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An interview with sneaker sustainability advocates SNKRS ‘N’ Houseplants

April 28, 2022 1:33 PM
An interview with sneaker sustainability advocates SNKRS ‘N’ Houseplants

Please introduce yourselves – who are you and what are your roles at SNKRS ‘N’ Houseplants?

T: I’m Tasha, I’m co-founder of SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS, which is a platform exploring sustainability in the sneaker industry. My role is the design side of our platform, this includes making zines and collages. I also focus on the content strategy including what we want to put out and the purpose of our posts. I ensure that we get our message across successfully.

J: I’m Joey, the other co-founder. I do most of the copywriting, including captions for Instagram, a lot of the guides we do, and the text on social posts. I also have a massive bank of sneaker knowledge – I basically live and breathe sneakers so I provide the facts and stats. I’m a walking sneaker encyclopaedia!

tasha and joey snkrs n houseplants
@Size_ / Enya Arton

You started SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS about a year ago, what was the motivation behind it?

T: Joey and I went to the same university, with Joey graduating a year ahead of me. I graduated in the first year of the pandemic, which was really challenging. All my plans of where I wanted to be fell through, and I found myself moving back home. As we were both into sneakers, we were both trying to get a job in the sneaker industry, but after only just finishing university, we didn’t have the experience they wanted.

We created the platform as our own way of exploring sneakers and developing our own part of the community without having a job in the industry. There weren’t really any other platforms out there talking about sustainability, so we found our little niche and held onto it, and it grew from there.

one year of snkrs n houseplants

J: As part of my final project for university I started my own magazine which looked at sustainability in streetwear as a whole. I looked at how streetwear was consumed, about how it was all about the greatest and latest things, and it’s the same thing with sneakers a lot of the time, following that I started specialising in sneakers and taking an interest in sustainability within the industry. Also, mine and Tasha’s houses were full of houseplants so we kind of combined the two, thinking that this is an area that no one’s really speaking about.

Obviously the big brands are trying to push the idea of sustainability, but when you look at that in sneakers, a lot of people aren’t attracted to it. They hear the word ‘sustainable’ and kind of think that the quality isn’t the same, or something, but that’s not the case and that’s what we’re trying to push. There’s much more to it than just having a recycled or sustainable sneaker, and we’re trying to make it as fun and accessible as possible to get this message across.

So what sort of things do SNKRS ‘N’ Houseplants do?

T: We’re a community-based platform, so there is a mixture of sharing community projects that are already out there and what the community is wearing, with a focus on small businesses and creatives that might not have the light shone on them as much as other creatives do. We feel like that’s really important, for us as well as we’ve only grown the platform through the love of the community.

The other part is the infographics we create, the reels and videos about tips and tricks on how to be a more sustainable sneakerhead. We also create history and narrative based content, where you can really learn about the story behind a sneaker, really appreciating the design and the history of it. There’s an element of sustainability behind this as well, as because you’re really appreciating where a sneaker has come from and what it’s made of, maybe you’ll think a bit more before purchasing a pair of sneakers.

J: As much as part of it is sustainability, the other part of it is just sharing our love for sneakers with other sneaker collectors and enthusiasts. When you’re just starting out in the sneaker community, it can seem like this huge scary thing, and you’re not sure where to start or how to talk to people. A year ago, I wouldn’t even begin to comprehend how much I know about sneakers now! So we want to teach people about sneakers and show them that the industry isn’t that scary, but actually filled with amazing people who are really easy to connect with. We want to make it more accessible for people.

snkrs n houseplants zine

How important is sustainability for you two personally?

T: For me, it’s more about the sense of consumerism. I look at my sneaker collection and I know that I’ve bought every shoe in it because I really love that shoe. When you were growing up and saw something that you really liked, you’d have to save up money for it and when you finally got it, you’d really appreciate it. I think that feeling is part of it as well, like where you’ve come from and how much you’ve grown. Even though I could more easily buy the sneakers I want to now, it’s more about appreciating the design and the narrative behind the shoe. I used to have to pick one sneaker out from loads that I wanted because I could only afford that one, and I feel like it’s bringing that nostalgia to the forefront.

