“Our challenge is to make radical, challenging green stuff that sets new standards normal (it is not enough to make normal stuff seem greener).”—John Grant, The Green Marketing Manifesto

GOING GREEN HITS ITS STRIDE with the bright and buoyant, fast and fabulous Brooks Green Silence racing flats—”racing flats” are performance/competition running shoes for all you non-Runner’s-World-subscribing-I-live-to-trim-seconds-from-my-miles normal folks out there. These foot rockets go a long way (potentially literally) in proving that cradle-to-cradle eco-conscious design doesn’t have to compromise one iota to deliver a championship-calibre performance. Waterproof/breathable/ultra-lightweight hats off to Brooks for bringing these kicks to the finicky (read, I readily admit, elitist) marketplace of outdoor/sports-geek gear.

So what did Brooks do and how did the Green Silence perform when it came to race time? Let me share.

It all started several years ago when Brooks announced it was going to create a truly eco-friendly shoe, utilizing more eco-conscious design, manufacturing processes and sustainable materials; this may not be the full-blown, cross-the-board commitment of, say, a Patagonia (see Patagonia’s “Footprint Chronicles,” for example), but it’s a sizable DfE (Design for Environment) stride in the right direction. In 2008 Brooks launched the BioMoGo midsole, “the world’s first biodegradable running shoe midsole that breaks down 50 times faster than traditional midsoles in an enclosed, active landfill.” That same year Brooks also debuted a new shoe box made of fully biodegradable, 100-percent recycled paperboard. The Green Silence soon followed.

You can take a quick interactive tour of the Green Silence on the Brooks website, but here are the salient facts:

  • Constructed with just 48 percent as many parts as comparable shoes
  • More than 75 percent of the shoe’s materials are post-consumer recycled
  • All dyes, colorants and adhesives are nontoxic, with VOCs lowered by 65 percent
  • Midsoles, collar foams and sock liners are completely biodegradable

What you end up with is a lightweight racing flat—it weighs just 6.9 oz.—that features a minimal 8 mm offset, or drop, from heel to toe: you’re not running barefoot, by any stretch, but you’re low to the ground, and thanks to the compression-molded BioMoGo midsole, I found, well-cushioned. Just add human accelerant and you feel propelled forward by warm jets of eco-conscious good will!

Which gets me to my trial-by-fire race: the annual mid-May Pole Pedal Paddle relay race in Bend, Oregon. This crazy, fun, challenging event features six legs, starting with a downhill skier on Mt. Bachelor who slaps happy with a cross-country skier who fist bumps a bicyclist who quick taps a runner who passes speedy karma to a kayaker/canoer who finally lends spiritual propulsion to a sprinter who then crosses the finish line at the Les Schwab Ampitheater in Bend’s Old Mill District. Sound fun? It is. This year, the PPP’s 34th, had the most participants in its history, 3,005. The best time was posted by Marshall Greene of Bend at 1:44:27.

I was part of one of three teams from Journeys, a highly recommended wine bar and pub in Portland’s Multnomah Village neighborhood, and took part in both running legs. My Green Silence were anything but (and if that vibrant, asymmetrical gold and red color scheme doesn’t work for you, Brooks has more colors in the works), and easily got me under 6-minute miles on a course that included road, sidewalk, some trail, a few small climbs—and all at an average elevation of around 3,625 feet. The Green Silence fit comfortably, provided quite adequate support, created no race issues and had a springiness to them that made running a total pleasure—they totally kicked it. I also tried a little trail run with them, but unless you’re on smooth dirt only, I definitely wouldn’t recommend them in this capacity—nor would Brooks, I’m sure.

Way to go, Brooks, in setting a new standard in radical, challenging green stuff and truly embracing the DfE ethic. It may be “Silent steps to a Greener future,” but I want to make a lot of noise about it now. Looking forward to my next race in the Green Silence.

Allen