Shoes are some of the most chemical and process intensive accessories made. It is difficult to balance fit and function (they are expected to survive a lot of abuse) with ecological concerns. There are some shoe companies that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint by producing shoes using renewable materials like hemp, recycled rubber, cork and biodegradable dyes. Additionally, they are working to use more benign glues and less overall materials in general. Balancing all this with providing a shoe that lasts long (also a means of decreasing a carbon footprint) is the key because natural materials and biodegradable glues don’t always last as long as chemicals that are designed to resist deterioration. Some companies making strides are: Simple, Terra Plana, Earth, and Vivo Barefoot. Check out Treehugger.com’s archives for more shoe options.
One thing that shoe companies can do to reduce their environmental impact is to work together to demand more environmentally safe and sustainable materials used for producing their shoes. If big companies like Nike, REI, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, and other big companies demanded sustainable materials it would put pressure on their suppliers to switch to environmentally friendly products. Shoe companies could also make the soles of their shoes from 100 percent recycled rubber, use as many recycled materials in the rest of the shoe as possible, use organic materials, get their energy from renewable sources, and aim to offset all the pollution they create.
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