Flip flops are the universal language for the casual and carefree spirit, pairing perfectly with board shorts, a favorite pair of jeans or even just a swim suit and a smile. Though our flip flops have been kind to us, they haven’t been as kind to marine life. Ocean Sole, a flip flop recycling company based in Nairobi, Kenya, has been fishing 400,000 plastic sandals from the debris washing up on the beaches of the Indian Ocean each year and transforming them into a collection of usable art. The recycled boutique of products features well-designed sculptures, household items, fashion accessories, gifts, stationary, and bespoke pieces that are sure to delight.
Established by Julie Church, a marine biologist turned social entrepreneur, Ocean Sole was birthed around 1997 when Church discovered the toxic levels of waste washing ashore on the remote island of Kiwayu. Church encouraged local women to cut and transform the discarded flip flops harming the marine ecosystem into colorful products, rooting her efforts to clean up the beaches with an entrepreneurial endeavor that would work to address rising climate, social and economic issues in the area.
Ocean Sole works with over 100 artisans at their workshops in Nairobi and within the remote coastal areas of the region. The organization’s environmental movement has provided access to employment, realms for entrepreneurship and has helped families send their children to school. If this isn’t green-collar economic development at its finest, we don’t know what is.
Five percent of all profits from the transformed products sold are sewn back into the Ocean Sole Foundation — a movement that works with communities, scientists, conservationists, artists, governments, industries and other not-for-profit organizations that raise awareness and actively promote marine conservation. Another twenty-five percent of their profits are reserved for giant sculptures that often make their debut at galleries and museums around the world.
Ocean Sole items are available throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia as well as online. To find a distributor near you, visit their website at www.ocean-sole.com/stockists-distributors.
Images via Ocean Sole Facebook