New Balance’s latest 574 Core brings good news to all sustainable sneaker fanatics. Created under the brand’s green leaf standard, the sneaker takes on a more eco-conscious composure with all of the casual comfortability of the iconic 574 silhouette.

To get more perspective on how to live more eco-friendly, we tapped NYC’s Maryah Greene, an expert in all things plant care. Sharing a passion with New Balance for doing things differently in the name of sustainability, Greene makes it clear that “going green” doesn’t need to be as daunting as it may sound. “ Being greener doesn't mean becoming vegan overnight and never using an ounce of plastic. It’s holding yourself and the ones you love accountable for educating themselves on how to be better and protect the planet.”

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Tell us a bit about your initial passion for plants and plant care.

I moved to NYC to attend graduate school at the Bank Street College of education to pursue teaching/ elementary education. I’ve always had a passion for teaching and seeing things grow and I think there is no coincidence that this is around the same time that I became enamored by plants. Moving to NYC was a scary and lonely experience and I realized that I found solace in caring for my newly purchased plants and watching them grow. Some days I found that it was my only source of joy and responsibility.

Over time, I realized that my love for my plants was common amongst others and the connections that we build to our green babies are unparalleled. What I realized next was that easy to understand, affordable, and accessible plant care did not exist and I wanted to change that.

How has your experience with plant care initiated a “greener” lifestyle?

It's almost as if I’m meeting a new friend or person when I look at a plant. I assume it has some sort of personality, likes, dislikes – a whole story. This love for plants has had a direct correlation with how I view the earth. This journey has significantly evolved my respect for nature in the ways that I talk about it within my community. I didn't grow up with the luxury of prioritizing sustainability over access and necessity. For a lot of black families and communities, this is also the case.

As I continue to learn about small ways that we as humans are negatively impacting the environment, I’ve found that it’s my responsibility to share these accessible and sustainable methods with others. Even if it’s as simple as buying my parents their first recycle bin, carrying a water bottle between my design projects, not letting the water run when it comes time to water my plants. Being greener doesn't mean becoming vegan overnight and never using an ounce of plastic. It’s holding yourself and the ones you love accountable for educating themselves on how to be better and protect the planet. I believe that once the conversation about sustainability includes accessibility, a significant environmental change will occur.

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What’s your favorite sustainability hack?

My favorite sustainability hack is any method of fertilization from food scraps. Whether it’s using old coffee grounds to fertilize my Bird of Paradise plant or soaking banana peels in the water and using that to water my plants, every ounce of waste is used for another purpose. There are so many of these hacks online and once people learn about them, they not only save tons of money but also reduce waste since an overwhelming majority of plant fertilizers come in plastic packaging.

What sustainability-driven mantra do you live by?

It might seem fairly simple but I constantly ask myself what the true cost of my next purchase is. For instance, quickly purchasing a plastic water bottle while on the go might seem like a one-off occurrence but when I do it 4-5 times a week over the course of a year, that adds up. The cost of that is more than just what I spent on the bottle but I think about what river or ocean it’ll end up in and what community I'm affecting apart from my own little bubble in NYC. It’s pretty easy for people to not hold themselves accountable when they don't aren't being affected by their small everyday acts. But every unsustainable decision affects someone somewhere, and I like to remind myself of that as often as possible.

How do initiatives like New Balance’s green leaf standard help you stay true to that mantra?

New Balance’s green leaf standard takes sustainability to another level by prioritizing the intersection of it with mental health. Sustainability means nothing without accessibility and education and this initiative aligns with my personal and professional mission of sharing that with the world.

My favorite feature of the latest 574 Core is that it’s supportive and comfortable enough for me to wear throughout my plant installation projects but also stylish enough to wear to the happy hour that might follow. It’s made from 50% sustainable materials and because I work in the dirt, I often run through pairs of sneakers more than the average person. Wearing these makes me feel a lot less guilty about my shoe purchases.

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How has your knowledge and practice of plant care initiated a greater sense of balance in your life?

It’s essential to keep up with a schedule for house plant care. Plants prefer a consistent amount of water on a routine basis and this practice has enabled me to not only plan ahead but also check in with myself and reflect. When I go to water my huge Monstera Deliciosa plant every 2.5 weeks, I always notice at least one or 2 new leaves that weren't there when I watered them a few weeks ago. I use that moment to think about where I was last week, any hardships I overcame, and remind myself that time keeps going and I'm always growing as much as my plants. As long as I incorporate and prioritize balance in my life, both I and my plants will continue thriving. This level of balance is the biggest lesson that plants have taught me and a lot of my clients.

What’s the best advice you can give someone who is just beginning as a “plant person”?

Don't let the concept of a “green thumb” discourage you. It doesn't exist. People either think you’re naturally gifted at caring for plants or you aren't. That idea couldn't be farther from the truth. The most common trend that I've found is that one may have had a ton of bad experiences in caring for plants and they came to the conclusion that caring for plants just isn't their thing. In reality, most don't consider that their space and the type of plant that they have plays a huge part in that plant’s likelihood of surviving.

Learn more about New Balance's green leaf standard at newbalance.com.

This 574 meets New Balance’s green leaf standard with an upper made of 50% or more recycled content and leather that supports more responsible manufacturing through the Leather Working Group. The outsole material contains 5% recycled content. Learn more about New Balance’s green leaf standard at newbalance.com/env.

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