Green is the new black at Nike. Image via: LogoDesignGuru
At the Pop!Tech Conference this year, one thing to come out of the event are the new Labs that Pop!Tech will be holding to find solutions to many of today's resource use 'issues.' Nike was first with their hand up, asking for help on finding a way to make shoes and other items keep running for miles and miles without the need for new resources. Pop!Tech said they accepted that challenge and will get on it right away.Pop!Tech is the annual conference that brings together some of the world's most innovative thinkers, scientific researchers, engineers, designers, corporate leaders, policy makers, and other stakeholders to basically re-think society today. The Labs will then piggyback off of the conferences and bring the ideas into action. After everyone goes home, the challenges still remain and this is where the labs come in.
The first Lab will look for "new, deep green materials, which are benign, and low-impact, and which can exist in new large-scale "closed-loop" ecosystems wherein the materials in finished products can be used as inputs for new products." The Lab specifically will look at green chemistry, supply chain, industrial scaling, intellectual property, and collaboration issues involved.
Nike GM, Laurie Vogel said of the initiative,
"Nike has made huge strides in designing more sustainable products but we know we can't continue to tap into the earth's declining resources to make new and more innovative products. We have to unlock the power of collective innovation to create a future where you can literally turn an old shoe into a new shoe or an old shirt into a new shirt. That currently isn't possible because we don't have access to the ideal sustainable and recyclable materials to make these products in the first place."
All ideas generated and answers created during the Labs will be made public thanks to a Creative Commons license. Some of the other questions asked during the labs include:
• Is a closed loop material ecosystem just a useful metaphor or a real possibility?
• What performance criteria would new materials have to meet in order to be useful?
• What type of sources (biological, agricultural, or synthetic) should be used to generate these future materials? How do we evaluate the lifecycle impacts (water, carbon, embedded energy, toxicity, and waste) of proposed materials?
• How might a market for such a material operate at scale? How could policy be used to promote its use?
Nike itself is a global company and, similar to the WalMart effect, the choices they make influence supply chains and consumers around the world. They have already used organic cotton in their clothing for years and last year even dabbled in shoes made from manufacturing waste. Having a major corporation state that they are selling deep green products does much to not just put the meme out there, but also to foster more interest in the idea from other companies. It also supports those new industries that are providing the supplies and resources needed to go closed loop. After this Lab, Pop!Tech plans on working with other companies and taking on additional green design challenges.