Throughout Los Angeles, underserved Hispanic communities are being improved through a fantastic combination of recycling technology and sports.
It's Nike that's 'kicked off' this unprecedented recycling effort. In a program likely to educate and inspire children to recycle beyond bottles and cans, the Oregon-based athletic footwear and clothing giant has developed an intriguing process for turning old shoes into sports courts.
People can donate any brand of old athletic shoes at many locations, including Nike stores, other retail outlets, gyms, and schools. Shoes can even be sent to Nike in the mail. Then Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program pulverizes different parts of the shoes and ends up with a substance called "Nike Grind." This recycled material accounts for up to 20 percent of the playground, basketball, tennis, and other sports surfaces that Nike, with partners, is donating to needy neighborhoods.
Tanya Lopez, a media relations manager at Nike, says that the company's partners, which include the City of L.A.'s leaders and elected officials, "love the idea of collaborating on an initiative that not only gives back to the community, but that is also eco-friendly."
Recent efforts include the newly renovated basketball court at the East L.A. Youth Center, and, in South Los Angeles, the Algin Sutton Recreation Center's new state-of-the-art soccer field.
To date, the company has recycled more than 21 million pairs of athletic shoes and is closing in on 300 sports surfaces, primarily used by young people. Amazingly, recycling shoes for playing fields seems to, in turn, recycle the tenor of entire neighborhoods.
Irene De Anza Lewis has a notable example. She is the executive director of the Salvation Army Red Shield Youth and Community Center in Pico-Union, a Los Angeles district she describes as a "very low-income, high-crime area."
She's been with the Salvation Army for 17 years and says the 2005 renovation of Red Shield's soccer field using Nike Grind has been one of the most significant events in the center's history.
It has helped change the entire area. "The field has transformed the program to help us better serve the community, " she says. "It's been a beacon of light in this community and really drawn children and families into our center, off the street, and away from gangs."
The field is used seven days a week by children and people of all ages. "Nike really had an impact," says Ms. De Anza Lewis. "The field has really united us all here. It's been a place of refuge for everyone and drawn the community together."
Who would have though a bunch of old shoes could help to transform a Los Angeles community? Now that's some powerful recycling.
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