With the hype of sneakers, sometimes people feel like they need to buy every sneaker that comes out or they’re not considered to be a collector in the industry, or they feel like they’re not highly regarded because they didn’t get ‘that’ drop. So, I really want to get across that sense of only buying what you really love.

J: I think that the environment as a whole is a massive issue and that our generation are going to the ones that have to pick up the pieces. At the end of the day, if we don’t, we’re the ones that are going to suffer for it, and the next generation and so on. It’s something that people don’t like to speak about, or when they do it’s only a five minute segment on the news before they move onto something else. It’s not really taken into consideration as much as it maybe should be.

But it’s all about how we can open up the idea of sustainability to people, instead of just scaring them with lots of stats, big numbers, and scary ideas like the world blowing up next week if we don’t do something. It’s about easing people into it and relating it to what people actually enjoy. For instance, if you enjoy collecting sneakers, well here’s a way to do it sustainably. And you’re helping the planet at the same time, so it’s win win!

In terms of how important it is, I think it’s crucial our generation talks about it and starts the conversation. The last couple of years have shown that some really great messages can be opened up.

snkrs n houseplants collage

The sneaker industry is a very difficult industry to make more sustainable. What are your thoughts on this?

J: It is a tricky subject, because being sneaker collectors, we know it isn’t completely sustainable in itself. But there are big brands like adidas that have great projects going on, like their collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, and their new Made to Be Remade project. But at the same time, they’re releasing throwaway projects like the M&M Forum Low. They want to make shoes that people want to consume, and they need to make money, so it’s a difficult subject.

But there are ways around it, and there are ways to consume more sustainably such as giving sneakers a second life. If you look after them and care for them properly, you can make them last a very long time. I think brands are still researching how to do things and as much as companies like adidas are doing amazing things, they’re still stumbling in certain areas, which is only natural. It’s exciting to see what the future holds.

T: I think there’s maybe a lack of education around sustainability. Consumers will buy, wear, and then throw away a shoe without actually knowing what happens to that sneaker afterwards. Sneakers are made from mixed materials that can’t all be recycled or broken down, so when they go to landfills they can take a long time to break down. I think that people don’t really think about that, about the life cycle of the products that they own. It’s just about buying what they need right now.

I feel that brands need to do something about consumers lacking education about the facts. Sometimes when you talk about sustainability it can be a scary topic, and consumers might think that it doesn’t really affect them right now, so they don’t really need to think about it. But with the sneaker industry being one of the top polluters of the world, that’s something as a consumer that you need to think about.

snkrs n houseplants nike lumiere

Do you feel that there is progress in the current sneaker industry?

T: I feel like we’re not going to fix everything straight away, but as long as someone is doing something, I think there’s always going to be progress. Some brands have been doing some amazing projects, like adidas and Parley using plastic from the oceans to create their collection, or VANS releasing an Earth Day collection made from recycled and organic materials. Nike Move to Zero is another big one, with Nike Grind.

That’s all good, but sometimes I think the problem with sustainable sneakers is they’re not to everyone’s tastes. Sometimes they can be a bit bright, or a bit out there, and some people like a more classic silhouette. I think they need to create sustainable sneakers but in classic designs. The Move to Zero Dunk series that dropped a couple of months ago appealed to a large market, which looked just like a normal Dunk but was made from sustainable materials.

J: You also have Stella McCartney for example. She’s done a lot of work with adidas, like making some Stan Smiths that you can’t even tell are sustainable. adidas also made some vegan Sambas that look exactly the same as the regular model. It can definitely be done. Nike have their Terrascape range that just came out, with an Air Max Plus and an Air Max 90, so there’s definitely progress, but then again there’s sneakers like the M&M Forum Low being released and I just think, do you really need to make that? You’re on such an amazing track and I think that adidas out of everyone especially, with their work with Sean Wotherspoon as well, are pushing the way for sustainability in the industry. But as much as there is that progress, there are a couple of things they should be considerate of, like do you need to make a sneaker with removable plastic tags and parts? I think that these are things that the big brands need to consider.

sneaker and houseplant

What are the possibilities for the future from your perspectives?

