Moxi Lolly skates leave something to be desired in terms of their materials and the production process lacks transparency, leaving more questions than answers about the sustainability of this product. I would definitely give the Moxi company and the Lolly skates points for their durable and long-lasting design that keeps more product out of landfills. I think that Moxi as a company is a good one, it is women started and operates with a diverse team, but they should employ more transparency about how their products are ethically made and how they intend to achieve their goals of creating accessible products for everyone. I would not dissuade a person from buying Moxi products, but might encourage them to consider one of their vegan skate options.
The Moxi Lolly’s are a skate with a lot of different parts, although they are designed with a consideration for durability, meaning the skate and it’s materials last longer and are less likely to be replaced frequently, many of the materials have adverse environmental origins and impacts. With extensive research it is not obvious where Moxi specifically sources their materials, but it is possible to learn about the general processes required to produce them. The roller skate boot is made of a dyed suede material. Not only is suede a product derived from animal skin, often lamb, but the material is also treated with lime, a chemical that comes from limestone. When mined, limestone causes air and water pollution, soil degradation, destruction of the environment, and noise pollution that affects nearby people and animals. The plate that mounts the boot to the wheels is made of nylon, a petroleum based material that is non-biodegradable, releases nitrous oxide in the manufacturing process and can only be recycled through an energy intensive process. Nylon is a byproduct of other plastics and makes up about 10% of ocean debris. The bearings in the urethane wheels on the skates are made from carbon steel. The steel industry is one of the largest CO2 producing industries in the world and one of the highest energy consuming industries. Additionally, the iron ore that produces steel must be mined. For every ton of steel produced, 1.83 tons of CO2 are emitted. Finally, the skate wheels are urethane, which might be one of the most sustainable products in this item. Although urethane is a man-made oil-based product, the chemicals that compose it do not affect the PH-levels of soil or water, it is biodegradable, and the material is not toxic while it is being broken down. Urethane is also a material that can be recycled relatively easily and articles claim that the urethane industry is making efforts to produce less waste and improve the end-of-life process for the product. It is unclear how this is being done, especially with no indicators of where the Moxi wheels are specifically being produced. The shipping material used by Moxi is recycled material or reused packaging from either suppliers or customers, however the company does not seem to have any practices to mitigate the environmental impact of the shipping process. Although some of their materials are better than others, on the whole, Moxi should consider how they can achieve their goal of creating long-lasting products to reduce waste in landfills with materials that are less impactful to the environment.
The Lolly production process remains extremely mysterious despite extensive research. Although Moxi is it’s own brand, this particular skate is actually manufactured by the U.S. based Riedell Skate Company. Riedell is a family owned skate company and produces all of its skates in a single factory in Red Wing Minnesota. Although the Riedell website offers a description of their process, this is a very cursory explanation of how a skate boot is made. It does not give any insight into material use or waste production, instead describing basic details such as the fact that skate material is cut by hand by workers before being assembled. The company also claims to evolve with the skating industry, but makes no mention of how, if at all, they have evolved to operate sustainably in a changing world. One factor that does not suggest good things for Moxi is that many parts of their skates are shipped from around the world; the skates are produced in Minnesota, but receive wheels from California and other parts from Taiwan and China, before being shipped to individual suppliers around the country. The shipping of these materials is a process that undoubtedly produces high quantities of greenhouse gas. Until there is more transparency about this process by either Riedell or Moxi, it is impossible to give any rating above a 0.5, which the product earns for relying on a small family based company that operates within the U.S..
Moxi is a skate brand started by skater Michelle Steilen with a goal of empowering people through skating and creating a product for everyone. The website claims that their products are ethically made, but offers no description about how this is actually done. The Reidell company hand makes their products, with individuals sewing boots and attaching eyelets at a machine; the small company nature of the manufacturer makes me hopeful for their sustainability, as they do not seem to use large mass-production machinery that requires a lot of resources or produces large amounts of chemicals. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic there was a high demand for roller skates that the company struggled to keep up with. During this time some Reidell employees worked sixty hour weeks over a period of several months and the company’s roughly 100 employees are reportedly on track to make 80,000 pairs of roller skates in 2021. I am skeptical of how sustainable this business model can be if such a small staff is making so many items and many of their employees have been required to work massive amounts. The Moxi company employs a team of people encompassing various racial and gender identities, which is a plus. Their website also features an “Earth Love” page which describes the ways that skaters can be sustainable and environmentally friendly. For a large section of this page, the company places the responsibility on consumers in an arbitrary way, encouraging them to make sustainable swaps and avoid single-use items. The company does however have a program called “blems” through which they sell slightly cosmetically damaged but functional products at a reduced rate so that they are not thrown out. This is a good feature as companies frequently throw out perfectly usable products for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Amazon, for example, has reportedly destroyed as many as 200,000 new or returned products in a single facility in one week. If Moxi aims to have an ethical brand with ethical processes, they need to make these efforts clear and transparent to consumers. The inclusion that Moxi displays through their team and sponsored skaters, as well as their blem program is at least a start towards this goal, although some of their initiatives do read as greenwashing.