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Making great strides

Palmetto Running Company is putting its industry on notice with its new Eco-Initiative.

Story By Barry Kaufman

Palmetto Running Company team members recently attended The Running Event, the biggest conference in the nation for running stores and brands, in Austin, Texas. They won the first ever Big Pitch Grant to help fund the PRC Eco-Initiative.

When you look at the big picture of the world’s entire commercial sphere, the apparel and footwear industries are but a tiny sliver amid massive industries across the globe. Yet despite their diminutive size, they punch above their weight when it comes to one dubious distinction: pollution. All told, the two industries represent 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a staggering 4 metric gigatons for shoes and clothing.

It’s something that already had been bothering Christian Fyfe and Keri Straughn, the brother-sister combo that runs Palmetto Running Company. When the two were invited to speak at The Running Event, the largest trade show for running specialty retailers, they knew their opportunity had come to make a statement.

They were among three finalists for The Big Pitch, a competition to find ways to attract young people to running stores. On that stage they officially unveiled the PRC Eco-Initiative, which aims far higher than simply widening market share. Through an emphasis on recycled materials and sustainable practices, Palmetto Running Company wants to put the industry on notice.

“We got amazing feedback,” said Fyfe. “After our presentation, we had major shoe brands coming up, asking if this is what we see as the future of the business. It’s inspiring to know that things are changing.”

The tenets laid out during the big pitch were a crystallization of a vision they had been pursuing at their dual locations in Bluffton and Hilton Head, offering clothing from brands like Vuori and Recover, which use everything from plastic bottles and discarded scrap threads to algae in their duds.

“I think when people think of recycled fibers, they think it’s itchy,” said Straughn, fingering the sleeve of a long-sleeved Vuori tee. “But these are so soft and comfortable. A lot of the trend now is using recycled water bottles to make fabric. We actually got to see this process at The Running Event.”

Finding sustainable options has long been a mission for the siblings, but with the launch of the PRC Eco-Initiative, that mission statement becomes central. “Most of the clothing we have in-store includes recycled fibers,” said Fyfe. “Going forward, there’s going to be more and more that are 100 percent recycled.”

When running in cold weather, the rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 10 to 20 degrees warmer. You should be slightly cool when you start. The more you run outdoors, the more you’ll learn your own preferences. ©Melissa Hopkins

That includes their own branded apparel, offered by Recover. Beyond items for sale, the Eco-Initiative encompasses a few different endeavors that are geared toward a cleaner planet. For one, they are collecting corks from customers and local restaurants to be recycled into sandals. “We have managers from some of the restaurants around our Shelter Cove Location bringing us just these giant bags filled with corks,” said Straughn. Rather than ending up in a landfill, these corks provide the sole of an elegant and comfortable sandal.

They’re also collecting used shoes for Sneakers4Funds, which are then either cleaned up and given to those in need or recycled for use as rubber mulch. Sneakers4Funds gives PRC a contribution for every pair of shoes donated, which they match and put toward a scholarship for a young athlete.

But the biggest beneficiaries of all this are our own local waterways. Palmetto Running Company partnered with local credit card processor Proudly to send a piece of every sale to South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, helping with its mission to keep area waters clean. “They were a big part of the plastic bag ban,” said Fyfe. “We wanted to help them out in any way we could.”

And that’s ultimately what it’s all about. “Our main goal in this is to find more ways to give back, whether to our community or to the Earth,” said Straughn. “It’s something we were already doing because it’s something we’re passionate about.

New women’s running event coming to Hilton Head

The first ever running event for females is coming to Hilton Head Island on March WMNRUN Hilton Head is a collaboration between Alfred Olivetti, owner of the Hilton Head Running Company, and Another Mother Runner, a national tribe of female runners and walkers. It will feature a half marathon, a quarter marathon and a 5K. All races will be on the beach. A party will follow in front of the Tiki Hut.

Born to Run

Ready to put a few miles on your sneakers in the coming months? Check out some of the races headed your way, then visit to find all the links where you can register.

Hilton Head Half Marathon, 8 a.m. Feb. 8 Start at Jarvis Creek Park and wind through two different parks on a winding, scenic course that will take your breath away.

Palmetto Bluff Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K, 8 a.m. March 8 If you’ve ever wanted a chance to explore the tidal creeks and maritime forests of Palmetto Bluff, now is your chance.

Red Cedar Foxes Trot 5K, 8:30 a.m. March 14 Support the students of Red Cedar Elementary with a fun race around Bluffton organized by the 4th and 5th graders.

Sandalwood Run for Hunger 5K+10K, 8:30 a.m. March 28 Palmetto Running Company partners with Sandalwood Community Food Pantry for an annual run starting at Fish Haul Park to fight hunger.

Trail to Ale 5K, 6 p.m. April 23 The Don Ryan Center for Innovation hosts a unique 5k happy hour event for runners and professionals alike.

Earth Day 5K, 8 a.m. April 26 The crowning event in PRC’s Eco-Initiative, the Earth Day 5K at Palmetto Bluff will be 100 percent sustainable and will benefit the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.