A Shoe Strike Toolkit - Planning A Project In A Pandemic pt. 2
Part of our new 3 part series "Planning A Project In A Pandemic", this blog post can serve as your guide to executing a project like our Shoe Strike.
*Note that I am sharing from personal experience, so this blog post will be more along the lines of how I chose to do our shoe strike and advice from my experience. You may choose to alter any aspect to better fit your mission and goals.
For the sake of clarity, by the end of the event, we had received 830+ shoes. The advice given in this post might not be needed for a smaller event, but will still be valuable to keep in mind as you do not know how many donations you will receive.*
What is a Shoe Strike?
A shoe strike is a donation event and a climate strike rolled into one. Members of the community donate their shoes, an organization lays them out in a climate "strike", and then donates them to local shelters and rehabilitation organizations. Shoe Strikes have become more widely known during Covid-19 as a socially distanced, safe, and powerful form of protest.
Why a Shoe Strike?
Obviously, what is considered a feasible event or protest has shrunk over the past few months, limited to zoom meetings and sharing on social media. While those are effective ways of communicating activism and bringing attention to the climate crisis, a Shoe Strike is an event that requires a physical action that many of us have been lacking. It can be an event that is entirely socially distant, just you and your household family members. This means that more people can participate safely and make a physical difference, not just a digital impact.
Read on to hear how we made our Shoe Strike Pandemic-Proof.
2. Climate Impacts of Shoes
In 2013, Americans bought 7.5 shoes per person, per year. Each pair of running shoes emits around 30 pounds of CO2, and that number can really only go higher. Take a moment to think about each aspect of the production of a product. Water is used in large quantities to clean, dye, and rinse fabrics and materials that go into a pair of shoes, and often to dilute waste liquids as well. Then comes the energy that runs the machines, the production of plastic sleeves and shoe boxes, and the fuel needed to ship billions of shoes around the world. The fast fashion industry is responsible for much of the contaminated wastewater and the growing plumes of toxic fumes that are destroying natural spaces and contributing to rising health concerns, especially among minority communities.
We know that we have under 11 years to reverse the worst impacts of climate change, and that some communities are already dealing with them. This is just one way to reduce our emissions, and by keeping the materials out of the landfill, you are giving that item new life.
3. Support Workers in the Fashion Industry
Have you ever talked to the person who made the shoes you are wearing? I'm going to take a wild guess and say you haven't. Most of our shoes come from overseas, from countries like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Guatemala. A run down on Nike from the website "Good on You", which reviews the ethical aspects of consumer items, shares the reality of the impacts this system has on its workers. Think back to the tragic factory collapses that dotted the news for a short period of time. Other than obviously dangerous conditions like long-term exposure to aerosol chemicals, dyes, and bleaches, there is a whole other level of injustice when it comes to the impacts of climate change.
For reference, here are the top 8 countries that produce the most shoes:
Leading Footwear Production:
China (12.6 billion pairs per year)
India (2,100 million pairs per year)
Brazil (895 million pairs per year)
Vietnam (760 million pairs per year)
Indonesia (660 million pairs per year)
Pakistan (295 million pairs per year)
Thailand (245 million pairs per year)
Mexico (245 million pairs per year)
Think about what you know about climate impacts, and what you know about these countries. Compare the two. The same people who are forced to take these jobs, who make the industry possible that is churning out massive levels of emissions, are also those who suffer from the impacts of climate change the most. Countries battered by natural disasters and superstorms, heat waves and drought. Coastal countries whose people will be forced to pack within their borders as their land dips into to the ocean.
These communities do not have the resources to defend themselves against the impacts of climate change, and their ability to survive means they are forced to work in the system that is contributing to their downfall.
By keeping your shoes and using them as long as possible, donating them to those who will use them, wearing them through, you are making it worth it. It is unreasonable for perfectly good material to go to waste. It is unacceptable that we throw out their work in favor of something new and shiny. It is unbelievable that we choose to contribute to the hurt of others.
However indirectly, your choices have an impact. A Shoe Strike is not only keeping shoes from contributing to emission levels, but also keeping products made by hardworking people in the consumer stage longer, and ultimately reducing the need for the absurd volume of shoes, which ultimately reduces the impacts on these hard-hit communities.
4. Support Your Community
When you have collected all your shoes and laid them out in a strike, donate them to local organization in need. Choose shelters that help rehabilitate people, house the homeless, or give gift packages to underprivileged communities. Use this event as a way to gather community support for those in need.
