Recently, shoe giant Adidas collaborated with Parley, a not-for-profit who are working mainly on cleaning up our oceans. Ocean biodiversity is something we are set to lose as a planet if we continue on our current trajectory of pollution and over-fishing our oceans, and that’s not good for anyone. The oceans are part of how our planet breathes, heals itself and, honestly, who doesn’t love a good trip to the beach? The deep ocean is one of the only places on our planet we still haven’t been able to physically study. We still haven’t built anything that can withstand the pressure of the deepest parts of the ocean, and thus, not even robotic submersibles have been able to get down far enough to see what’s down there. We know more about deep space than we do about the deepest parts of our oceans, and if we don’t know what there purpose is, how can we possibly know that it won’t be catastrophic to lose it? Falling down the rabbit hole of what kind of creatures there are deep in the ocean is enough to keep most of us awake at night, but honestly, I’m more concerned by what we DO know is down there: Plastic.
Scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, and that’s because of both over-fishing and plain ol’ pollution. Where does garbage go after the truck takes it away? Dumps, and then, a lot of it, into the ocean.
Even that plastic you put into your recycling bin – it goes off to be hand sorted into categories and sent off further – but you’d better be careful what you put in there, because one mostly empty jar of peanut butter and they might have to throw a whole truckload into regular landfill.
So where does this leave us? Paralyzed by fear of your garbage ending up inside a sea turtle, or wrapped around it’s shell, causing it to warp painfully and deform it for life? A little bit, yeah. But Parley is one organisation (of many) doing amazing work pulling plastic out of the sea and creating and fostering an environment where innovators can come in and come up with crazy ideas about how to recycle ocean plastic, and Parley works with them to actually accomplish that.
Finally, we get to the point (#sorrynotsorry for my tangent-filled existence). In 2016, Parley and Adidas joined forces to create the “Ultraboost Uncaged Parley”, and manufactured and sold 7000 pairs. This is a step in the right direction for Adidas, who have come under fire for numerous human rights abuses over the years (every word in that sentence is a link to a different article about their poor form on that front). But here’s where the green-washing comes in. They haven’t cleaned up their act in terms of human rights violations. They have updated their company policy on their website, but, that I know of, no steps have been taken to do anything other than cover up the fact that they still use sweatshops.
All that being said, there’s that whole ‘vote with your wallet’ thing as a conscious consumer, and using ocean plastic to create new things is REALLY important, and something I and many others want to support. One issue that comes with this though is that it becomes a limited edition gimmick. The ethical fashion movement is really grabbing hold in a lot of places, and it’s moving up, hence Adidas’ jumping on board here. But is it a fad? It shouldn’t be, and I certainly hope it isn’t, but this whole ‘releasing a limited edition version of a shoe made from ocean plastic’ thing sort of tried to guarantee that it will be a limited time thing. Maybe they’re just gauging interest, seeing if its a worthwhile thing to invest their colossal influence and fortune into. If that’s the case, we need to tell them YES, a thousand times YES! But with that yes comes a caveat: We want you, Adidas, to clean up not just the ocean but your whole act. Stop exploiting women in south-east Asia to make your clothes. Source all your materials ethically, not just ocean plastic. Hell, why stop there? Make everything out of ocean plastic! There’s plenty of it! It can’t stay in our oceans!
There’s always a tension between wanting to support a company taking the right steps in one area while acknowledging that they’re flagrantly ignoring the ethical issues in another. But with big companies like this, that is always the tension you have to battle with as an ethical consumer, because at the end of the day, they’re that big because they’ve cut corners to make more money and gain more power. They all have.
I want to support what Adidas is doing with Parley, but when it comes down to it, I think I’d rather support Parley directly. Here’s their website so you can have a gander at what they’re doing aside from the adidas thing.
IMAGE BY ADIDAS