Flip, Flop, Fantastic
It looks like an ordinary house from the outside. Walk into the living room, though, and you might very well see boxes of rubberized sandals known as flip flops. The mother living there is collecting them to send to her daughter, an Air Force technician. But surely one young woman cannot possibly need these many pairs of flip flops you might ask. She does and happily asks for more.
While there is a type of electrical switch known as the “flip flop”, let me assure you that is not what this blog post is about today. I am talking about the open-toed footwear that gets no respect for being, in spite of it having been around since 4000 BCE. The oldest pair of flip flop sandals can be found in the British Museum and dates to 1500 BCE. That pair is made of papyrus but the material used for these shoes has varied just as the cultures wearing them have varied.
Thought to have originated in ancient Egypt, the flip flop, aptly named in modern times because of the sound one makes while wearing them, was probably first made from papyrus or palm leaves. In Africa the Masei tribe used rawhide for their sandals. In India wood was the material of choice but China and Japan made them from straw. As mankind advanced, so did the materials used in making flip flops and they began to be constructed from leather and other materials as well as stronger fibers that made them more lasting, durable, and wearable.
Servicemen returning from the Far East, especially Japan, after World War II brought back the Japanese zori and the flip flop gained popularity in the United States. Americans added their own flair with bright colors and adornments. The wearing of flip flops especially caught on a the surfing culture of southern California. One company began in a garage but today makes and sells over two million pairs of flip flops each year.
So how can wearing flip flops become more extraordinary and less ordinary? And why would one woman collect them to send to her daughter? Servicemen in hospitals often do not have shower shoes or shoes that allow them to easily walk. This Carolina mother collects the flip flops for her daughter to distribute to servicemen so that their feet are protected. These are new flip flops donated by area people and family.
Recycled flip flops have a purpose, so don’t throw out your used ones. The Flip Flop Recycling Company will happily accept them! The FFRC is a business based in Kenya and began because a woman observed children picking flip flops out of the trash that washed on shore from the surrounding waters and ocean. The children were making toys out of the discarded flip flops but the woman saw beyond their efforts.
Kenya is among the poorest nations in the world. Throughout the world, the ocean has become a very large and often under-patrolled garbage dump. The dumping of trash in the ocean not only endangers the wildlife living there, it also contributes to world pollution. In Kenya, however, the FFRC is buying these flip flops from the women who collect them. This gives the women some disposable income to help support their families.
Artists then use these flip flops to recycle into household products as well as other household products and art. Some of their work has been made into fashion accessories that have been used in Parish runway fashion shows. Other companies such as Ocean Sole are also using the trash of old discarded flip flops that end up as floating garbage to create new things and better lives.
Next time you go to throw out a pair of flip flops, think. Next time you purchase a new pair, pick up a second pair for Operation Flip Flops, and then check out their Facebook page to get details on how to donate your new pair. There is also another Facebook page called Operation Flip Flop that sent new shows/flip flops to Iraqi children.
Whichever charity you decide to help, and there are several in your own home town (Contact the Salvation Army, Boy and Girls Clubs, or the American Red Cross) I am certain, please do not forget that something as commonplace as a pair of flip flops can mean the world to someone else. Make the name “flip flop” synonymous with the words “good deed” today!