Stepping up to the challenge

Memorial student Bethany Downer launches shoe donation program

Published on July 25, 2014
Bethany Downer, a 20-year-old Memorial University student, has started the One Step Shoe Recycling program. — Submitted photo

A university student with a dream of going to space is first aiming to take care of her own planet. Bethany Downer recently launched One Step Shoe Recycling, a non-profit organization that will collect used shoes around St. John’s and donate them to people in need.

“Essentially, the goal of the project is to develop the idea of sustainable consumerism, which is not something we hear on a day-to-day basis,” said Downer, a 20-year-old geography and english student at Memorial University.

“It means that upon buying something new, I want to develop the idea that it needs to replace something else.

“I said, OK, well what object do we need most that we don’t always find, and I was stuck on this thought for several weeks until I realized that my family has several bins of shoes in our garage and they’ve been sitting there for years,” said Downer.

“We don’t donate them. We don’t know whether to throw them out, or whether we’ll use them again. It’s something that everybody has, but doesn’t always have a useful outlet to put them towards.”

In the fall, One Step will place shoe-donation bins in numerous stores around the St. John’s metro area. The organization is also co-ordinating designated shoe drop-off days for local schools.

“This could be anything from flip-flops to running shoes to winter boots,” said Downer. “If you can wear them one more time, I say that someone else could as well.”

Downer has always aspired to be an astronaut, and dreams of one day working at the Canadian Space Agency.

She says she was inspired to start this project after attending a youth sustainability conference in May, where she spoke with astronaut Chris Hadfield.

“I knew since I was a young kid that I always wanted to go to space, and I guess that dream never faded like it does for most people,” she said.

“As much as I’m very interested in exploring other planets, I’m also very interested in taking care of the one that we’re on.”

Downer says she will look at what range of donations the project receives before deciding which charities should be beneficiaries of the program.

While she says her top priority is to ensure shoes are donated locally, Downer is thinking globally as well.

One Step has partnered with Running Free Canada, and in 2015, will travel to Haiti with the organization to bring shoes to those in need.

Although Downer started the project on her own, she is always looking for volunteers to help with pick-up and delivery.

She says if people have shoes to donate now, they can email to arrange a pickup date.

More information can be found at