The homeless and those living in poverty often also experience the impacts of climate change at a higher rate of intensity. Living in low-income housing or city apartments often comes along with limited air conditioning and airflow, which, combined with rising heat levels, can increase the risk of heat strokes, heart attacks, and medically concerning pregnancies. Those living on the streets are out in the elements, and the more drastic the weather gets, the harder it is for them to survive. Heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, as weather gets more erratic, they are put in increasing danger with no way of protecting themselves.
Alright, you know you want to host a Shoe Strike, but how?
Part 1: Planning
What preparation goes on behind the scenes? What kind of outreach do you have to do? How does it all work? All answered below.
Step 1: Finding Locations for Boxes
A key step in starting your preparation for a Shoe Strike is finding locations in public places that participants can access easily to donate. You want these places to be close enough to "town" that most of the population have access to them, but not in places where people already congregate, so you reduce the likelihood that people will come into contact with each other. You also want to have the boxes sitting outside, so that participants will not have to go inside and put themselves at more risk for Covid-19. We opted for places that had overhangs to protect the boxes from the weather and locations where covered areas were easily accessible to the parking lots.
We emailed a total of 14 locations requesting a place to set boxes during the day. 7 of which were churches, 5 were schools or associated program buildings, and 2 were local shops. At the time, schools were fully online, so we do not recommend asking schools to be locations now that students may be in-person. You don't want to draw more people to a location that requires in-person attendance. Always be thinking of how you can lower your level of risk and that of those around you.
In the end, we had boxes at 1 shop, 1 community events building, and 2 religiously affiliated buildings, a total of 4 locations.
It is good to have a date to give them when you email. We chose two consecutive weekends with the boxes being available Friday-Sunday. I would recommend that you and your family, or whatever number of helpers you enlist, offer to do everything needed for the event. Make sure they know that you will be the ones to set the boxes out and take them home. We anticipated a decent number of donations, so we set them out in the mornings and took them home at night.
Below is a link to a basic email template to ask potential locations to host a box for your strike. Be sure to edit it with more personalized information about your event. Copy and paste the link into your browser to view.
If the person says yes, great! Send them a follow up email answering any questions they have (if you know the answers), and ask them where they would like you to set the box if they haven't told you yet. We'll talk in the next step what "basic promotional materials" include, but you'll want to send them a new set when details are finalized so they can promote the event. Let them know that they should feel free to share it on their social media's and online to involve their community.
Step 2: Promoting Your Event
You'll want to promote your event in a few different ways. Below is a list of ways we got the word out.
1. Word of mouth - We started by telling people we were hosting the event and asking them what they thought of it. This gave us feedback for how the public would want to interact with the event and those people shared by word of mouth to people who might have otherwise not heard. Tell your friends and family!
2. Social Media - We posted on our organizations social medias and shared on our personal accounts with links to promote the organization as well. You may just post on your personal account if you are not with an organization.
We asked related organizations to share the posts. Think of groups like your local Sierra Club Chapter, the green club at your school, or other environmentally or community based organizations. We also gave the locations the promotional materials to share with their audiences, like in the Church bulletins and on social media. I would highly recommend putting the event on Facebook, where a wider older audience will see it.
3. Newspaper/Radio Articles - We sent emails to 5 public news options and were able to have 2 published. Two that did not go through never responded and were student-led newspapers- but I think you should ask around as much as possible. Another email never hurts. The other that did not go through was not possible at the time but they have said they are interested in reporting on us in the future, so keep your options open!
Both of the two that published successfully, I had personal contacts for. I had a friend that worked for a radio station who recorded an interview that was published online as well as aired on the radio. I had previously met a journalist who was reporting on a school composting event, so I knew she was the person who reported on school related projects and students my age. You can listen to the radio broadcast or read a transcript here, or read the article from the paper below.
Make sure you give the outlets you are asking plenty of time to prepare, write, or get the okay to include your story. You aren't the next breaking story, so you won't necessarily be a priority. If you are under 18, your parent may have to sign a waiver for an interview and a public publishing of your words or photos. We had that request in one case and three months later, that interview will now be used as a wrap up of the event rather than its intended event announcement.
