Eco friendly shoes are a new name for an old concept. Early footwear was all made by hand using natural products readily available and easily recyclable. Many cultures around the globe have laced and shaped various types of animal skins into footwear. Plant materials, including bamboo, rice straw and many types of wood, have also been used throughout the history of shoes.
Thankfully as far as our soles are concerned, shoes have become a lot sturdier and more complex since the days of salmon skin boots and wooden clogs, but this advancement has come at great ecological cost.
Luckily, environmentally conscious consumers are driving change within the industry. Many large brand names now have an eco shoe product and some companies are dedicated entirely to producing earth friendly footwear.
If you’re looking for eco friendly shoes, here are ten brands or categories from which to choose. They all feature something in their construction that make them more environmentally friendly.
(If the shoes listed here are out of stock or discontinued, look for subsequent generations of footwear from the company as they will likely inherit their eco friendly attributes.)
* Simple Shoes – This is a UK based company that retails their earth friendly shoes in many countries including parts of Europe, New Zealand and the US. They use any number of recycled materials in their products including recycled car tires, recycled carpet padding, cork, bamboo, coconut shells, and recycled wool. I found their website informative and their tone extremely down-to-earth. This video snippet highlights the company:
* Neuaurashoes – A US based company that distributes to stores across the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. They were founded with the intention of delivering fashionable footwear that does not use any animal products and is gentle on the environment. Their Brazil-based factory is part of a union of environmentally conscious footwear producers and they have managed to find ways to recycle 68% of their waste from production. The company is featured in this news clip:
* Timberland Earthkeepers – Timberland has created an entire line of shoes that is recyclable. The components are largely made up of earth-friendly materials such as recycled rubber, organic cotton, and PET (recycled plastic bottles). When your shoes have reached the end of their lifetime, simply ship them back to Timberland where they will disassemble and recycle them again.
* New Balance 070 – even companies that specialize in highly technical footwear, like New Balance, are getting on the green bandwagon. They have released a trail runner made with recycled materials and reduced waste production.
* If you’re looking for running shoes, Runner’s World identified three shoes as the greenest on the planet in their November 2008 issue: Nike Air Pegasus 25, Brooks Trance 8, and End Stumptown. More recently, Brooks released the Green Silence shoe, which has 75% post-consumer recycled shoe materials, 100% recycled packaging, 100% post-consumer recycled shoe laces and half as many parts as comparable products, which means less material and less shipping.
* Mohop – based in the US, Mohop has designed a basic wooden sandal that can be modified for most occasions by lacing a ribbon to match your mood through patent-pending elastic loops. Mohop sandals are a true example that eco shoes can be sexy.
* TerraPlana – Besides focusing on reducing waste and using recycled materials, TerraPlana provides an eco-matrix with each of their products. This provides the consumer with an index rating for things like efficiency of production, use of eco-friendly materials, and durability.
Thanks to increasing consumer demand for Earth friendly products, most shoe manufacturers are looking at ways to create more eco friendly shoes by reducing the waste and energy associated with production. However, as consumers we have to weigh our purchasing decisions wisely. For instance, some brands use non-toxic glues, but these glues might require more heat and therefore more energy to cure. Sometimes it can be a tough balance to make, but any improvement over the status quo is a good thing.
Check out this video for some really innovative eco friendly shoes made out of newspaper!