By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | March 13, 2008
So I have this incredibly persistent foot problem that I’ve been living with for the past three years, which dragged me from my burgeoning triathlon hobby to my current state as semi-pro couch potato. Which is just backstory for the topic of this post: when I bought these SOLE customizable orthotics a few months ago (having read about them on Not Martha), I thought hard about the purchase from both an environmental standpoint and a personal/physical standpoint, to determine if the chemicals and plastics and who knows what else used in their production would be justified.
But, justified to whom/what? Long after the orthotics have lived their useful life for me they’ll still be not-biodegrading in a landfill somewhere, along with all the other detritus of our modern lives. On the other hand, if these orthotics would be as good as they’re reported to be, then they’ll increase my ability to walk distances and ride my bike, thus decreasing my personal pollution from taxis and buses, etc. Also, being physically active would make me healthier overall which could potentially decrease my future need for medical care, thereby potentially decreasing my future Medical Pollution Footprint. Also, pain sucks.
So after much debate, I bought them. They’re really neat because you heat them in the oven, thereby making them custom-fitted to your foot– and for $50 they’re about $300 cheaper than my last pair of professional ones–and these work at least as well, if not better (for me).
The neat thing is that SOLE is a very environmentally aware company, well aware of the pollution they cause and working to reduce their impact. All of their corporate materials are printed on 100% recycled paper with vegetable-based inks, and they’ve taken great care with their packaging:
“Our new footbed packaging is made with a corn-based plastic called NatureWorks® PLA… NatureWorks® PLA is made from an annually renewable resource — field corn, instead of petroleum. Its sources can be regrown every year, as opposed to the millions of years it takes to create oil… Compared to traditional plastics, NatureWorks® PLA uses up to 68% less fossil fuels to produce. NatureWorks® PLA has achieved zero greenhouse gas emissions.Ecopac can be disposed of by all traditional waste management methods such as incineration, landfill and mechanical recycling. Future generations of Ecopac packaging will continue our quest to find as close to a “perfect” packaging solution as possible, from cradle to grave. We are continually looking into new materials (and rethinking old ones).”
So while the orthotics themselves are made from all kinds of unnatural materials (when baking in my oven, they smelled like a typical (offgassing) sneaker store), it’s at least good that the company is aware of their impact and is making their tiny choices where they can. I’m not sure that corn plastics are the answer, but it’s at least better than petroleum plastic. Hopefully one day alternatives will exist which will make the product itself green, and not just the packaging.
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