Sea Sense Flip Flops is an eco-friendly organisation that crafts plastic-free, natural rubber, biodegradable flip flops, and then uses the profits to fund the collection of ocean-bound plastic from some of the world’s most polluted rivers and coastlines.
There are 3 billion pairs of plastic flip flops sold every year, making them the world’s most popular shoe. Sea Sense has made an eco-friendly version that helps combat one of the world’s biggest environmental problems.
Conservation entrepreneur Luke McMillan is the Founder of Sea Sense. For ten years Luke had been working on preserving endangered marine life and resolving human and animal conflicts across the globe. Wherever he has worked, the amount of flip flops he saw scattered across the coastlines of the world was truly staggering. He delved deeper by doing some research and discovered that in some countries, flip flops make up to 25% of all plastic pollution.
Sea Sense Flip Flops started with just one main partner – Empower. This is a Norwegian company that advocates a national plastic exchange system known as Blockchain. Blockchain allows for seamless tracking and monetisation of plastic, and its complete transparency is attractive to brands, plastic processors and consumers. The journey of the plastic waste – from its pickup operations to reuse in other products, – can even be tracked in third world countries where the majority of the population are unbanked. Sea Sense send their profits to help Empower fund their pickup operations in the coastlines of Africa and Asia.
Sea Sense has expanded to include other partners, such as Make a Change World and Gili Eco Trust. Every week their partners help to seek and employ people for collecting plastic. In the last 12 months, Sea Sense has used profits to collect the equivalent of more than 1 million ocean-bound plastic bottles.
The idea of incorporating the world’s most popular shoe (3 billion pair of plastic flip flops are sold each year) into a solution for plastic waste has even reached people who are not necessarily interested in helping the environment. People are choosing Sea Sense Flip Flops because they like the quality of the product, the design, the durability and the comfort. It is a ‘win-win situation’ as all the profits still go towards helping the environment.
Every time someone buys a pair of Sea Sense Flip Flops, they receive a pamphlet outlining the impact they are making with their sustainable purchase. Customers are also made aware that their money is going to be used to aid the battle against plastic pollution. It’s an effective incentive to get people thinking about the environment and the effect they can have. Being transparent with consumers and supporters of Sea Sense has always been a priority for the team.
Nowadays, there are many companies and products that claim to be eco-friendly as part of a marketing strategy, this can make consumers wary of products that are advertised as eco-friendly and what their true intentions may be. Sea Sense wants people to be able to get a clear insight into their work and always be able to see the journey and the results. They have a live interactive map on their website which gets updated on a weekly basis to show how we’re using the profits from each sale.
Essential to the way they work, Sea Sense makes sure that the natural rubber used to make their flip flops comes from sustainable harvests. A big part is also making sure that everyone involved in the farming and manufacturing process have good working conditions and are all paid a good salary. They strive to remove any doubt; greenwashing is such an important issue, that it affects companies who are actually trying do some good because consumers have lost a lot of trust. When it comes to ensuring Sea Sense is run based on humanitarian and eco-friendly grounds, the journey doesn’t stop there. The natural rubber comes from Vietnam, and the manufacturing process takes place in Hong-Kong. The shoes are all all hand-crafted. To further reduce the carbon footprint, products are delivered by boat rather than by plane. Sea Sense have worked out the carbon footprint for each shoe, which is a relatively low 7.7kg per pair.
A lot of sustainable and eco-friendly products tend to be quite costly, and some consumers may not be able to afford them. Sea Sense believe in the importance of provoking people to think about the environment through their products rather than capitalising on them. If people think they can make a change with their flip flops they might start to think ”what else can I make a change with?”, and it might just spark the idea to look for more sustainable options in their lives.
EcoMogul Magazine had the pleasure to talk to the founder, Luke McMillan:
Can you describe your passion about sustainability lifestyle?
”I think it is down to all of us to life in a way where we consider the planet with our everyday actions. I have always looked to use eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items, whether that means using a bamboo toothbrush, or using shampoo bars instead of the regular bottles. For me I believe that sustainability should be accessible for all, and that planet friendly products should be affordable to everyone, otherwise things will not change. Living sustainability is not easy, it is a case of changing our habits, but if we can start to think about small changes everyday, we can all make a huge impact.”
Could you describe Sea Sense Flip Flops in 3 words?
”Affordable, Impactful, Original”
What are your personal favorite Sea Sense Flip Flop?
”My personal favourite colour are the Mangrove Green flip flops. They remind me of time spent working in mangroves in countries around the world, and they are the point where the sea and land meet, representing how the earth and the oceans are interlinked and rely upon one another. ”
Sea Sense have set an ambitious target to eventually be able to collect 10 million ocean-bound plastic bottles each year. This would not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on all the people who have been employed in the pickup operations to lift themselves out of poverty. There are so many environmental issues that we are faced with on a daily basis that it can become intimidating, but with Sea Sense Flip Flops, even taking small steps and being mindful can make a huge difference.