Old shoes can mean many things depending on the person and situation. A shoe fanatic, styling and profiling, might have treasured kicks that are vintage and others that have ultimately become unworthy of the shelf space. Or, it could be that a collection of funky shoes from the college days have slipped into a not-pulling-that-off-anymore funk during which they migrate the nether reaches of the closet floor, only ever visited when searching for a dropped earring. Or, an old pair of shoes might have one side duct taped together while the other side is covered in paint splatters.
Whatever the case may be, there are avenues for disposing of these shoes without sending them to the landfill. And, that’s an effort worth making. Clothing constitutes about 5% of our landfill space, the equivalent to over 13 million tons. What many of us don’t realize though is that there are plenty of possibilities for old clothing that don’t involve the garbage dump. Shoes, be them sneakers, heels or boots, are much the same. Just like we recycle our paper and plastic, our glass and metal, we have to get into the habit of repurposing and recycling our shirts and shoes.
While there are only so many pairs of old shoes we want hanging around the house (the point was to get rid of them), there are a few fun repurposing projects that can work with the right pair. –
- Funky Planters: Old shoes can be turned into novelty planters with very little effort. Simply fill them up with potting soil, get something growing and find a good spot—outside the back door, in the garden, on the patio—for nature to take its course.
- High-Heeled Holders: Odds are that, if you wear high heels, make up may factor into the daily outfit regime. A nice pair of high heels can be a nifty make up holder that’ll perch provocatively on a vanity desk or coolly hooked on the drawer handle.
- Book Ends: For those with a library or just a shelf with a few favorite reads, maybe a dozen old magazine leaned against the wall somewhere, a heavy pair of shoes (or a weighted pair) can make memorable book ends.
- Rubber Boot Umbrella Holder: Rubber boots sure make life in the rain much, much more tolerable. That is until they get a hole. When that happens, a pair of boots can turn into a snazzy little umbrella holder that sits near the door. They could keep the wet in instead of out.
- Smelly Cash Stash: Have a bit of cash stashed around the house isn’t the worst idea. While some people go all in and buy a safe for this, the quirkier among us might prefer a clever game of cat and mouse, hiding some money (or a spare set of keys) in an old pair of sneakers in the garage or by the back door (for keys, not cash).
All that said, sometimes sneakers or boots are too far gone for repurposing into something. In fact, they need to go. In this case, why not recycle them? For straight up recycling, it doesn’t matter if there are holes in the soles or the side is busted out. They’re getting shredded up anyhow.
- Textile Recycling Center: There are several outlets that will recycle clothes for us: American Textile Recycling Services, Goodwill, and World Wear Program do it. Nike has a shoe recycling program that grinds them up to use on athletic fields.
- Donation: Though this would be more along the lines of reusing (for someone else), if your old shoes can still be worn, they should be donated somewhere for someone else to enjoy. Soles4Souls is a charity that focuses on redistributing new and used shoes to folks who need them.
For the shoe connoisseur, there is likely still one option remaining: Sell those suckers. If shoes are more of a hobby than a necessity and the closet is consistently overfilling with them, perhaps the best route for relieving the pressure is to sell an old pair for every new pair bought.
- Online Shopping: Lots of people purchase their wardrobes secondhand, so there are plenty of outlets online — eBay, Tradesy, Poshmark, Craigslist, and so on — for offering up high quality, slightly used shoes for a little return of money for the seller and a notable discount for the shopper.
There we go. With so many avenues for the shoes to keep on kicking, why would we leave them to collect dust on the shoe rack or, worse yet, send them to a putrid fate in the landfill? The shoes deserve better, and so does the planet.
Easy Ways to Help the Planet:
- Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
- Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast fashion pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
- Support Independent Media: Being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
- Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
- Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
- Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!