If you'll allow us to state the obvious, Nike is a maaajor player in the global apparel market. In fact, the brand's global market share of athletic footwear was at 27.4% in 2019. Considering that shoes are just a portion of their apparel, this brand sure seems to live by their own motto of "just do it."
As 2020 rolls on, apparel brands ought to be mindful of environmental issues that plague our planet in real time—or else risk losing their sought-after stake. No matter how huge a label is, avoiding the sustainability trend is a peril to their profit. But whether or not ROI is at the core of Nike's eco-friendly line isn't what matters. What matters is that it's happening, and it holds some serious weight.
Here's what makes the eco-friendly line of apparel, footwear and accessories from Nike such a pivotal moment in our fashionable world.
What Kind of Eco-Friendly Clothing Are We Talkin'?
Perhaps the coolest part about Nike's eco-friendly line is that it's totally accessible for the average joe (though no one's going to look average wearing this apparel). The options range in exclusivity, but one thing they have in common is their dedication to making sustainability available for the majority of the brand's audience.
Through their eco-friendly apparel, Nike successfully fuses fashion-forward and forward-thinking.
Flyknit, Flyleather, Plant Color & Other Gems for Sneakerheads
Nike's Flyknit and Flyleather sneakers are innovative in unique ways. The Flyknit has been around since 2012, and the drop itself was a result of years of dedicated research. Thanks to the shaved weight, this shoe provides optimum performance while contributing minimum waste.
Image Source: https://tydlos.com/collections/nike/products/nike-flyknit-trainer-sneakers-ah8396-200
Meanwhile, the Flyleather is made with at least 50% recycled natural leather fibre. Nike states that this shoe resulted in two dreams—one to bring leather back to the performance realm, another to make environmentalism feel natural. It looks to us like they succeeded on both fronts.
In the summer of 2019, Nike went hard to bring their eco-friendly agenda to the main stage. In what felt like one fell swoop, the brand dropped the Earth Day Pack, Plant Color Collection and VaporMax 2 Random. This trio couldn't be more different, but they all share roots in eco-friendly sourcing, production and manufacturing.
The Flyleather Earth Day Pack features art from Steven Harrington. Meanwhile, the Plant Color Collection oozes chicness through muted earth tones that are reminiscent of springtime. The VaporMax 2 Random is a waste fighter to the max; it uses excess yarn from the Flyknit collection that would've otherwise gone straight to the landfill! To add to it, the air sole is crafted from 75% recycled material.
Figure 2 Image Source: https://news.nike.com/footwear/nike-sustainability-footwear-summer-2019
Professional Athlete Kits
Regardless of how trendy and stylish the label is, Nike is rooted in performance. It only makes sense that their bread and butter would be professional athlete kits. Nowadays, their uniform engineering goes beyond ergonomic design, dabbling in the realm of eco-friendly apparel. What's better than a famous athlete repping sustainable kits?
Nike's football federation kits are actually crafted from recycled plastic bottles. Each set is comprised of at least 12 bottles as well as a hefty amount of recycled fibres. These very same outfits were worn in Russia in 2018.
Now that it's 2020, the brand is stepping up its game in more ways than one. They're crafting Team USA Olympic medal-stand uniforms made from entirely recycled materials. They're also on track to contribute the country's kits for track and field, basketball, soccer and skateboarding—using recycled polyester and waste by-products. Don't worry, because they're definitely not sacrificing performance for nothin'.
“For us, it’s not an either-or proposition. It’s an and. Our athletes expect and are going to have the highest-quality performance gear—and we’re going to do it sustainably.” - Seana Hannah, Nike’s Vice President of Sustainable Innovation
Figure 3 Image Source: https://www.vogue.com/article/nike-olympics-2020
Recycled & Sustainable Materials are the Real MVPs
Nike's most popular sustainable material is their recycled polyester. To make it, they use recycled plastic bottles, ultimately cutting down on waste and carbon emissions by a prominent margin. The process is about a third more sustainable than using virgin polyester, and I think we can argue that this chunk sure makes a difference.
Despite its seemingly magical nature, recycled polyester isn't the only sustainable material that Nike has in its repertoire. The brand uses 100% sustainable cotton, which means that it's certified organic, recycled and licensed by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
Their sustainable blends combine the two for reduced water usage and minimal carbon emissions.
Add recycled Nike Air soles, Flyknit and Flyleather to the mix and you've got yourself a brand that walks the eco walk.
All About the Move to Zero
Nike is great at crafting buzzworthy catchphrases, and their Move to Zero movement is yet another piece of evidence.
Move to Zero is a direct effort to cut the company’s carbon emissions and waste output entirely. It's a plan of action, laid out and strategized. No matter who you are or where your style lies on the spectrum, you can't knock this team for trying in such bold fashion.
Through the aforementioned sustainable materials, increased awareness and a number of other tactics, Nike aims to bring climate stability to the forefront of every venture.
Their Reuse-a-Shoe campaign invites people to recycle their used Nike sneakers at specified locations. From there, the kicks will be magically transformed into something called Nike Grind material, which they'll then use to craft future performance products and sport surfaces.
