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Treading Lightly: The Past, Present and Future of Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ Mission

Nike Cosmic Unity

Nike dont have their head in the sand when it comes to climate change. In fact, their sneakers are in the stars. After launching the four-sneaker Space Hippie collection last year, the Beaverton brand continues to strive towards their proactive ‘Move to Zero’ mission – a journey to zero carbon and zero waste.

The Nike shuttle is well on its way, with sustainable innovations like the Space Hippie, Cosmic Unity, and ‘Plant Cork Pack’ all taking flight in recent times, alongside new technology such as Crater Foam cushioning in the new Nike Crater Impact.

With the Air VaporMax 2021 and Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Next Nature on the horizon, we thought we’d take a look at the past, present and future of Nike’s sustainability journey.

Tread lightly, sneakerheads!

Flight of the Space Hippie

Inspired by life on Mars (where materials are scarce), Nike’s Space Hippie collection launched in 2020.

Taking a deep dive into ‘Space Junk’, Team Swoosh harvested scrap material for their four-sneaker launch, the silhouettes all incorporating ‘Space Waste Yarn’ uppers that consisted of at least 85 per cent polyester by weight recycled from plastic bottles, clothing, and yarn scraps.

Boasting one of the lowest ever carbon footprints for a Nike sneaker, the Space Hippie collection used the brand new Crater Foam, which was manufactured with about 12 per cent Nike Grind rubber by weight.

Expanding their eco-cosmos ever further this year, Nike launched the Crater Impact, a fresh new design that is made with at least 25 per cent recycled material by weight.

Remember folks, there’s no resupply mission on Mars – or earth for that matter!

Pop the Cork on a Classic!

Sometimes, revisiting legendary and brand-defining silhouettes is the best way to catch the attention of the sneaker community. Arriving this year, the ‘Plant Cork Pack’ implemented cork and natural plant dyes into vintage basketball silhouettes like the Air Force 1 and Blazer, as well as a range of Air Max designs.

As explained in our in-depth Material Matters feature, cork is one of the great low-impact commodities on earth. With the ‘Plant Cork Pack’, Nike have tapped the wine industry for part of their cork harvest, then infused it with rubber to provide an organic look and feel.

Featuring outsoles that are constructed from around 9 per cent recycled cork, the pack also flowers from botanical blueprints. Nike planted specific botanical embroidery on each shoe, with scientific details around each flower and country of origin promoting a more sensitive relationship to our flora.

A Unified Cosmos

Undoubtedly one of the most impressive silhouettes in Nike’s earth-conscious catalogue is the Cosmic Unity.

Worn by the likes of defending NBA Champion Anthony Davis, the performance-oriented Cosmic Unity pulls no punches when it comes to innovative design DNA. Again manufactured with at least 25 per cent recycled material by weight, the deep-space silhouette features the ultra-durable Air Zoom Strobel, the very same technology utilised for Kevin Durant’s streamlined KD 12 and KD 13 models.

The Cosmic Unity also joins other recent arrivals like the retro-futuristic Air Max Genome, a sneaker loaded with early-2000s energy (and 75 per cent recycled TPU Air Bag by weight), and the Nike Victory Lite, a genre-breaking golf shoe made with at least 20 per cent recycled content by weight that puts the sustainability issue right on the turf.

Treading Lightly: The Journey Forward

Driven by their Move to Zero ethos, Nike are making bold plans to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Committing to 100 per cent renewable energy in owned and operated facilitates globally by 2025, the Swoosh are also pursuing a 70 per cent absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to those aims, Nike are working on eliminating single-use plastic bags globally by 2030, a huge move that could result in the reduction of some 70 million plastic shopping bags each year. Nike Pacific will begin phasing out single use plastic bags from their owned and operated stores locally in June.

Naturally, these aggressive environmental goals are reflected in Nike’s upcoming sneakers, and the processes employed to manufacture them. For example, the Air VaporMax 2021 is one of the most sustainable Nike sneakers to date. Made with at least 40 per cent recycled content by weight (the full-length VaporMax Air unit alone is made with around 75 per cent recycled materials by weight), the Air VaporMax 2021 joins the Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Next Nature, a futuristic and sustainable circuit training shoe made with at least 20 per cent recycled content by weight, that will simultaneously crane necks and reduce your impact on the earth.

Yes, it’s time to start lacing your rotation with green thumbs, sneakerheads. We’re all in this together, one step at a time.

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