Michael Peterson
Env. 120 Internship
May 10, 2004


Nike Reuse A Shoe Campaign


Nike Reuse A Shoe Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to recycle old, worn out athletic shoes by grinding them into small pieces and using the pieces to build athletic surfaces. This eliminates the waste caused by shoes being thrown in the garbage and provides a direct benefit to the community where the athletic surface is built.


This project involved the planning and implementing of the Nike Reuse A Shoe program in the city of Walla Walla . The Nike Reuse A Shoe program involves the collection of worn out athletic shoes from the public. The shoes are then ground up by Nike and used to build athletic playing surfaces for a variety of sports. The program was run through Sharon Johnson of the Walla Walla Waste Management and Recycling Office in Walla Walla and took place over the course of Spring Semester 2004. Collection bins were placed at carefully thought-out locations including the Walla Walla YMCA, Whitman College , and nearly every school in the Walla Walla Unified School District to make this program accessible to a wide variety of people who live in Walla Walla . Advertising, in the form of flyers and posters, was used to attract attention to the program and its objectives. The program was successful in the collection of nine bins of used shoes and the shoes were either sent to be ground into athletic playing surfaces or donated to a local charity.



My general responsibilities were to effectively plan, set up, and execute the Nike Reuse A Shoe Program in Walla Walla . These responsibilities can be broken down more specifically. As far as planning, I was responsible for coming up with convenient sites for placing the collection bins. To do this I had to consider places that would be accessible to a wide variety of people and that would be convenient sites for them to donate shoes. To set up the campaign, I had to first put together all the collection bins. This involved printing out large (2 ft. by 2ft.) signs describing the program and mounting them to the bins. Once all the bins were assembled, I had to obtain permission from the managers at my proposed sites to leave a collection bin at their establishment. This involved going to the Walla Walla YMCA, the Whitman College Athletic Director, the Walla Walla Unified School District Office and each individual school in the Walla Walla Unified School District and speaking with the people in charge. My responsibilities then shifted to coming up with a strategy on how to effectively advertise this program so that it would be as successful as possible. This involved making flyers, talking to school principals, and notifying the students at Whitman College that this program had begun.


My internship with Sharon Johnson has been quite different than I had initially anticipated. I went into the first meeting thinking that I would be playing a minor role in the planning of an electronics recycling event here in Walla Walla . Instead, I was given the task of planning and effectively running a shoe-recycling program here in Walla Walla . This was really exciting for me because I really feel as though I am very strong at leading and organizing programs, and because the idea of recycling athletic shoes was sounded surprisingly interesting. I also was excited that I was given free license as to how to plan and implement the program. Sharon gave me the basic premise and gave me some of her ideas on what locations in Walla Walla would be best suited for collecting used athletic shoes. After that, I was on my own to develop a timetable and plan for advertising and implementing the program. I planned the advertisement and spoke with people at the different locations about putting up bins to collect used shoes. I feel that the responsibility of this project falls mainly on my shoulders, and that idea makes me even more interested in its success.

When I came up with a list of goals and objectives, it was with no real knowledge of how long programs such as these take to implement. As a result, the progress of the program did not move quite as fast as I would have liked. I had wanted to have everything up and running by March 1, 2004, but I was unable to launch this program until March 12, 2004. This was initially frustrating, but I realized that it just takes more time than I thought to get through all the logistics of running a recycling program here in Walla Walla . Specifically, it took longer than I had expected to get permission from the people in authority at all the locations that I had planned to put recycling bins. It also took longer than I had expected to physically make the bins and posters. Though my goals and objectives moved slower than I had expected, the extra time that I spent getting things ready paid off in the end. March 12 marked the beginning of spring break, and the program ran seamlessly while I was away for two weeks.

