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There’s no tiptoeing around the truth — fast fashion is destroying our planet. We’ve reached an extreme, creating 92 million tons of clothes-related waste every year. Put into simpler terms, that’s one garbage truck full of discarded clothing and leftover materials incinerated or sent to landfills every second.
Creating an ethical and sustainable wardrobe is a lofty goal but would go miles toward helping to improve climate change. The world of more conscientious fashion has come a long way over the last few years, with many mainstream brands even getting on board. However, finding sustainable shoes is another story entirely.
Hunting for the perfect pair is usually a task in itself, but add your new globally minded parameters, and you’ve got yourself quite a feat. To help you get started on the journey toward an environmentally conscious wardrobe, we’ve rounded up the best brands for sustainable shoes.
Allbirds is such a well-known brand in the world of sustainable shoes they’ve begun to make a name for themselves in mainstream fashion. As a brand, they’re deeply dedicated to the entire sourcing and production process.
They use sustainable materials to meet their carbon neutrality goals and are revamping their sourcing practices. Their plan over the next five years is to push beyond merely offsetting their emissions and reach a true carbon zero business model.
You’ll find shoes and apparel for men, women and kids on their site. They also have a sister page called ReRun, where you can purchase imperfect or used shoes for a discount.
Sneaker gurus David and Fernando teamed up to create a sustainable footwear line that doesn’t sacrifice design or comfort. To encourage customers to wear the shoes for longer, they focus on timeless sneaker styles rather than trendy looks.
On top of using sustainable materials, this Brazilian company prioritizes ethical factories. All of their employees benefit from fair hours and wages. The warehouses and factories use solar power and LED lights to cut energy use.
Cariuma sells men’s and women’s sneakers in several different styles and colors. The box that arrives at your door doubles as the shoebox to cut down on packaging. You can even make any necessary returns in the same box.
The people at Rothy’s pride themselves on their eco-friendly, sustainable materials. One of their products’ primary components is recycled marine plastic, pulled from the ocean and repurposed into soft, durable shoe uppers. Rothy’s also uses foam interiors made from algae, ethically sourced wool and a series of other great options.
An added perk of all their products is that they’re machine washable. Every material used in their shoes and handbags can go through your washing machine. Just be careful to follow the care instructions.
On Rothy’s site, you’ll see shoes for men, women and kids, along with a growing selection of handbags and wallets. They have each basic shoe style you need, so they’re a perfect option for rounding out a capsule wardrobe.
Veja is a French shoe company dedicated to making a difference to the planet as well as in the lives of its employees. A majority of the warehouse employees are from disabled or other underrepresented communities. Staff is on hand to help them integrate into the company and reintegrate them into the workforce, preparing them for other jobs if that’s their goal.
They also pay well above the market average for organic cotton and natural rubber. Each producer has a one-year contract to deal directly with the company, so Veja can guarantee their materials are ethically sourced.
Again, you’ll find shoes for all ages and genders on their website. They can be tricky to spot if you don’t go directly to their website, though. One of the ways they save money to pass on to their workers is by having a $0 advertisement budget.
Like the previous brand of sustainable shoes, Nisolo prioritizes the health of the planet and its employees above its bottom line. They’re committed to offering wages covering 100% of their workers’ living expenses, which is incredibly rare in the fashion industry.
They also provide financial literacy to all of their employees, helping them get established and open bank accounts — a majority of their staff previously never had one. Nisolo also offers fair hours and doesn’t practice child labor. They have three factories, one each in Peru, Mexico and Kenya, where all their products are made.
On their site, you’ll find mainly leather shoes, bags and belts for men and women, though there are a few other offerings. Their leather is reclaimed from the meat industry and kept from landfills.
Sustainable Shoes for the Whole Family
Once you get a feel for what you like in a sustainable shoes brand, you can outfit the rest of your family. Many of these brands have offerings for men and children.
However, for kids, we recommend going in the second-hand direction rather than buying retail. Children grow so fast and need shoe replacements regularly. Buying second-hand saves your wallet and may be more sustainable in the long run than buying from one of these brands.
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