If someone said they bought eco friendly shoes would your first thought be I’ll bet they’re cute or stylish? I’m guessing probably not.
It always seemed to me that environmentally friendly shoes had a certain style of their own which I usually found to be a little clunky. I’m happy to say things are changing. Some of the styles I am seeing are cute and fun. I want green but I want style too.
So, if you are looking for eco friendly shoes what can you expect? Well, just about any kind of shoe from sandals, dress, casual, atletic or work shoe and as high style or functional as any conventional shoes.
What Makes A Shoe Eco Friendly?
It used to be when you said something was eco friendly it would mean that it was made with sustainable or recycled materials and possibly manufactured in environmentally responsible ways like using water soluable glues or conserving resourses during production. Today, it can also mean that something was ethically produced or even vegan. I like to call it being animal, people and earth friendly. That to me is the best definiton of being eco friendly but it certainly is not everyone’s so as you shop you will find wide variations.
For the most part it comes back to the materials and today shoe manufacturers are using more materials than ever in their designs opening up more styles and choices to keep a shoe gal happy. If you haven’t looked for eco friendly shoes I think you will be surprised at what you will find. Here are some of the more popular materials being used:
Organic Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo, Wool, Cork, Rubber
Recycled Rubber, Recycled Fabrics, Recycled Plastics
Biodegradeable Synthetic Leather and Vegetable Tanned Leather
You will also find shoes made with non-toxic water-based glues and safer fabric dyes.
That’s the good news, the bad news is they are more expensive but no more so than any other high quality shoes. You just won’t be finding these shoes at most department or discount stores.
There are reasons shoes you can buy shoes so cheaply:
- cheap materials – leather is heavily processed with chemicals and can be inexpensive
- cheap construction
- cheap labor – often equals poor working conditions and unfair wages
If you are on the path to being green buying shoes that are more environmentally responsible is a step in the right direction. (Sorry, my small, make that very small attempt at humor.)
Where to Shop
I know shoe shopping on-line can be a pain but that is where the selections are the best. If you live in or near a big city you may find local stores that carry eco friendly shoes. Look into any stores that carry higher quality shoes and you might get lucky.
I really prefer to shop direct with the small companies but they don’t always have the easiest or cheapest return policies and as you know sometimes you have to try on several different sizes to find one that fits right.
My best suggestion when you start shopping on-line for eco friendly shoes is to look for stores that offer free shipping both ways so if you have to return or exchange them you won’t have to pay for shipping. There a few larger on-line shops that carry green shoes that do this:
Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/eco-vegetarian-shoes) They have a big selection, free shipping and a great exchange/return policy.
Planet Shoes (http://www.planetshoes.com/) Good selection, free shipping over $49 and free return shipping in most states.
Online Shoes (http://www.onlineshoes.com/eco-friendly-s_id26) Also good selection, free shipping, exchanges and returns plus 110% price guarantee.
These stores carry shoes made by some of the smaller manufacturer’s like Simple Shoes (pictured above) who is committed to becoming 100% sustainable and while they all have good selections you will almost always find the best selections on the individual companies website.
One more addition worth checking is from Payless’s Zoe and Zac’s eco friendly line (pictured on the right). These shoes came out a couple of years ago and I hesitated adding them because they are inexpensive shoes that like most probably won’t last and I was concerned about the labor involved. I came across information that changed my mind somewhat written by Summer Oakes Raines, a big proponent for eco friendly fashion, for Treehugger.
Basically it explains Payless’s commitment to addressing ehtical labor practices along with trying to make more eco friendly shoes available at affordable prices.
The styles are cute and affordable. You would never know they are an eco friendly shoe. I’m not sure how long they will last but I think some of the bigger companies are starting to move in the right direction.
As you shop for eco friendly shoes read the descriptions of materials used. When shopping for anything labeled green you want to know what makes a product eco friendly. Since there seems to be diffferent ideas about what it means to be green find out what the manufacturer considers to be eco friendly. It could mean something as simple as using some recycled materials in the soles of their shoes to making their shoes from all eco friendly materials. The choice is yours then as to how green you want to be too.