Scooting Forward: Northwestern University Students Sell Pineapples for Your Feet

Have you ever worn a pineapple on your feet? Wait — that’s not right — let me start over. What do pineapples and shoes have in common? It’s not a joke. Seriously. What do pineapples and shoes have in common?

Other than each having a distinct odor, there are really no obvious connections between the two, right? Correct, nor was there until a group of Northwestern University graduate students working out of the school’s startup incubator, The Garage, made a discovery that led them to answer this seemingly insignificant question.

The solution created by MBA students David Costello and Thomas Schanzer might just help kickstart a new trend in footwear that helps reduce environmental waste.

The two spent 15 months working to develop a sustainable shoe that is comfortable, stylish and doesn’t leave a footprint — a carbon footprint, that is. The result, Scoots Footwear, is the first plant-based footwear brand in the world. This week the company launched a kickstarter campaign aiming to raise $45,000 by July 4 — raising $20,000 in the first 24 hours — for a product line comprised of 95 percent natural and organic materials including cotton, corn, cork and — you guessed it — pineapple.

“I’m thrilled to see an idea David discussed with me 15 months ago move through a product design and manufacturing stages, culminating with the Kickstarter campaign,” said Chicago-area angel investor Lilia Kogan, an entrepreneur in resident at The Garage who advises Scoots.

Scoots first model the — PA1 or Pine-Apple 1 — aims to be durable and versatile with a sole similar to Birkenstocks that’s made of cork and molds to feet over time. The upper material of the shoes (called Pinatex) is made of corn and pineapple leaves, a combination that took months of trial and error to perfect. It’s a leather-alternative for eco-conscious consumers looking for a combination of style and comfort.

During a stint in corporate America before graduate school, founder and CEO David Costello witnessed the vast amount of waste in fashion today. Indeed, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior says that the average shoe alone takes anywhere from 30 to 40 years to decompose in a landfill and Costello is committed to creating products that “look good, feel good, and do good for the environment.”

“Today nearly every pair of shoes produced in the world contains materials such as thermoplastic polyurethane and ethylene-vinyl acetate,” said Costello. “These materials are harsh for our planet and can take centuries to decompose, we knew there had to be a better way. Scoots offers that better alternative, something comfortable and versatile that will wear out slow but break down fast.”

Clearly, Costello and his team are serious about environmental stewardship. Scoots asks customers to send worn shoes back to them so they can reuse or compost the materials while also working with Forest Nation to help combat deforestation in Tanzania.

Who knew? Pineapples for your feet. Scoots has developed a uniquely uncommon product in an effort to provide a sustainable environmental solution for a mounting global challenge as earthlings piss away the planet.