Problems that I encountered while running this program were infrequent. I found it difficult logistically, to obtain permission and approval from the school board for this project. First they told me to create a flyer, come back, and they would give it their stamp of approval. Upon accomplishing this, I came back to them and they told me that they would stamp it, but that I should have spoken with the principals of each school first. This did not pose as a problem, but the difficulty understanding the logistics that the school district wanted me to follow was frustrating. Now that I have been through it, I know that you only need the school districts approval to send out flyers at the schools, and you need each principal's approval to run the program at the schools. As far as obtaining approval from the YMCA and from Whitman College , it only required a five minute conversation with the manager of the site and the assurance that I would be the one responsible for collection of the shoes.

Most of the people who I have talked to about the Nike Reuse a Shoe program have been pleasantly interested in the program and its value to the Walla Walla community. I made contacts at the district office of the Walla Walla School District , at the individual schools in Walla Walla , at the YMCA, and Whitman College . I think that unique recycling programs such as this shoe recycling program are valuable to the community in both quantitative and qualitative ways. It will benefit the community simply to recycle a great number of used shoes and have them go to the building of athletic surfaces. Used shoes often find themselves in the trash, and getting this extra utility out of them will indirectly be a benefit. There is also the possibility that one of the athletic surfaces that is built will be built in eastern Washington , or even in the city of Walla Walla . On a more qualitative note, the community will benefit from the greater awareness of recycling. Recycling programs raise the awareness of recycling in a community and just the awareness of environmental ideas in general.

This internship can be judged successful because nine full bins (trash can size) of used shoes were collected from the people of Walla Walla in slightly greater than a month period. While there is plenty of room for improvement, this initial program shoes a willingness of the people of Walla Walla to recycle. The YMCA was the most successful site for the collection of shoes, collecting about twice as many shoes as any of the other sites. Whitman College also contributed a significant amount of shoes, though not in the collection bins. Students did seek me out individually and donate shoes rather than putting them in the appropriate bin. The Walla Walla School District had consistent participation across the board, with the High School and Middle Schools leading the way.

As far as time commitment goes, this internship was widely variable. Throughout the project, the time commitment was fairly adjustable to my schedule so that I could maximize my time working on the project. There were times when all I had to do in a given week was make a stop by each of the sites and make sure that the collection bin was not overflowing with shoes. Then there were other weeks when I would work everyday at putting together these bins, printing out posters and flyers, or simply spending several hours pulling out the shoelaces from the shoes that had been collected. The time it takes to visit each of the principals at each of the schools to explain the program was also deceptively long. Overall, I would say that this internship evens out to take a few hours a week over the course of the semester.

One particular idea that I have reflected back upon regularly is the idea of collecting these shoes to be ground up. I felt very conscious of the fact that some of the shoes that were donated would be able to be used by other people. Therefore, at the end of the project I sorted through the shoes to determine which ones were worn out enough to be recycled and which ones should be donated to a charitable organization. It bothered me that some of these shoes that were being donated were still in very good condition. I figure that it is more important to “recycle” these shoes to people that can use them, rather than recycling them all to be ground up and used as athletic surface.

In the future, I recommend that this project be expanded to even more areas of Walla Walla , and to include College Place as well. Being the first year, I chose to concentrate my efforts on the city of Walla Walla , and the Walla Walla School District in general. With the idea of recycling shoes already out in the community, I think it would be naturally progressive to expand the reaches of the program. I would also recommend that the emphasis of the program be placed on targeting older individuals (above elementary school), as that is where this year's program was successful. It seems that younger children often have their shoes passed down to their siblings and thus have no need to donate used shoes. Older individuals, especially High School and College aged students often lead more active lifestyles and will tend to wear shoes out quickly.


I would like to acknowledge Sharon Johnson for her guidance and commitment to this project. She would be a helpful resource in any future recycling programs.

Sharon Johnson

Regional Waste Reduction & Recycling
310 W. Poplar, Suite 007
Walla Walla, WA 99362
(509) 527-3282
(509) 526-3266 (FAX)