Dear sustainable buyer, buying sustainable products such as shoes is of great importance for the change to a more environmentally friendly life. But what are sustainable shoes really? In this article you will find explanations on how to recognize sustainable shoes as well as 5 brands that are known for its sustainability within this industry.
On to a cleaner world!
What are sustainable shoes?
Sustainable shoes refer to shoes made from sustainable materials and manufactured in an environmentally friendly way. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the shoe, as well as to create a product that will last for years by making it out of eco-friendly materials.
The most common problem with traditional shoe manufacturing is that it creates a lot of waste: from excess materials and leftover parts to the way they are discarded. Globally, the footwear industry contributes 1.4% to greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Along with a massive carbon footprint, the industry is known for extracting unrenewable raw materials and producing non-recyclable hazardous waste.
Modern shoes are not always made to last and are almost invariably made of plastic, leather, petroleum, and textiles, which are glued and molded together, making them difficult to recycle. Usually, shoes are either burned or thrown into landfills at the end of their temporary existence, taking more than a thousand years to decompose.
However, sustainable shoes are designed to reduce this waste by using materials that can be recycled or reused again or by using more environmentally-friendly products like bamboo instead of leather or rubber.
The best thing about sustainable shoes is that they save you money in the long run and help the environment. Because they use less material than regular shoes, they don't create as much CO2 waste during production or disposal. Plus, if you buy a pair of sustainable shoes repeatedly instead of buying new ones every season, you'll be saving money.
How are ecological shoes made?
Ecological shoes are made on the principles of sustainable manufacturing. These principles include
- Sustainable Materials: When selecting materials, social and environmental factors are considered.
- Ethical Production: The supply chain ensures fair wages, waste reduction, and safe working conditions.
- Socio-economic impact: It is considered in advance what impact fairtrade sourcing and manufacturing may have on the local community, including quality of life and the environment.
- Circular Life Cycle: The process of using and repurposing shoes as long as possible before returning them to the environment.
Ecological shoes are made from materials that are environmentally friendly and don't harm animals. The materials used to make ecological shoes are a combination of natural materials and synthetic materials:
- Natural materials include leather, cotton, wool, hemp, and jute.
- Synthetic materials include plastics and rubber.
Though leather is known for its durability and long-lasting nature, it is not considered a sustainable material. Leather comes from animal hides, which means that to make a pair of shoes out of leather, you have to kill an animal. That's not exactly a sustainable process. However, some brands use recycled leather derived from old leather products that have undergone refurbishment.
Alternatively, Artificial leather is an option growing in popularity and is adopted to make eco-friendly shoes because it doesn't require any animal hide. Artificial leather is made from plastic instead of leather, so it doesn't require any animal products used in its production process.
Vegetable-tanned leather is another option for making sustainable shoes. It doesn't use any toxic chemicals during its manufacture either; instead, tannins from plant matter apply to treat the hides before they're processed further into leather goods like shoes or belts.
5x Brands to buy sustainable shoes
When it comes to green fashion brands, it begins with learning about the company. Brands for sustainable shoes adhere to sustainable manufacturing principles. The following brands have a strong focus on sustainable manufacturing and take special measures to make their shoes as eco-friendly as possible.
Brand 1. Veja
Veja is a French brand noted as one of the few brands to use sustainable materials to make its footwear. The company has created sneakers made from certified organic cotton grown by farmers in Brazil and Peru, wild rubber grown by indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest, polyester fibers derived from recycled plastic bottles, and vegan leather alternatives made from vegetable materials.
They are one of the most popular brands among sustainable shoe lovers globally. Veja is completely transparent about its entire process and has a great selection of shoes, primarily men's sneakers, perfect for daily style and comfort.
Brand 2. Allbirds
For almost a decade, the Allbirds company has been at the forefront of sustainable shoe production. Allbirds Brand uses materials like wool, merino wool, and eucalyptus wood pulp in their shoes instead of synthetic materials like plastic or rubber. These materials are more breathable than synthetic ones, so your feet won't sweat as much when wearing them all day long.
Allbirds is the first to create an EVA foam midsole made from carbon negative green Eucalyptus trees, eliminating the harmful petrochemicals inherent in traditional designs. Besides being environmentally friendly, Allbirds shoes are stylish and affordable.
Brand 3. Converse
Converse shoe is a brand that has been around for over 100 years. They have been committed to sustainability, even before it became trendy. In fact, they were one of the first companies to use recycled rubber in their shoes. In 2008, Converse launched its line of eco-friendly sneakers made from recycled materials. The material used to make these shoes is called Eco Canvas, which was made with post-consumer waste (meaning it's produced from materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash). This material is created through a process called "cradle-to-cradle manufacturing," which means it's made to last forever and will never become obsolete or need to be discarded.
In recent years, Converse has introduced new materials into their lines, including vegan canvas and jute fabric—both made from sustainable resources.
Brand 4. Timberland
Timberland had been making sustainable shoes for decades. And their commitment to sustainability is evident in their footwear offerings. Timberland's sustainable shoes are made of materials like recycled rubber and high-recycled content PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Timberland also uses recycled cardboard as a part of its packaging.
The company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by reducing waste and energy use. Their goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030. Towards this ambitious goal, the company plans to incorporate circularity, regenerative agriculture, upcycled materials, such as wool and leather scraps, as well as natural materials.
Brand 5. Toms
TOMS is a brand known for its commitment to making eco-friendly shoes. They have been working to make sure that their products are produced in an environmentally friendly way and don't harm the environment or the people who work on them. They work with factories that comply with high environmental standards and, whenever possible, use recycled and reclaimed materials.
Since it began in 2006, TOMS has remained focused on improving lives. Currently, TOMS donates one-third of its profits to grassroots efforts, such as organizations that help communities thrive―bringing about positive change locally and advancing progress from the ground up.
The company's mission is simple: "Buy One, Give One." That means that for every pair of shoes you buy from the company, they will donate another pair to someone in need. Since its inception, the company has donated more than 200 million pairs of new shoes. TOMS shoes allow you to support sustainable practices while also helping others.
TOMS offers a wide variety of sustainable shoes, including sneakers, dress shoes, espadrilles, and boots, all designed for comfort and available in a wonderful range of styles and colors.
Do you have questions or comments about these brands and/or sustainable shoes? Leave your comment below and contribute to sustainability education!