Americans throw out over 300 million pairs of shoes each year, where they take 30 to 40 years to decompose. But eco friendly shoes can decompose faster, and be made more sustainably and ethically. But what goes into sustainable footwear, and how can you get an eco friendly product? We explain everything you need to know.
What Makes Shoes Eco Friendly?
The problem with most shoes is they come from fast fashion manufacturers. They aren't designed to last long, and they're trendy so when they're out of style, you don't want to wear them anymore. Eco friendly shoes are designed to last longer. But they're also made with more sustainable practices. Some of them are designed to decompose faster so they spend less time polluting our world. Every step of the manufacturing process has an environmental toll. So creating an eco friendly product has to go all the way back to how the materials for shoes are grown. Are the materials sustainably produced? What does the producer do to limit water needs? Transporting products from one part of the world to another has a huge environmental toll too, so eco friendly products consider that. Eco friendly brands also focus on how the product is created. Is in made in a carbon belching factory? Or does it come from a smaller producer. Some brands also focus on the economic impact that production has on small economies, and they'll put their manufacturing process in the hands of economies that could use a bit of stimulation to help the people living there. All of this works together to help create safer, higher quality shoes that have less of a negative impact on the environment.
What Types of Materials are Eco Friendly?
Some materials are innately more eco-friendly than others, but there are a lot of factors that go into production that can affect this. Still, if you're looking for some shortcuts on what might make footwear more eco-friendly than others, here are some that are good picks.
Shoes from recycled materials are becoming more and more popular. Usually, plastics are broken down and turned into a material that can be used to make shoes. But other things, like cotton and even leather, can be used in recycled shoes too. Generally, the more a shoe is made of recycled materials, the more eco-friendly it is.
So crazy thing, several brands have found a way to turn algae into sustainable footwear. This plant-based footwear is vegan friendly and it's a sustainable way to craft new shoes. Algae grow fast and can be done so in a way that it doesn't negatively impact the environment at all. On top of that, it doesn't take a lot of water to create a durable, long-lasting product.
Hemp is coming back as a respected fabric, and it can be used to create some high-quality products. Hemp needs less water, fewer pesticides, and fewer fertilizers than cotton. Some plants drain the soil of nutrients, but hemp doesn't, so cultivating it doesn't damage the soil. It grows quickly, so it can be turned into new products with a smaller environmental toll. On top of that, hemp is durable, so your hemp sandals will last for years.
These are only a few recognizably sustainable materials. But there are a lot of factors that go into production, and every step has an environmental impact. And just because a material isn't on this list doesn't mean it's not environmentally friendly. There are other materials that can be eco friendly too. It all comes down to the production process.
How Can I Find Eco-Friendly Shoes?
When you're looking for eco-friendly shoes, do your research on the brand. Look to see what the brand guarantees. Read through their blog and their about page and get a good vibe for their promises and their standards. Look to see how much they focus their promise on creating environmentally friendly or ethical products. But you can't stop there. More consumers are paying attention to how their spending impacts the world around them, and many brands like to use this to their advantage. They'll advertise that they're doing good, but that might just be advertising hype. Always google the brand to see reviews from outside sources. Several companies focus on checking to see how environmentally friendly or ethical a brand is. They can help you make informed decisions before you make your purchase.
Don't Fall for the Branding
Major brands like H&M or Zara try to promote ethical or sustainable products, but fail to do any real difference. They use their advertising to help you feel like you're making a smart purchase, but in reality, they're just as fast fashion as ever. That's why you must do thorough research before you pick a brand.
Make Your Shoes Last
The best way you can have eco friendly shoes is by buying from high-quality brands and making them last for years. Work on building a capsule wardrobe of sustainable shoes, and make them last as long as possible. Regularly clean your shoes or take them to a cobbler if needed. Keeping your shoes and clothes out of the landfill is the best thing you can do to limit your fashion impact on the environment.
Eco Friendly Shoes Help Create a Better Future
Opting for eco friendly shoes helps create a better, more sustainable world and a brighter future. Next time you need new shoes, do your research on a high-quality brand and be willing to invest in a product that will last for years to come. Ready to buy some shoes that are good for you, good for the people who make them, and good for the planet? Check out our favorite environmentally-friendly shoes! What do you want to know more about next? Let us know!