Redemption Thong by Reef Made from Nontoxic Materials, Gets Close to Zero Waste

The Making of Reef NWS Sandals. Clip via Youtube.

If your company is in charge of making new products every season, and sometimes even between seasons, what do you, as a responsible company, do when you realize that every day the average American creates 4 pounds of trash and you're contributing to it? You turn the finger back on yourself and aim to at least minimize or eliminate your waste. The NWS Sandal by REEF is a demonstration of that very principle.

2009 REEF NWS project BLUE Sandals Photo

Image via: project BLUE

If your company is invested in the ocean-sports and action-sports industry and thus invested in having a clean ocean to keep your industry going, then you will probably take note when you realize that all of that generated garbage takes its toll on marine life, including killing hundreds of thousands of fish and animals each year. The Reef NWS sandal is a first attempt by Reef Redemption to make a shoe that does not add any more waste to the stream. For a sandal with such minimal material, it sure doesn't look like they left anything out or any different from the hundreds of flip flops you see trekking across sandy beaches this summer.

So How Are the NWS Sandals Different?

Well by making the details for the upper piece into a puzzle-piece design, they created less than 1% material waste and were able to get 7 sandal patterns out of each piece of material. They also used a water-based adhesive instead of toxic glues, which not only makes it healthier for workers but also a healthier product out in the environment.

Puzzle-piece Sole of 2009 REEF NWS project BLUE Sandals Photo

The Reef Redemption line is concerned with developing products that have as little environmental impact as possible, by using non-toxic materials and glues, as well as using the smallest amount of material possible. Waste generated from creation of the different parts of the NWS sandal is put back into creation of other parts of the shoe, such as the "toe post overlay." Stitching, threads and upper-liner of the sandal is made from recycled water bottles (PET) and the sole is 51% post-industrial recycled EVA. They also used an individual mold to make each sole (30% recycled rubber), instead of a blocker sheet, and this reduces the waste down to 1%, which is then mixed into materials to make the next round of outsoles. The designers at REEF also added a puzzle-piece pattern to the sole as a reminder that it took creative thinking to get this sandal to fit together like a puzzle and use less waste.

So, How Do These Changes Affect the Future of Reef?

According to Mike Gass, Director of Reef Redemption,

"The design and technology elements seen in the current NWS are going to be trickling out to the rest of the brand for both men's and women's styles. In the future, we're going to be implementing a lot of the same construction tactics all across Reef so as to limit the amount of waste generated in production. The philosophy behind creating the NWS sandal is similar to that of a puzzle. Once a piece of material is cut away, we try to find a use for the excess somewhere else on the product. We call it "thinking inside the box" since the cutting dies we use in creating the NWS are rectangular."

To fully close the loop and create a minimalist shoe with no waste, there has to be a way to take back or reuse old, thrashed sandals. At this time, while it's a priority and on REEF's radar, the infrastructure isn't in place to do something like that on such a large scale but you can expect that something is coming just over the horizon.

1% of the sales of Reef Redemption products are donated to environmental organizations, like Surfrider Foundation. These NWS sandals are being sold as part of the project BLUE program, where competing brands in the billion-dollar surf industry are coming together to raise money for Surfrider Foundation. The Reef NWS sandals come in black, white/black, or brown, but the blue ones support project BLUE, and retail for USD$40. You can find them online in select locations like at:project BLUE and :Swell now, and nationwide by August.

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