As Bobby Johnson was out for an AJC Peachtree Road Race training run seven years ago, he noticed a homeless man without shoes. Out of kindness, Johnson offered his size 15 sneakers to the man. The simple gesture inspired him to launch EcoSneakers, a self-funded social enterprise that partners with organizations and businesses to collect new and used athletic shoes to be donated to local homeless shelters, such as the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, recycled to create surfaces for playgrounds, basketball courts, and tracks, or sold overseas to be cleaned and repaired then resold by local businesses in those countries.
Since its inception, more than 300,000 shoes have been repurposed. The grassroots initiative has also been the No. 1 vendor for donations at the Peachtree Health and Fitness Expo. In addition, the team at EcoSneakers has collaborated with Central Atlanta Progress, Georgia Power, and more to host a biannual Sneaker Week that encourages participants to get active and donate athletic shoes. And during the week of Super Bowl LIII, EcoSneakers partnered with The Ludacris Foundation and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for the Sole of Atlanta campaign, which distributed shoes to underserved Atlantans. You can help get shoes into the hands of someone who needs them and out a landfill by hosting your own collection drive.