First, considering that most of the shoe material is still there when they are thrown away — practically all the material and all the scrap in shoes is “wasted”. But, of course in the meanwhile, they’ve got a lot of use.
Take a look at the cost of the shoe in terms of the environmental impact. A plastic-based shoe? Complex plastics are glued together. Hard to pick apart, so not good. A leather shoe? Although the tanning process is horrific, environmentally, the leather shoe will start to degrade pretty quickly.
Nike has gone a long way toward recycling shoes. There’s much interesting information in the link below.
Now we get to the part that many women are not going to want to hear: The really ecologically disasterous shoes are high-end women’s shoes. They cost a fortune, and very often sit in the closet for years, practically unused. Sorry ladies, this is consumerism at its worst. Fashionable women have huge amounts of unproductive investment tied up in shoes. It’s even a source of bragging.
The ecological load is non-obvious, because a good part the cost of high-end fashionable shoes is human labor. That may seem like a replenishable resource, but it’s nothing like, for example, trees, which throughout their lives help the environment. If a pair of shoes cost $200, then the labor costs might be $50 (Including the salespeople, shipping, etc.) At a small salary, that’s maybe 5 hours’ of someone’s environmental footprint. Then to add insult to injury, the fashionable high-end shoes mostly sit in a closet. So that’s practically 100% waste. And then there’s the cost of storage. It’s difficult to even see the shoes as objects of art — since they very likely will be unused and barely remembered, even by the owner.
The whole process of making, selling, and storing fashionable high-end shoes is a collosal, shameful waste of resources. (And we won’t even mention the damage heels cause to posture!)
Don’t worry too much about the ecological problems of high-tech hiking shoes or air-cushioned athletic shoes!
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