4. Signs at Locations - A week before the collection dates, I reused some old yard signs and repainted them. I wrote "Shoe Drive", "Donate Here", and the dates that the boxes would be available on both sides of the sign. I asked the contact at the location if setting out a sign was okay, and when I received a yes, I asked about where to put it. There may be zoning issues where you cannot have signage on certain types of property, so always ask.
Make sure the sign is visible to passing traffic and a bright color, ours was a light blue.
Below are the images that I created using Canva to promote the shoe strike on social media sorted by type. Using the Canva website, you have access to stickers like the ones I used below and templates for all social media platforms (as well as other product's sizing). In addition to these graphics, we made Instagram stories promoting the event as well as each of the individual prize donors multiple times. In the next step we'll talk about prizes.
Original/Basic Promotional Materials:
(these were reformed into squares for Instagram posts instead of posters. You can check those out on our Instagram: @yellowwoodyouth
Updates on Locations/Details:
Step 3: Sourcing Prizes
You may not decide to give away prizes in your event. It is not common practice and will not be expected. Most people, in fact, will not enter to win a prize at all. We had a very small group that did. We chose to give prizes to support small businesses by giving them a chance to support a good cause and to promote their sustainable products.
If you choose to give prizes, do your research. You don't want your message to be "Reduce Plastic in the Ocean", and then give prizes away wrapped in plastic. We were not aware the soap in the photos above came in plastic, so a note for the future would be to ask about packaging before requesting a donation.
You want to pick companies that meet a few key standards. If they are Certified Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Vegan, or a 1% for the Planet company, you are on the right track! If there is a small business that does not have these certifications, it does not mean their products are not ethical or do not have organic ingredients! These certifications take time and money to get, so if you do your research and trust a company is heading in the right direction, then ask away. Choose items that are a middle ground to suggest. Don't aim for the most in demand product they have, or the most expensive. Request the cheaper or smaller items, as you are more likely to get a yes and you can bundle your prizes. This means that not only do the producers not have to loose more money giving away free items, but you also get to share more sustainable companies with your audience, which is the ultimate point of giving away prizes. You can always ask for more, you'd be surprised how much companies are willing to give, but, you want the item you are giving as an example to be low in cost to start.
I started my search with local shops and restaurants, then moved to small businesses that promoted zero waste or organic products on social media. I keep an album on my phone that has screenshots of Instagram profiles when I stumble across a sustainable brand, a small soy candle company, or authors of books on the environment and sustainability.
To date, we have emailed 20+ companies about donating prizes for our events. So far, 8 have said yes, 5 have responded with a variation of "No, but ask again when Covid is over", and the rest have not answered. It takes a lot of emails to get a few positive responses, but it is very worth it. Keep in mind, Covid-19 has put a hold on a lot of small businesses, and some of them have been forced to close.
Be polite, you are asking for something free, and if you aren't an officially recognized nonprofit organization (we aren't), then the items they give you would not be tax deductible. Be sure to let them know that! It could change their answer. Other circumstances may stand in your way. For example, there are companies that do not ship to the U.S., or, like we had happen, a company that wants to donate has to evacuate a wildfire zone. Things happen, just keep sending those emails.
Below is an email template for requesting donations. I personally included information along with this statement that explained my circumstances, which are that I work in childcare, which meant Covid put me completely without a paycheck, which meant I was unable to purchase their items to support them. I found that when you are personal with them, they open up and are personal with you, and you expand your network of people that support you.
Copy and paste the link into your browser to access the template.
Be sure to send a follow up email when you receive your items that included a huge thank you for their donation! If you have photos of the winners with the prizes that the recipients will allow you to share, share them!
Keep in mind, you can request items besides eco-prizes. If you need bins for shoe collection, or twine to tie the hand sanitizer on, call your local hardware store! Asking never hurts.
Part 2: Production
How many people do you need to help you? Where do you store the shoes? How do you donate during Covid? All answered below.
Step 1: Collection
We had four 30-gallon tubs set around town at our final locations. I chose the larger option and that was the right choice. We purchased them because we did not have any not being used at our homes, but before you buy materials, think about what you already have and use that first. Be aware that you are leaving these boxes unattended, and the boxes or the shoes could be stolen or messed with. Our philosophy was that we are trying to give back to those in need and if someone took the shoes, hopefully they were in need of them.
