Ocean Sole saves the planet, one flip-flop at a time

After noticing the thousands of tons of marine debris that wash up near the Kenyan Coast, Ocean Sole was founded in 2006 to create a solution. While most artwork is made from more traditional materials, like clay or paint, Ocean Sole created a sustainable method for creating their masterpieces from flip-flops.

Along with promoting marine conservation and spreading awareness, the nonprofit benefits over 1,000 Kenyans by paying them for the flip flops found in waterways. The flip flops then arrive at Ocean Sole’s workshop and are counted, cleaned, and separated by color, before being compacted into a solid block that can be carved into sculptures.

According to Ari Kyriaz, the social media manager for Ocean Sole, the idea to create these sculptures came from Kiwayu, an island bordering Kenya and Somalia. “Shocking amounts of marine waste washed up on the shore, particularly on nesting turtle sites and their hatchlings,” Kyriaz said. “The rubbish problem then led to imaginative and innovative children turning the waste into toys to play with.” As shocking amounts of marine waste reached the shore, kids on the island created upcycled toys, which inspired their parents to clean and sculpt the discarded flip flops into artwork.

The bright colors give the artwork personality, and each comes in a variety of sizes, prices, and designs. While most of the sculptures are animals, Ocean Sole also makes juggling balls, yoga blocks, hearts, and skulls. Customers’ most popular choices are sculptures of giraffes, whale sharks, pineapples, cats, and dogs. With countless products to choose from, including the option to design your own, each is handmade with care from recycled materials, along with other apparel.

Along with their artwork, Ocean Sole has a program called Sole Mate, which allows customers to adopt an animal of their choosing for a range of different prices. The adoptable animals include the panda, polar bear, turtle, and others. With each adoption, Ocean Sole plans to create life sized sculptures of these animals. “Our hope is that the 200 life sized replicas will be spread around the world by whoever would like to buy them,” Kyriaz said. “Ideally we would like them to be in places that are busy like airports, zoos, hotels and shopping malls with a lot of footfall to spread more awareness,” said Kyriaz.

Apart from their artwork and adoptions, Ocean Sole also donates profits to beach cleanups, educational programs, and other conservation efforts. Located on Palm Valley Road, Ocean Sole is available by appointment only, but customers also have the option to purchase pieces through their website. With eye-catching artwork and an eco-friendly message, one can be sure any purchase at Ocean Sole is a fulfilling one.

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