Reduce, Re-shoe, Recycle

Can you recycle shoes? 4 climate-friendly ways to trash your old sneakers

Sneaker drop offs, upcycling, and more: How to green your next Spring Clean.

Do some good for the Earth and your community the next time you clean out your closet.

There are four excellent ways to recycle your old shoes for the better:

  1. Resell
  2. Donate
  3. Recycle
  4. Upcycle

Here is how to do it — no matter where you are.

How to resell old shoes:

That pair of shoes in the back of your closet that you never actually wear deserve a new, better life.

Whether you bought them on a whim and then realized they are not your style, or if they never quite fit right, someone out there might appreciate them enough to pay for them.

Thrift stores and consignment shops assess clothes and shoes brought in for resale, offering the seller a price to take the items off their hands. To get started, look up your nearest thrift store on for stores near you. If you like near a Buffalo Exchange, which has stores throughout the United States, it could also be a good option.

If you do not have a store near you that buys back old shoes, you can also try selling them online.

Websites like ThredUP, Poshmark, or ,the OG, eBay act like marketplaces for buying and selling used clothes, shoes, jewelry, and home goods. Some sellers will even offer trades — one pair of used kicks for another. Who doesn’t love a good digital barter?

How to donate old shoes:

If your sneakers are not in good-enough shape to resell, then donate them to your nearest shelter or non-profit store.

Unless you have worn your shoes down to the point that holes, tears, or extreme dirt have made them totally unwearable, they may still be of use to someone who needs them.

Good shoes are expensive, and for people who can not afford new shoes regularly, your well-worn boots and sneakers may make all the difference.

National charities like Goodwill or Salvation Army have outposts throughout the country that accept donations. Both of these organizations enable you to locate the closest shoe drop-off location on their websites. Both of them accept shoes, clothes, and home goods, too.

How to recycle old shoes:

Aside from donating or selling shoes to be re-worn, certain stores and programs recycle sneakers for you.

Soles 4 Souls is an international program that accepts new or gently used shoes, either from individuals and businesses, and redistributes them to people in need around the world.

The organization’s website lists drop-off locations, which include some The North Face retailers. You can also mail them your old shoes with free shipping.

Want to get your community involved? Soles 4 Souls provides support and materials for people to host local shoe drives, so friends and neighbors can get in on the good deeds.

Sports giant Nike also runs a sneaker recycling program, called Nike Grind. The scheme turns old sneaker rubber into running tracks, turf fields, gym floors, playgrounds, and other surfaces.

But not all Nike retailers participate, so you might have to hunt to locate the closest drop-off point. The Nike website lists all the locations that accept old sneaks for recycling. Shoes do not have to be Nike brand to be accepted.

How to upcycle old shoes:

Making the best use of old stuff can take a little elbow grease and creativity. Upcycling means finding new uses for products that no longer serve their original purpose.

Instead of breaking down the old material, as in recycling, in upcycling you actually enhance the value of the product.

Durable shoe materials like leather can be reused to make new products, including funky stitched pillows. One particularly creative YouTube video offers tips and tricks on how to turn old leather boots into a snazzy journal:

Upcycling does not have to be labor-intensive. Old shoes can make great planting pots, bird houses, or even iPad stands.

But sometimes, giving shoes a new life is as simple as repairing them. New laces, fresh soles, or a quick stitch may be all your shoes need to allow them, and you, to keep on kickin’.

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