Making a clean difference

Ocean Sole receives help from neighborhood children


Ocean Sole is in the middle of gathering its statues that it makes out of recycled flip-flops so that they can eventually create an exhibit at the link in Nocatee.

However, sometimes they pick up the statues from places and they are dirty from being out in the weather for some time.

That was the case when they went and removed the octopus statue that had been on display at McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach for the past two years after the garden chose to donate it back to the organization.

Once they bring the statues home the next thing to do is clean them up before they put them back on display elsewhere.

Ocean Sole owners Erin and Jackie Smith were in the driveway of their home washing and scrubbing the octopus, when suddenly four Landrum Middle School students who also live in the neighborhood showed interest and began helping them clean the six-foot statue.

According to Jackie Smith, she was amazed at how fascinated the children were and delighted that they offered to help.

“They volunteered their time,” Jackie Smith said. “It really was a great show of community.”

The octopus is just one of several animals that the company has constructed statues of over the years, many of which have been corralled lately and are waiting to go on display at the link.

“We have a full aquarium (of statues) in the garage,” Erin Smith chuckled.

Ocean Sole’s U.S. headquarters are in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The initiative was started to help solve the problem Kenya has had with used flip-flops piling up because there is nowhere to go with them, many of the discarded flip-flops were winding up along the country’s waterways and beaches.

That is when the idea came about to begin recycling flip-flops by creating art and functional products with them.

According to the Ocean Sole website, last year they were able to recycle 750,000 flip-flops through their projects.

“Our business is all about community,” Erin Smith said. “Our community engagement is strong and at the core of our business and hearts.”