We advertised that any-yes any-shoes could be donated. This means we received water shoes, baby shoes, house slippers, flip flops, and so on. You can advertise what types of shoes you will be collecting based on your research of your area if applicable. If local places only accept tennis shoes and winter boots, then that's what you ask for. Our idea was that we would catch all types of shoes that people would have thrown away, and eventually find a place for them so they would not be sent to a landfill. If we are still finding a place for water shoes next summer, so be it!
We asked 3 other friends to help us with collection and assigned them the location closest to their homes. We ended up having to check the boxes in the middle of the day because there was such a large volume of donations, but other shoe strike events have been able to leave their boxes out for the whole day or weekend. (Be sure to thank your helpers! Bake them cookies or make the cards by hand. Make sure they feel appreciated.)
We gave each helper (1) Blue Bin, (1) attached bottle of hand sanitizer, (2) medium cardboard boxes for putting the shoes in at home to start (they ended up needing more).
Other than advertising online, we taped the sheets seen below to the tops of the bins. This way, if someone heard by word of mouth or passing by one of the locations, they would know who we were and how to learn more. If someone was donating and didn't know about the prizes, they might see the info right in front of them and decide to participate.
On the Monday following each weekend, I stopped by each of our helpers houses and picked up the shoes they gathered from their location. This took a couple of back and forth trips, so if you have someone you know that owns a large vehicle, see if you can borrow it to cut down on laps and gas.
We stored the shoes in our garage. In the end, we had too many to fit the car in the garage as well. Who knows what your turnout will be, but be cognizant that other people are helping you and you need to be aware of their wants and needs as well.
Step 2: The Physical Strike
Depending on the number of shoes you receive, you will need a larger space to display the shoes for the "strike". We looked around on google maps and picked a church near our neighborhood that had a large parking lot. While some people have done this in fields, we found the shoes were easier to see on pavement.
If you aren't sure whether or not you are allowed to be on the property-always ask first. The church for us was a known public place with nearby green areas and a spot where people meet up a lot, so we did not feel the need to check in before hand.
We attempted to set the shoes out in a picture of the world, with sandals and neutral toned shoes in the desert areas, white shoes for snowy regions, and winter boots in colder regions. You can create whatever design you think is cool, or lay the shoes in rows as we also did. We found the designed one cute, but the rows more impactful.
It took us over 10 hours to bring all the shoes, set them out, take photos and video for our content, and then pack them back up. That was because we tried to sort the shoes as we picked them back up. Sorting when you have the chance will reduce the time you spend later on repacking all of your boxes. We sorted by first pulling out all of the kids shoes, as they were the smallest number, and all of the "beyond repair" shoes that needed to be sent to organizations that recycle the materials. While you are trying to do a good deed, someone in need will not want moldy shoes or shoes without a sole on them. We then sorted by gender and type, until we had the following boxes labeled.
- Kid's Boots
- Kid's Tennis Shoes
- Kid's Water Shoes
- Women's Water Shoes
- Women's Dress Shoes New
- Women's Dress Shoes Used
- Women's Tennis Shoes New
- Women's Tennis Shoes Used
- Men's Water Shoes
- Men's Hiking Boots
- Men's Dress Shoes New
- Men's Dress Shoes Used
- Men's Tennis Shoes New
- Men's Tennis Shoes Used
- House Slippers
We made a few little signs with popular strike slogans to stand up in our favorite pairs of donated shoes as well. You can encourage people who donate to make these signs, or if your club is hosting the event, have each member make one to stand in a pair of shoes at the strike.
Step 3: The Donation Process
We are still currently in the process of getting these shoes out to those in need. So far, we have donated shoes to My Sister's Closet, Becky's Place, Bethany's House, the Shalom Center, the Wheeler Mission, Middle Way House, Hannah House, Bradford Woods, and more. We gave water shoes to summer camps, baby shoes to crisis pregnancy centers, and winter boots to homeless shelters. We chose to put the dress shoes like clogs, high heels, or men's loafers towards church resell shops (whose profits benefit the local homeless community), and interview rehabilitation initiatives (who allow those in need to borrow items for interviews and job appointments).
I would personally recommend calling shelters before you donate to make sure you know of any specific types they need or do not need, their Covid-19 restrictions, and the amount of space they have for donations. I would also recommend calling them directly. You can usually find their phone numbers online and you are more likely to find out the information you need faster.
In terms of finding what each place needs, you should have a count of each type of shoe before you start calling. I would recommend sorting before hand and storing them with like-types together. This will allow you to know your numbers and, if you have a large number, spread out your donations to mul