This is the time to be green, and it is interesting to see how Portland's sustainability market is affecting the business of sports and fitness. See the March 2008 issue of the Oregon Distance Runner for several articles on how the green marketing sensation collides with the runner mentality.
The Air Jordan XX3 has been unveiled, Nike's 23rd edition of their largest product, and much fanfare will ensue to mark the occasion, partly because Michael Jordan's jersey number is 23. But this also marks the first time a major athletic shoe was designed to be environmentally sustainable. The green innovations include using side-panel stitching and interdepartmental stitching to reduce the use of glue, using water-based cements to reduce the amount of toxic solvents in the glue it does use, and using more biodegradable and recycled rubber, plastic and polyester.
Nike claims they have been measuring their environmental impact since 1998, and started a product line in 2005 dedicated to sustainable shoes and apparel called Nike Considered. There are many green-focused apparel companies that have a foot-hold in Portland, such as Icebreaker and Nau, and at least two shoe companies - Keen and Ahnu, that design products that are environmentally aware. But even Nike's competition acknowledges that manufacturing a green performance shoe is much more complex than a green sandal.
The primary goal for most sustainability manufacturing is to save energy, increase effeciency and cut costs. Apart from that, there's the blue sky value of knowing that the company's philosophy is keeping the world a little bit greener. That blue sky may be up for grabs to the highest bidder. Nike's goal is to have their entire line meet their Considered standards by 2011, but there may be a fine line to tread between promising sustainability and promising performance. Nike's market is obviously worldwide, but if they ignore the green market boom here in their back yard in Portland, Oregon, another athletic shoe company with a huge presence here in the Northwest may swoop in, such as adidas, Mizuno, Puma, Brooks or Montrail. On the other hand, if Nike jumps in and takes this exploding green market by storm, they may leave their competition looking second-best.
If Nike does take the sustainability market by storm, it would have to be soon, and it would most likely involve their soon-to-be-released, top secret Pegasus project. Basketball is one thing, but a green Running shoe, especially a mainstay such as the Pegasus, could be the one move that permanently endears Nike to the evironmentally-conscious crowd.
Always on the cutting edge of marketing trends, the University of Oregon School of Journalism has developed a great site in partnership with Texas' EnviroMedia Social Marketing. Their project, http://www.greenwashingindex.com/, reviews, discusses and measures the integrity of today's green ads.
Other green advances in the running / multisport / fitness arena include sustainability certification for events via the Council for Responsible Sport, and the educational recycling program through TerraCycle sponsored by Clif Bar called the Energy Wrapper Brigade.