Space Hippies Save the Earth


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Elliott Schleicher, Staff Writer

The Why

Global warming is a huge issue that is consuming our Earth. If we don’t take steps to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in our atmosphere we will surely destroy it. Part of working towards that goal is reducing our collective carbon footprint which is defined as, “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.” (Oxford Dictionary). And the designers at Nike are aware of this global issue and have decided to take action and set a goal to make a zero-carbon shoe.


The Name

The lead designers that came up with this momentous task are James Zormier (co-founder of space hippie/ Nike shoe designer), Haley Toelle (space hippie designer), and Noah Murphy-Reinhertz (lead designer of space hippie). They decided to give this initiative the name Space Hippie. The inspiration for this extremely unique name came from the I.R.S.U. (in-situ resource utilization), and the ideologies connected to the environment from the 1970’s. It was originally a joke but just stuck. 

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Inspiration for the Shoe

As I previously mentioned their goal for this campaign was to create a zero-carbon shoe. Meaning they wanted to see if they could create a shoe without putting any carbon into the atmosphere, in order to decrease their collective carbon footprint. The inspiration for this idea came from a previous shoe Nike had designed that used upcycled materials, the Nike Flyknit line. However, this shoe was nowhere near having a zero-carbon footprint so the team of designers had a bumpy road ahead of them. Nonetheless, using the Nike flyknit as a base to start with they examined how it was made to try and gain knowledge for their new project. They learned from that and strived to improve it. 

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This is an example of what a Nike Flyknit looks like

How they did it

These designers are not experts on sustainability so they had to learn on the fly. They came up with the idea to take t-shirt scraps from Nike’s factory floor, run them through a wood chipper-like machine. This turned these unused scraps into usable yarn for shoes which was fondly named “Space Waste.” Noah Murphy-Reinhertz said, “That yarn [gave us a] 70 percent carbon reduction versus typical recycled polyester, It’s the one thing we did that had the biggest impact.” They had successfully created a material that reduced the carbon emission from creating shoes, and even though they did not reach their goal of a zero carbon shoe what they did was at the time unheard of and a true breakthrough for the industry. The Space Hippie collection debuted on June 11th 2020 and has been successful and wildly popular. They can be purchased in in-store locations such as Footlocker and Finishline but also from the Nike website. The newest shoe in this collection is the Nike Space Hippie 04 which is priced from $100-$130. These shoes are sustainable as well as reasonably priced. 

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Why is this important?

This project will greatly impact shoe design in the future which is extremely important for us as a society to become more environmentally conscious. While these shoes may not be all identical or uniform in shape it’s what makes them perfect. Other design companies and big brands may follow in Nike’s footsteps and try to improve on their formula like the designers looked back on the flyknit. This way the circle of innovation and invention can be continued to elevate what we wear to be more sustainable.


Personal Testimony

I know what you might be thinking; how can shoes made of mostly plastic be comfortable or durable? And I can assure you they are both of these things and much more. I personally own two pairs of shoes from Nike’s sustainability line. I have the Space Hippie 04s and a pair of Nike’s Cosmic Unity. With my experiences with both of these shoes I can say they are extremely comfortable and that you’re not sacrificing comfort or looks for sustainability. I’ve had my pair of Cosmic Unity for a little over a year now and I can say they have aged very well. There has been no tearing or ripping on any part of the shoe especially for the amount of wear and tear they’ve been through. And my brother also had a pair of these same shoes but he used them as court shoes to play volleyball and they still look like you could have taken them out of the box yesterday, besides some of the sole pattern wearing off. But, that’s what’s supposed to be expected when sweating and playing in any pair of shoes.

So, I urge you to consider buying one of the shoes from Nike that use sustainable materials the next time you’re in the market for a new pair. You know if it does because when browsing on the website it’ll say sustainable materials under the shoe name, or you can just search for sustainable materials.