divine purpose”.

He noticed a homeless man without shoes, so he gave him the pair he was wearing. Months later, he was driving through downtown Atlanta, meeting eyes with this same homeless man, and the look of gratitude on the man’s face assured Johnson that he wanted to continue having a impacting lives through sneakers.

Over the next few years, Johnson, along with friends and family volunteers, started Eco Sneakers and made a hobby of collecting shoes through donation boxes they set up during the Peachtree Road Race, various mud races and other events around Atlanta.

In 2012, Eco Sneakers became an LLC and Johnson began partnering with micro businesses around the world in places like Haiti, South Central America, Pakistan and the Philippines.

“These people were taking our shoes, cleaning them and fixing them,” Johnson said. “If the shoes have small holes, they will reuse them. If not, they will resell these shoes to the people of their country.”

Eco Sneakers’ reach has grown significantly over the past 19 years.

He has partnered with companies like Georgia Power, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and several others.

In 2019, Eco Sneakers partnered with the Ludacris Foundation as part of “The Sole of Atlanta” campaign to raise shoe donations during the Super Bowl since the game was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. .

In November 2021, Eco Sneakers partnered with NFL player, Jonathan Jones.

Jones, a cornerback for the New England Patriots from Carrollton, Georgia, founded the Next Step Foundation which aims to mentor and give back to Carrollton youth.

Eco Sneakers and Jones’ Next Step Foundation have teamed up to organize the “Sneaker Week: Walk There Challenge” where participants came and were able to donate new or lightly used shoes to Carrollton Junior High School and Carrollton High School for children from the community.

Another athlete Eco Sneakers has worked with is Stephon Marbury, who played for the New York Nets and is now the head coach of the Chinese Basketball Association’s Beijing Royal Fighters.

Marbury created his own shoe brand, Starbury, as a cheap competitor to brands like Nike’s Air Jordan.

Eco Sneakers would buy Starbury shoes for kids in the community who couldn’t afford the most expensive basketball shoes until Johnson spoke and connected with Marbury himself.

“We started buying him shoes and really liked them,” Johnson said. “These shoes were about $30 compared to Nike shoes and they had the same stitching and everything. When I started Eco Sneakers, I called him to let him know what we were doing, so he started making a Don.”

Since 2003, Eco Sneakers has received over 400,000 pairs of shoes and counts as Johnson’s mission persists today.

According to Johnson, while Eco Sneakers saves used shoes from rotting in landfills, it also saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

“One of the great things we do is it takes 2,240 gallons of water to make a pair of shoes,” he said. “So for every shoe we save, we also save that much water.”

Some shoes that are donated are too tattered to be given to people in need, so Eco Sneakers will recycle them and use them to make a wide range of things.

“Any shoes that have holes in them or fall apart, you know, should be destroyed and recycled,” Johnson said.

Along with redistributing shoes to people in need at home and abroad, Johnson said his future plans for the company include making original products from Eco Sneakers’ recycled shoes.

“The plan is to create products ourselves and get them to schools and businesses all over the United States,” he said. “We want to make sustainable products like stuffed animals, rug backings, beanbags and more.”

To follow what Eco Sneakers is doing locally and around the world, visit ecosneakers.org.


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