This Shoe Grows Into a Tree!

The secret’s in the sole.

Dec 27, 2021
Special Collections: CHANGEMAKERS
This Shoe Grows Into a Tree! | The secret’s in the sole.

Today, more consumers care about the entire lifecycle of the products they buy. They want to know what they are made of, and what will happen to them when they wear out. Among them is a young entrepreneur with a heart, Luc Houle. This Canadian millennial has just developed Johnny, an innovative sneaker that plans to change the world. Environmentally-friendly from the get-go, it is fully biodegradable and comes with a seed in the sole that will one day become an apple tree when you’ve finished wearing them. What’s not to love?

Footwear with soul
Here’s what Mr. Houle told Goodnet about what moved him to create Johnny shoes:

“As for inspiration: I've been working in footwear for 12 years and through the lens of sales, most organizations I worked for did very well. We would sell hundreds of thousands of pairs of shoes a year. [But] once I got involved in the development of footwear, I realized there was a problem in how we make our shoes. The majority of footwear is made of plastic which sticks around for 1,000 years in landfills. Seeing this problem and realizing the industry wasn't focusing on solving this issue, I knew I had to act fast. This is why I developed Johnny, the first biodegradable sneaker that grows into an apple tree.”

Having spent several years in fast fashion, and on the lookout for more sustainable choices, as blogTo reports, Mr. Houle worked to ensure that Johnny’s green credentials are sound. The shoes have been designed to not only minimize environmental impact but to positively help our planet. And unlike the majority of manufacturers, Johnny wants to show that he doesn’t favor cost savings over environmental practices.

Mr. Houle has covered all the bases. As well as giving customers the ability to plant a shoe complete with a built in apple seed, Johnny will plant a tree on the buyer’s behalf for every shoe sold. The shoes are also animal-friendly, so suitable for vegans.

And in case you’re wondering, the shoes are named after Johnny Appleseed (aka John Chapman), the mythical American nature hero who introduced apple trees to Ontario and several northern US states in the 1800s.

Johnny shoes were fully funded on Kickstarter in 2021, and the company will be delivering preorders from August 2022.

The tech ingenuity behind this new biodegradable footwear
As Mr. Huele shares in our video, unlike typical plastic, estimated to take a millennium to disintegrate, Johnny shoes, a couple of years in the making, fully biodegrade in three years once planted underground, but can be worn as long as any other pair of sneakers.

Don’t worry, Johnny shoes won’t biodegrade on your feet! The company’s media release details that a revolutionary new compound has been developed that remains dormant until the shoes are planted underground. “Once activated, they attract naturally occurring microbes to break down the entire outsole within 3 years instead of the typical 1,000 years plastic needs to biodegrade.”

Or as Mr. Houle explains: “Johnny shoes only biodegrade once you’ve finished using them and either throw them away or plant them in the ground. Once planted, halfway through the process, an apple seed coated with a natural fertilizer is released and begins to take root."

As he tells Newsweek, adding a tree seed in the shoe’s sole does two positive things: It makes people pay attention to the biodegradability of the sneaker. It also offsets the wearer’s carbon footprint. As not all seeds germinate, the brand is committing to planting a tree for each paid sold, just to be sure.

How about comfort and style?
Comfort and good design have been carefully considered too. The cushioned soles are lightweight (the shoes weigh just 335 grams or 12 ounces, reports the website). As the media release explains, “the collapsible heel allows you to quickly slip into them without needing to lace up.”

In addition, the cork insoles mold to the feet over time making them more comfortable, while they are antibacterial to keep feet feeling fresh. Another plus is that the ethically-sourced organic cotton canvas uppers are coated with eco-friendly beeswax that makes them water resistant.

Available in black or white with red laces, the clean design of these unisex sneakers mean that they suit most clothing choices. Sizes for kids are planned for the future.

As Mr. Houle says in the video, “while a lot of people are looking to explore the stars, we think it makes sense to take care of our little blue dot first, one step at a time.”

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.
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