The brand's Circular Design Guide ebbs off of flow fashion, which follows a circular economic belief system. It's an inherently sustainable business model, and it proves that Nike's sustainable efforts dive well below the surface.
Eco-Friendly Clothes Paired with Renewable Energy
Nike uses wind energy for a majority of their power. They have a contractual agreement with a company called Avangrid Renewables, where they've signed up for "86 megawatts of Texas wind power." That's a lot of energy, and it allows them to source entirely renewable energy for their North American facilities.
While it may not be a worldwide adventure just yet, it's a major gust in the right direction. Best of all, when paired with all those product-based actions, Nike really is putting it all into perspective by taking on renewable energy.
Nike Subsidiaries Are Going Green, Too
Nike is a big company, so you shouldn't be surprised to know that they acquired Converse in 2003. With all the eco-friendly efforts that Converse is making, we can only assume the two are in this thing together.
Last year, Converse launched something called the Renew Initiative. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star has been around for a century—originally as a basketball shoe, believe it or not. By using post-consumer and post-industrial waste to craft sneakers of a high echelon, this kick is proving that you can always teach an old dog new tricks.
While the Renew canvas will look and feel just like the original, it has a much more empathetic backstory. Upcycled textiles, recycled polyester and recycled cotton blends form the basis of the Renew line, making the shoe itself bolder than ever before.
Nike Has Joined Multiple Environmental Coalitions
To prove its dedication to the planet, Nike proudly signed on to two different coalitions formed solely for the purpose of environmental change.
The first is the UN Climate Change and Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. Steadfast Science-Based Targets (SBTs) include a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030, with a net-zero target by 2050.
The second is a lil' something called The Fashion Pact. This coalition includes hundreds of other brands and has a goal of putting 20% of the entire fashion industry on the environmental bandwagon.
Through dual partnerships, Nike proves there are no excuses in the "race against climate change."
Nike is Setting the Sustainable Status Quo
Like any fashion brand that knows what they're doing, Nike kept track of its sustainability metrics and let the numbers speak for themselves. That's where the 2019 Impact Report enters the arena.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Nike claims to have maintained total pay equity, doing their part to close the gender wage gap across the globe.
- 93% of Nike's contract factories earned a sustainable rating (based on the brand's metrics).
- 99.9% of "footwear manufacturing waste" was converted into recycled material or energy.
- 30 million shoes were recycled through Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe platform (which has been around for an impressive 26 years).
- Since 2010, Nike's recycled polyester shoes and clothing used more than 7.5 billion plastic bottles, all of which were intercepted from a fate in landfills and waterways.
If all of this proves anything for the fashion industry, it's that small changes make a big difference over time.
Image Source: https://news.nike.com/news/sustainable-innovation
It's Also About "The Future of Sport"
You don't have to dig too far to realize that Nike's stance on sustainability traces back to its dedication to athletes. According to the brand, there's no future for athletes if there's no healthy planet. It's a valid point, and one that any athlete, sport enthusiast or athletic wear advocate can get behind.
Whether or not you're an eco-warrior doesn't matter. What matters is that you support sport and healthy athleticism by addressing all of its intersections, including climate.
Using Their Position of Power for the Better
There's no denying that Nike holds a powerful platform. Anything they say will be heard by the masses, and anything they do will have a ripple effect beyond their bubble. By integrating sustainability into every facet of their business, Nike is actively trying to alter our thinking about sustainability.
Through their guidance, eco-friendliness is no longer a kind gesture. Rather, it's an imperative aspect that's necessary for the growth of business and humanity alike.
Too Many Eco Endeavours To Count
We've dabbled in many of Nike's eco-friendly initiatives, but there's one thing worth noting. This brand has prioritized sustainability to such an extent that it's hard for us to keep up. The label isn't shy about dropping it like it's hot, and things like the Space Hippie (a shoe crafted from factory floor waste material) are evidence.
I guess what we're trying to say is this: keep your eyes peeled, because Nike might just run right by you without you ever even noticing.
Eco-Friendly Apparel? Nike Went & Did It
Here's where we're at now. Recycling facilities are piling up, waiting for someone to come and make use of readily available materials. Landfills are growing, and the need to purge them through burning trash and other measures is only increasing. The oceans are saturated with plastic, which makes sense considering more than two-thirds of the 9.2 billion tons of plastic that's been produced has gone to waste (most of which has never seen a recycling facility).
Not to be dramatic, but...the time to do something about the environmental epidemic is now. Not in a decade. Not in a generation. Now.
Whatever the motive, Nike's eco-friendly line is so important because it addresses the need for a healthy environment head on. The brand has a lot of power and, to be frank, holds the capacity to set the status quo for the rest of the fashion industry and its consumers (so like, everyone who wears clothes). Considering this fact, facing the planet and saying "we will do something about it" is a damn bold move on Nike's part. We're here for it now, and we'll be here for it in a decade, and a generation, and all those eras to come.