Because a clean ocean is so important to our planet, during the first week of July we celebrate Clean Beaches Week, a time dedicated to the conservation of the ocean and the effort to clean up beaches all around the world. Even though the Akron Zoo isn’t close to an ocean, we pride ourselves on supporting conservation efforts a little closer to the water. Not only can you find sea creatures here at the zoo that benefit from clean oceans, but our gift shop does its part to promote ocean cleanliness as well!
Ocean Sole is a company based out of Kenya that collects the flip flops that appear along beaches. The founder of Ocean Sole, Julie Church, was inspired by the toys that children were making out of the discarded flip flops. She encouraged mothers to collect, clean and transform the discarded flip flops into products that could be sold at the local market.
The Akron Zoo gift shop has been selling Ocean Sole products for about five years, according to Gift Shop Manager Joan Hummel. After a zoo employee saw the Ocean Sole display at another zoo, it was brought to the attention of the gift shop staff. From there, they reached out to the company and we’ve had Ocean Sole products in our gift shop ever since!
When your Akron Zoo buys wholesale products from Ocean Sole, the money gained from the bulk purchase goes directly to Ocean Sole and its employees, allowing them to fund their beach cleanups and pay employees. By supporting these types of businesses, the zoo is not only promoting conservation, but helping a small company keep in business. By upcycling flip flop debris, Ocean Sole collects 47,000 kg (approx. 103,617 pounds) of waste a year.
Ocean Sole products are all fair-trade, which means the products are made by workers who are paid a livable wage and given good working conditions. According to Gift Shop Supervisor Sarah Bassett, this helps promote the “feel good, human aspect” of product creation.
The Akron Zoo gift shop is also home to a number of other globally-conscious products. Several items in the gift shop are fair trade and can be identified via the fair-trade sticker. There are also several elephant-friendly products, such as the popular imitation ivory statues that promote the abolishment of poaching for ivory.
By supporting these types of fair-trade businesses, you are not only supporting essential conservation work, but the workers that help these organizations proper (prosper?). Next time you stop by the Akron Zoo, don’t forget to take a look at the Ocean Sole display and ask our gift shop associates about some other fair-trade items. Happy Clean Beaches Week from your Akron Zoo!