Feb. 25, 2011 at 3:10 PM ET
Your old sneakers may smell like something found only in fetid corners of nature, but chances are there's plenty that's not natural about them. A pair of Dutch entrepreneurs wants to change that. They've created a fully biodegradable shoe that will sprout flowers when planted at the end of their life.
OAT Shoes says their goal is to produce "sneakers that not only look good, but leave no mark on the environment when you throw them out."
The kicks are made using hemp, cork, bio-cotton, certified biodegradable plastics, chlorine-free bleach and other nontoxic materials. The first batch will come with seeds in their tongues, so that wildflowers will sprout up in commemoration of users' planted, expired kicks, according to Gizmag.The shoes are the brainchild of entrepreneurs Christiaan Maats and Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn, who believe the future of fashion is "reconciliation between nature and industry," they write on their website.
"We are nature, we were born from it, live in it and we’ve been playing around with it for a while now, building cities and roads and running around, not minding too much about keeping the place clean. And now, up to our knees in waste and with mother earth losing her temper, it’s time for some spring cleaning. And that starts with making greener choices."
Making greener choices, they add, often means a compromise on fashion. They hope their sneakers cross the barrier. As a testament to the shoes' marketplace potential, the company won second prize this January in the Green Fashion Competition at Amsterdam International Fashion Week.
Vasilios Christofilakos is the chairman of the accessories design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He told me today that the shoes are innovative and represent the future of the shoe industry.
"What they are doing right now is opening up the doors for everybody. It's an opportunity," he said. "Some people say 'Oh it is so gimmicky.' Really? Why don't we look beyond the gimmick? Let's look at what's happening."
What's happening, he says, is a revolution in the fashion industry. Simple Shoes, for example, strives for 100 percent sustainability and incorporates everything from recycled inner tubes and plastic bottles to bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton into their shoes and bags. Other companies, such as Nike, make sustainability a prominent part of their businesses.
Meaningful change, Christofilakos said, will come from the new generation of industry leaders — college age students and recent graduates — who are bringing to the industry a global awareness of the need for sustainable materials and products.
"We may still be looking at them as novelty items today. They are not the staple. But I feel that these novelty items will be the staple," he said. "When in the future I don't know, but I think that is where we are going."
OAT Shoes are expected to hit store shelves this spring, though the company reported Thursday on their Facebook page that they hit some glitches with production in Bulgaria.
More stories on geeky fashion:
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).