Kudos to KEEN Footwear for making a VERY good decision to open a new factory, not where their other manufacturing facilities are located, in China, but much closer to home.
KEEN Footwear is going green and helping out its local economy by opening a new 15,000-square-foot facility just five miles from its headquarters. The decision to build the facility, which is located on Swan Island in North Portland, Oregon, is so close to home that the public is thrilled with their efforts to avoid outsourcing overseas. KEEN, known for their “hybrid shoes,” uses no adhesives and avoids using volatile chemicals. Their streamlined designs allow them to make shoes that use less material and less energy, and thus, cut emission costs. Fittingly, the first shoe to roll off the new assembly line will be the “Portland” boot.
Now, most people associate the sustainability movement almost entirely with things like the environment, natural resources, and global climate change, and KEEN can certainly be applauded for their efforts in those areas, as is reported above. And, admittedly, most of the Celebrating Eco-Progress installments that I’ve done here at Fish & Bicycles have been focused on environmental issues.
But, another aspect of sustainability is an idea that, as I’ve written before, is flourishing here in Bellingham — living local, the idea that a community that buys local uses less natural resources, creates less pollution, and creates economic stability and prosperity for the members of the community. (Bellingham was even referred to in the national media as the “epicenter” of local economies, all the way back in November 2007, on the public radio show Marketplace, nearly three years before we were featured on PBS show Now, that I referred to last year. )
Keen’s choice to open this new factory in Portland provides good local jobs, they will use fewer resources to bring the products they make there to the U.S. market, and Keen will pump money into the local economy through the city and state taxes they’ll pay.
Finally, another aspect of sustainability often overlooked is social justice, for discrimination, oppression, repression, human rights violations, economic inequity, and war are all serious threats to a sustainable future, both for the planet and for humankind.
Of course, the vast majority of KEEN products are made in the Guangdong Province of southern China, home to a large number of sweatshops, but they have made a pledge of corporate responsibility, and through their Hybrid.Care program, they have donated $4.5 million to various non-profit organizations since 2004.
Now, if only they could provide an environmentally friendly product that removes the foot odor from my KEEN sandals, which I wear almost ever day in the summer.