Ballpark Estimate: Men’s: $45 to $160+; Women’s: $65 to $865
If you think you have to sacrifice style if you want to wear eco-friendly shoes, think again. The latest crop of socially-responsible footwear is designed to fit even people with fashion-forward tastes, so you can look good and feel good, too, about the choices you make.
Shoes That Are Good for the Planet
The traditional shoe industry takes quite a toll on the environment, using multiple resources, causing pollution and producing toxic waste. That’s why a growing number of large and small manufacturers are seeking alternatives that minimize the negative effects but still appeal to people who want modern and attractive choices when it comes to sneakers, sandals, pumps and boots. In addition, many high-end designers are jumping on the trend, too, creating eco-friendly shoes and other accessories using more sustainable materials.
What’s in a Name
The term “eco-friendly” shoe can encompass a wide range of styles and materials, but basically fall into two broader categories. The first is vegan, or vegetarian, shoes, and the second are those shoes made from animal products but that still make an effort to take a positive environmental approach in the manufacturing process. Under these two broader umbrellas, whether you select organic shoes, recycled material, toxin-free, synthetic and/or socially responsible options, there are some basic factors to consider that will make a difference in the look, feel and overall green impact of the one you choose. Also keep in mind that some green choices are have much more of a positive impact on the environment than others, and that there is also a lot of overlap when it comes to different terms.
Some of the things you should ask when shopping for green shoes includes: what material(s) the shoe is made from, whether the manufacturer has used any chemicals, what type of glue is used, and where the shoe is produced. These answers, and more, all affect the carbon footprint of the shoe.
Here are some of the popular eco-friendly shoe options available today and a broad overview of each:
You’ve probably heard all of the hype about vegan shoes, which have become quite popular lately. These are a great alternative for people who want non-leather, cruelty-free products. Vegetarians generally select Cost For Eco-friendly Shoesthis option, as do people who support animal rights. But even if you do eat meat and aren’t politically active, you still may want to consider these shoes, which are typically made of recycled, nontoxic materials that are biodegradable and therefore, kinder to the environment. You may already know that the process of making traditional leather shoes relies on slaughtering animals for their skins to make the leather. But you might not realize that the slaughterhouses are said to contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than even the automotive industry. This means that picking a vegan shoes is an easy way you can make a real difference to the planet. Further, many animal-friendly materials have the look of real leather, but without the negative effects.
If you think you might be interested in vegan shoes, here are some of the materials that typically fall under this heading:
Some vegan shoes are made of natural latex rubber, which comes from rubber trees in the Amazon. The trees are bled to get the latex, so they don’t need to be chopped down. This is an important distinction when it comes to preserving natural resources. Further, when you buy shoes made from this material, you indirectly support these forests and help keep them around. Better yet, most rubber shoes, latex or not, are waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about them getting wet!
Recycled shoes are Cost For Eco-friendly Shoesalso very in vogue right now, which benefits the environment on two levels. First, they don’t cause much pollution in the making, since the material is already available. Second, they prevent the material from going into a landfill and taking up energy and space. One creative sneaker manufacturer uses anything from men’s suits, jeans, blankets and even old tires to create unusual, and ethical, footwear. Other companies are taking a similar approach. An added benefit is that when you buy recycled shoes, you are likely to find an attractive, yet offbeat, look that will make allow you to express your individuality.
If leather, rubber and recycled shoes aren’t your thing, perhaps a synthetic option will appeal to your senses. These are shoes made of man-made materials. Not only are they animal friendly, but they usually cost less than traditional leather. While it’s true that some of the less expensive synthetic materials don’t breathe as well as real leather, they can be a good option for a trendy shoe that you don’t expect to wear every day.