T: I want to see every sneaker contain a recyclable or upcycled element. It could be by using an upcycled material for the laces or a sole made out of old recycled sneakers that have been collected from landfill, recycled and redesigned. Ensuring that brands are always putting sustainability to the forefront of their design and packaging process.

J: With their Space Hippie collection, Nike changed their packaging so the delivery box was basically the shoe box, and they’re looking into ways of adapting that for all their products. That’s really good, as plain cardboard with sustainable ink is a lot better than the red dyed boxes they use at the moment. Also, what I think would be really good is for brands to get involved with or even create their own initiatives or charities where people can donate old sneakers. Re-sole in London take in used sneakers, clean them up and provide them to homeless individuals who are less fortunate, which is fantastic. Going forward, it would be cool to see brands doing similar projects or supporting these charities.

For now, you guys have been busy with posting content on Instagram and giving more information about sustainability in the sneaker scene. What are your plans for the future?

T: We started the platform last year and the aim was to just grow and raise awareness, but now we have some upcoming workshops that tie in with the sustainability element by allowing young people to learn new creative skills. We’re doing an upcycling workshop at a youth centre where young people can learn how to upcycle a sneaker by using different materials, lace swaps or natural dyes for custom jobs. We’ll also have a zine making workshop, which is about using things that you have already in your homes to create something else.

While the workshops are in-person events held at local youth centres, we also want to film videos that have tips and tricks on how you can create things like zines, how to clean your sneakers, how to create upcycled plant pots etc. We want people to have access from anywhere, no matter their background or where they’re from.

J: Yeah, even if someone only has one pair of sneakers, doesn’t mean they’re not a sneakerhead! You only have one pair of feet after all!

We also want to start making some cool stuff to spread the word and grow the community. We obviously want to teach people about sustainability, that’s the main objective, but we also want to create space for people to meet other people and link up, which the workshops and other events will hopefully do. And in the future, maybe we’ll make a SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS sustainable sneaker. Who knows?

Nike, if you’re reading this, hit us up!

What are your personal favourite (sustainable) sneakers out there at the moment, and why?

T: Mine are the Sean Wotherspoon x adidas ZX 8000 'Superearth', because these are the first sneakers that I bought for being sustainable and recyclable. I love the design with the threads and the patchwork, and people always comment on them! They ask what they’re made of, and they’re always interested in them. I think Sean Wotherspoon’s work with adidas is amazing, and he’s really pushing sustainability forwards.

Sean Wotherspoon x adidas ZX 8000 'Superearth'
Nike Terrascape Air Max 90 Hot curry

J: I personally love the Nike Terrascape Air Max 90. I’m obsessed with Air Max, and Air Max Month was a big thing for SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS. The Terrascape is the perfect example on how to make a sustainable yet good looking sneaker without sacrificing style. Also I believe I saw that Lorenz OG dyed a pair and they look incredible, so it’s a good canvas for customising too.

I think the Space Hippies were a good concept, and there was an audience that enjoyed them, but they’re still a little bit too out there. So things like the Next Nature line of Dunks that dropped recently show more advancement into creating good looking sneakers that are sustainable.

nike space hippies

T: I also love Helen Kirkum’s work. She takes scraps of old shoes and just creates new amazing silhouettes. She recently did a collaboration with ASICS, which is really cool and shows what can happen when a creative uses their passion to create something incredible.

helen kirkum asics

Thank you SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS for sharing your passion with us! Check out their Instagram @snkrsnhouseplants for more inspiration in the world of sustainability, sneakers, and of course, houseplants!

Limited Edition SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS Stickers

SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS have collaborated with Lauren Fernandes (@laurenfernandesdesigns) to create a limited range of SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS themed stickers as a way of promoting their first birthday and creative growth.

Stick them on your phone, laptop, or even a shoebox!

Due to be released in May ’22, keep an eye on their socials for more info …


In Summer ’22 SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS will be collaborating with Cassie Quinn who runs the Sustainable Fashion Factory.

Sustainable Fashion Factory will be hosted at @weare_spotlight and is for 15-19 year olds who are keen to understand how they can build portfolios demonstrating their sustainable fashion skills.

They will be running a sneaker upcycling workshop with the young people, teaching them all about how to be a more sustainable sneakerhead, designer and really consider sustainability in their creative skills.