Brazil, already a world leader in biofuels, has found a way to make walking both comfortable and eco-friendly. Sandals made from recycled tires by Goóc, a company founded in 2004 by a Thai refugee, have attracted customers from Angola to the United States. Today the company has factories in São Paulo and Bahia.
Over three million pairs of Goóc sandals are now sold annually around the world as part of what company founder Thái Quang Nghiã claims is “a solution toward preserving the environment.” Quang, who was rescued at sea in 1979 by a Brazilian oil tanker after fleeing Vietnam, was inspired by the Vietnamese wartime practice of converting the canvas and tires from destroyed trucks into footwear and bags. He points out that tires take approximately 700 years to naturally decompose. In Brazil alone, where over 35 million tires are discarded annually, that represents a mammoth environmental hazard. The 52-year-old entrepreneur’s innovative response makes a fashion statement out of cleaning up the environment. But what happens to old sandals? Goóc has a conscientious answer for that as well: it has set up collection points in Brazil where customers earn future discounts when turning in their used sandals, which are then recycled into new shoes.