Other Vegan Materials
You can also find non-leather shoes made from a variety of vegan materials, including canvas, hemp, polyurethane, rubber, Spandex and organic cotton. Further, if you like the look of leather or suede, search for blends that simulate the same effect but don’t use animal material in the process. No matter what type of material you select, keep in mind that many animal-friendly shoes are hand-made, with lots of special detailing. Yet they also tend to have a very minimalistic look that keeps them clean and modern.
Other Eco-Friendly Options
If vegan shoes don’t fit your feet or your taste, with a little extra effort you can still find some other more conservative options that are in their own way are doing their part to help protect the planet.
If a leather substitute just won’t do it for you, there are some natural leathers that you can select from which are not chemically treated. Look for shoes that are vegetable tanned, since these are organic and will disintegrate back into the soil. Also shop for styles that are formaldehyde-free and don’t use dangerous chemicals, glues or dyes. In addition, if you don’t condone the use of animal hides, you can choose shoes that recycle existing leather from other products, such as old car seats, so no new resources are used. This will allow you to make a difference without having to completely change your mode of shopping.
If you must buy more “traditional” shoes, at least shop around for manufacturers that go an extra step to support fair labor practices. You can expect to pay a little more perhaps, since fair labor comes at a cost, but the trade off is worth it, since it means you can make a big impact on human rights and the quality of life in third-world countries. In addition, you can learn about companies own energy consumption. Many are publicizing their efforts to recycle and conserve resources in their day-to-day operations.
Not a Perfect World
For every vegan and eco-friendly proponent who will tell you all of the benefits buying green shoes will make, you can also find people who will present the negatives involved. For instance, while vegetable tanned leather disintegrates back into the soil, synthetic materials can be damaging to the earth. Further the industrial cropping of cotton, hemp and other materials can leave a large environmental footprint. Therefore, you need to do your research and weigh all of the facts when making a decision on what to buy and when and how.
Let the Label Be Your Guide
With all of the shoe choices out there now, and all of the details to consider when it comes to the impact they leave, shopping for the right pair is more complicated than ever before. Now several popular shoe manufacturers are doing the work for you, helping you to weed through the key facts and weigh their impact. To this end, they are posting labels on their shoe boxes that spell out all of the details of the production process so you can make an educated decision. For instance, one company tells you the energy that was expended to create the shoes. This includes the materials, transportation and labor used. Another manufacturer uses a scale of 1 to 10 to rate just how much of a negative impact the production of the shoes made on the environment. This empowers consumers to be able to fully exercise their personal and social preferences with each pair they buy.
What It Costs
If you wonder whether eco-friendly shoes cost more than more conventional options, the answer is a definite yes and no! There are so many factors involved that it really depends on each individual pair, as well as the materials they use and where they were actually produced.
If you are looking for a cheap pair, then yes, synthetic leather shoes and other vegan styles can actually cost less than leather ones. This is because the materials they are made from are less expensive Cost For Eco-friendly Shoesthan leather, and the production process, if they are mass made, can be less expensive, too. That’s why some of the mall chain stores are able to offer some very reasonable options. That being said, it is important to note that the cheaper options are not usually made of the same quality materials that some of the more expensive green shoes offer. Therefore, it you plan to buy a pair of green shoes because you want to conserve resources, you will want to consider buying a pair that will last for quite a while.
Here are some typical prices you can expect to pay for good quality men’s green shoes:
- Men’s hemp flip flop – $45
- Vegan sneaker – $50+
- Men’s outdoor rugged eco-friendly leather work boot made from partially recycled material – $160+
For women’s green shoes, here are some general price ranges:
- Vegan high heels – $65+
- Green loafers – $80+
- Designer vegan sandals and pumps – from $275 to $865
Whatever you pick for your next pair of shoes, look for styles that are classic and won’t go out of date anytime soon. Also look for high-quality workmanship and manufacturing practices that support human rights and protect the environment. Finally, comfort and wearability is key. With the push to save gas and conserve resources in today’s modern world, you can expect to be walking quite a lot in your shoes. Therefore, do your research and choose well.