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Newton Running, a Boulder company, reduces the environmental footprint by using biodegradable shoes

Newton Running, a Boulder company, reduces the environmental footprint by using biodegradable shoes

Newton Running, a Boulder business, shrinks environmental footprint with biodegradable shoes

Jerry Lee was a child growing up in a small family of 15 people in Aledo, Ill. Everything had to be reused and patched up and passed down. Shoes, shirts, and baseball gloves were all shared. (Jerry, the eldest, was able to wear the rare pair blue jeans and then passed them on to his siblings. As Lee, the owner and founder of Newton Running, said when I stopped by Newton headquarters just off Pearl Parkway last week, “We were extremely frugal.”

The “Buff Shoe” model of the Fusion is made of four recycled plastic water bottles and biodegradable materials, including a midsole made of sugar cane. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Also very diligent and hard-working. Lee left his family to move to Boulder, Colorado in 1980 to work with Bill Reynolds, a real-estate developer. There, he found himself attracted to the health and wellness culture. This included recycling, reusing, taking care of the environment, and taking good care of oneself.

Lee recalled a small race called the Bolder Boulder. Lee quit smoking in the Midwest thanks to the encouragement of his children, Wendy (and Matt) and started the Jeff Galloway walking-and-running program. He began by running a block at a stretch. He was soon hooked, just like many others, and embraced the Boulder lifestyle.

Lee completed 15 marathons, three full Ironman Triathlons, and was still recovering from prostate cancer. He also began to enjoy the outdoors. Newton RunningIn 2007, the company was founded on a design by Danny Abshire. The Boulder-based company was among the first to produce shoes inspired by natural running. Newton quickly became a popular brand, known for its brightly-colored, light-colored shoes that can help runners become more efficient in running.

All of Newton Runnings shoes are vegan, manufactured without animal products, said Wendy Lee, Newton’s director of social responsibility. This means no leathers or suedes and no animal byproduct adhesives. Newton created a biodegradable shoes in 2020 to further its commitment towards sustainability.

The uppers are made of recycled plastic bottles and the midsoles from sugar cane or other plant-based products, such as algae, are being transformed. People are taking notice. Newton was contacted by organizers of April’s 64th Grammy Awards to inquire if the company could send shoes and other products to the approximately 300 Grammy Award presenter/performers.

The Grammy response was overwhelming positive, Laura Tingle, Newton’s social media and product manager, wrote in an e-mail. Although they initially liked our colors, artists became more interested in learning about Newton’s sustainability story.

It is because Newton walks the talk or, should we say, runs it. Lee, 73 years old, said that while it does limit our bottom line and is not the best thing to do, it is still the right thing. We were excited about it. You can think about the impact of a product on the environment when you purchase a product.

MIT published a 2013 study that estimated the carbon footprint of running shoes at 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Newton has partnered up with a nonprofit in order to plant one tree for each pair of shoes it sells. Wendy Lee explained that each tree will absorb 10x the carbon required to make our shoes.

Jerry Lee stated that this is what matters to us. If we focus our energy in the right direction, we can accomplish a lot of good. We are thrilled to announce that every shoe is carbon neutral.

The Newton Running headquarters and retail store at 3675 Frontier Ave. demonstrates Lee’s commitment to sustainability. It uses 100% wind-powered electricity and has employees that recycle more than 90%. Lee said that Newton strives for sustainability and social responsibility while remaining a viable company.

Newton will launch its Buff shoe this fall just in the right time for University of Colorado students to return. The uppers are made from recycled plastic bottles, the laces are durable, and the midsoles have Eco-Pure. This accelerates the process of decomposition. I was proud to be a CU alum and had to try the Buff shoes. They felt light, with plenty cushion, and I felt like I was channeling my inner Adam Goucher, running with a little more spring in the step.

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Brian Metzler a shoe tester said that Newtons commitment towards sustainability and the environment is part a wider trend in the industry. Consumer demand is increasing for sustainability and more plant-based, recycled materials.

Lee stated, It is a trend in all footwear companies, and added that it is easier to turn Newton’s ship than for a larger company to do the same.

Before I left, Lee told me his thoughts on the changes taking place in Boulder. You can see them just west of the Newton offices. There are new buildings being built, drawing more people in, all attracted to the same amenities that kept us here.

Lee said, “I hope it doesn’t change the culture.” Boulder is a special city.

Follow Michael Sandrock on Instagram at @MikeSandrock

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