With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics only five months away, Nike has announced its plans to make this year’s games the most sustainable ever. As reported by British Vogue, John Hoke, Nike’s Chief Design Officer, said, “Every four years, the eyes and the attention of the world stops and focuses on sports – which is fantastic for us. Sports show what’s possible, and [the Olympics] are a moment for us to telegraph our intentions as a company.” The big-name brand is using its sweeping influence and this critical moment to shine a light on the necessity for ethical innovation in the design space.
“We’ve always been a company that wants to take a position on issues that matter – but there’s clearly a vibration, a zeitgeist shift that is happening,” Hoke said, alluding to current socio-political conversations in the fashion industry that have been growing louder. “We don’t want to be passive; we want to lead the conversation… And it’s not a time to be timid – it’s a time to be bold, to dream big and to take action.”
With this, the company is launching a new design movement called “space hippy,” according to British Vogue, which will take a zero-carbon approach by making shoes from 100% recycled yarn uppers and using foam scraps from factory floors to make cushioning. The outlet reports that the amalgam plastic soles will be left undyed to reduce the use of materials and push a recycled aesthetic the brand is calling “rawthentic modernity.”
“Space hippy is the pinnacle expression of the palette of our sustainable materials – but they’re scalable across the whole company,” expresses Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Nike’s Sustainability Design Lead. “It’s a wild manifestation, but one that creates tools that everyone can use.”
According to British Vogue, 60% of Nike’s carbon footprint is generated by raw materials. Under this new shift, the outlet reports that the company will take cues from the Japanese “who are creating their gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals out of nearly 80,000 tons of recycled electronics (including 6.21 million mobile phones).” Moreover, podium uniforms will be made from recycled polyester and nylon with swooshes created by upcycling consumer and industrial materials; tracksuits will be produced using 60% recycled cotton; and Nike Air shoe soles will be produced in 100% renewable energy factories using scraps.
“We are using all the recycled materials that are available to us,” says Seana Hannah, Vice President of Nike Sustainable Innovation. “And throughout the manufacturing process, we’re using renewable energy, or the lowest energy methods possible.” The company’s push for sustainable materials is also a major effort to support its athletes. “We’re hearing from our athletes that climate change is changing how they train, where they train and when they train,” says Hannah. With temperatures rising and the air quality worsening, Nike’s efforts are not laudatory — they’re absolutely necessary.
The Olympics are a major cultural moment watched by people across the globe, so we’re glad to see Nike evolving its business practices and using its massive resources to champion the necessity for change for all to see.