Flip Flop Art

For billions of people, colorful, rubbery flip-flops are the most affordable footwear option. But the flimsy shoes don’t last long and often end up in dumps, ditches, and waterways. Millions end up in the oceans, where they can travel hundreds of miles, washing up on distant shores.

On the shores of Kenya, east Africa, entrepreneur Julie Church is finding ways to turn this never-ending stream of trash into treasure. She established
“Ocean Sole Africa”, a social enterprise centered on cleaning the world’s oceans while also supporting impoverished families in coastal areas.

In a country with a 40% unemployment rate, this Kenyan company offers a lifeline to disadvantaged and displaced workers. It hires local women, kids and fishermen to collect flip-flops from the shorelines. The discarded footwear is then washed, sterilized, and sorted by color, before being compressed and glued into giant blocks.

Local artists then sculpt and sand the blocks into bright, colorful toys, animal figures, jewelry, and more. Many of the artisans are woodcarvers who were displaced when the deforestation of ebony and mahogany was outlawed.
Now their artwork is helping to restore balance to nature while also supporting and building their community.

The company has already recycled millions of flip-flops and contributes a portion of its revenue to beach cleanups, vocational and educational programs, and conservation efforts, wasting nothing in the process. Even the leftover rubber is shredded and made into mattresses for refugees.

“Ocean Sole Africa” sells their unique upcycled creations both online and offline. They’ve created large sculptures for malls and businesses, and a collection even resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

They’ve proven that conscious entrepreneurship can turn a profit while helping people and the planet at the same time.