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Transforming Flip-Flop Pollution Into Art

By Beth Cravey The Florida Times-Union

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The mission of entrepreneur Erin Smith's nonprofit is to turn "the Earth's flip-flop pollution into inspiring art."

Vedra Beach

Longtime Ponte Vedra Beach resident and global entrepreneur Erin Smith has returned to St. Johns County to launch Kenya-based Ocean Sole Africa's "flip the flop" conservation-themed product line in the United States.

The mission of the nonprofit social enterprise is to turn "the Earth's flip-flop pollution into inspiring art," which will be on display in area art galleries, surf shops and fair trade boutiques, as well as partner nonprofits and for-profit organizations.

"For more than 3 billion people on the planet, flip-flops are the only available footwear," said Smith, CEO of the operation. "After about a year of use, they get discarded and end up along the beaches and waterways in Kenya."

There, artists collect and clean them, then shape and carve the material into pieces of art, including brightly colored giraffe, rhino, turtle, dolphin, shark and elephant sculptures that range in price from $35 to $1,650.

"I have spent a decade living in Northeast Florida and most of my family currently lives and works here, so it made sense to bring Ocean Sole African back home to Ponte Vedra Beach and integrate it into the vibrant art and ocean culture that defines the beaches now," Smith said.

Over a ton-and-a-half of flip-flops are recycled each week with more than 20 percent of revenue going toward beach cleanups, vocational/educational programs and conservation efforts. Also, Ocean Sole Africa provides steady income for about 130 Kenyan residents, according to the organization.

The local showroom, open by appointment only, is at 5150 Palm Valley Road, Suite 406 in Ponte Vedra Beach. To schedule an appointment, call (904) 907-3596 or email [email protected] To view products online, go to oceansoleafrica.com/shop. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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