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ShoeBox Installation: The Build - Cutting the Slats - Cropped for Featured Image - Shoe Recycling - Design Blog

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ShoeBox Installation: The Build

The story behind the construction of the ShoeBox Installation, a philanthropic initiative at the University of Oregon, benefiting Nike Reuse-A-Shoe & Hope4Hoopers. The ShoeBox is a flagship shoe recycling bin built of salvaged materials, designed to promote – and encourage participation in – a campus-wide shoe collection drive led by “A Step in the Right Direction.”

May 4, 2012

A Philanthropic Shoe Recycling Endeavor

Not too long ago, a group of students affiliated with Net Impact at the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon came to us with a proposal: design and build a flagship shoe recycling bin. They had founded a new philanthropic initiative, A Step in the Right Direction (ASRD), a shoe recycling drive benefiting Nike Reuse-A-Shoe and Hope4Hoopers. Shoes in good condition would be donated to Hopes4Hoopers and passed on to under-privileged children, and shoes that were too heavily worn would be sent to Nike for recycling. Yes, you read that right: you can recycle old athletic shoes! With the goal of establishing the first campus-based, on-going Nike Reuse-A-Shoe collection initiative, ASRD knew they needed a flagship collection bin that was imageable and marketable to help promote their efforts. So, that's where we came in. It didn't take us long to agree to come on board, as our minds were already racing with ideas.

A Quick Note on the Design Process:
On a time crunch, we turned around a preliminary proposal within a day or two. The guiding principles behind the design were: designing for the context, remaining true to the recycling intention, using ratios from nature for scale, and promoting education and participation. You can explore the details of all that over at our portfolio.

Material Sourcing

Before this project crossed our desk, we didn't know you could recycle old running shoes, either. But once we did, and once designing and building this recycling bin was our responsibility, we knew we had to make smart choices regarding building materials. Since its function is to collect shoes to be recycled, it was important to us that the ShoeBox itself wasn't hypocritically built of brand new, or environmentally destructive, materials. Our intention was to find as much material as possible at BRING, a local used building material shop. If we couldn't find used materials to repurpose, we would do the next-best-thing and purchase FSC-Certified wood.

Additionally, the ShoeBox is designed for deconstruction. It requires no nails or glue at all. Instead, the box is held together with 12 threaded rods. The wood slats slide down over the rods, and are tightened in place with nuts. This way, when it is no longer needed, the ShoeBox can be taken apart, and the pieces reused or recycled.

Used athletic shoes often end up in landfills because the public isn’t aware that they can be recycled though special programs. When athletic shoes are recycled through Nike Reuse-A-Shoe, the different parts of the shoes are separated, ground down, and repurposed into a variety of athletic flooring surfaces and components.

As it turned out, we lucked out big time sourcing materials. Poking around at BRING, we learned that Monaco (producer of coaches and motorhomes) had decided to move its production facilities out-of-state, and a bunch of their leftover materials were headed to the landfill. Fortunately, those materials were rescued, and ended up at BRING instead. We had arrived there with fingers crossed, aware that we might have to purchase materials that we would then need to cut down to size, sand, finish, and whatnot – a time-consuming process. But, among the boxes of discarded trim from Monaco, we found the perfect thing: pre-finished trim at the exact size we needed! It saved us so much valuable time!

Next, we went to Jerry's, where, it turned out, they aren’t kidding you: their customer service kicks the butt of any other hardware store I’ve been to. With their help, we picked up all the hardware we needed: threaded rods with little rubber feet, bolts, rope, fasteners, and the like. Unfortunately, all these items had to be purchased new, rather than used, because they didn’t have enough matched items at BRING. There is just so much luck involved with reused material sourcing! Then, our last lucky find of the day was back at the furniture studio on campus, where we perused the Materials Exchange, and managed to find some abandoned MDF pieces that were big enough to use for the top and bottom of the ShoeBox. We were finally all set, and ready to make it happen.

The Build

It was a marathon to build the ShoeBox in time for its Earth Week debut. But hey, we've been through architecture school (Blake's still in the thick of it); so, insane, sleep-deprived, work marathons are par for the course for us. Old hat. We'll sleep later. At any rate, after the fact, we put together a little video documenting the construction process with photos and notes, so enjoy that below. (If you're tight on time, jump ahead to about 4:13, where you can watch us put the ShoeBox together at 28x speed. Worth it!)

All in all, it was a rewarding little project! Not only was it fun to design and build, but it's been enjoyable to watch its reception on campus, and see the box fill up with old shoes! We look forward to seeing ASRD meet, and hopefully surpass, their goal of collecting 2012 shoes, in honor of their inaugural year. Good luck!

Explore the completed project, including plenty of diagrams and explanations of the design, and, of course, the obligatory glamour shots, over in the portfolio spreads for the ShoeBox Installation, Benefiting Nike Reuse-A-Shoe.

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