The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Piling up shoes

15-year-old launches recycling program at his Maryland congregation

Every color, brand and size of seemingly useless shoes cluttered the lobby of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Gaithersburg, Md., before Christmas. Eyesore? Not to 15-year-old Jacob Feid. He launched the "Reuse a Shoe" project at his church to turn those old sports shoes into tracks and basketball and tennis courts.

Feid had been active in outreach projects with his confirmation class and heard of environmental connections through the congregation's green ministry. When asked as a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School to select a personal project, he landed on an idea with an impact on his closet, home, church, neighborhood and even the earth.

When it comes to shoes, color and style
When it comes to shoes, color and style don't matter to Jacob Feid. He collects worn-out shoes that will be transformed into "safe surfaces for children to play on."

Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program collects worn-out athletic shoes for recycling, regardless of manufacturer. The shoes are transformed into Nike Grind, a material used for athletic and playground surfaces as well as select Nike products. More than 1.5 million pairs of postconsumer shoes are collected for recycling each year through the program, Nike reports.

"My old athletic shoes are always too worn-out to be used by anyone else, and they would remain in a landfill forever," Feid said. "I'm very passionate about collecting these shoes because they are then recycled into sports surfaces, which create safe surfaces for children to play on."

Come to find out, the shoes can be broken into three parts: rubber from the outsole, foam from the midsole and fabric from the upper. Midsole foam from 2,500 pairs of shoes, for example, can make one outdoor basketball court. Other components have other durable sports surface destinations. Worn-out, beloved sneakers donated at Good Shepherd may turn up in parks and playgrounds in the church's vicinity in future months.

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