These sneakers and sandals are proof that footwear production can be gentler on the environment.
Footwear is the hardest kind of ethical and sustainable fashion to source. While organic, fair-trade shirts and pants are practically commonplace these days, finding a pair of attractive, comfortable shoes made from recycled or biodegradable materials remains a bigger challenge.
This is slowly shifting and it is long overdue. As a writer for an environmental news site, I get constant PR pitches to cover new brands and startups. Lately I've noticed more emails about footwear, so I thought a roundup of interesting new products might be useful to TreeHugger's readers. These are brief overviews of products that sound great but, except for the final one, I have not tried them personally.
1. Timberland's Brooklyn EK+
Back in 2007 Timberland launched the Earthkeepers Edition footwear, which has repurposed 345 plastic bottles since then. The Brookyn EK+ is its latest iteration, made from 100 percent ReBOTL™ material (recycled plastic bottles) and 34 percent recycled rubber. Laces are recycled PET. Note: Only available in men's sizes.
2. The Pacific Shoes
These slick shoes are made entirely from recycled materials. They feature the BLOOM plant-based foam that's becoming increasingly popular and provides cushioning minus the fossil fuels. The upper is chrome-free recycled leather, which uses 90 percent less water than standard leather processing. Laces are organic cotton. One percent of sales will be donated to the Ocean Cleanup Project. Currently on Kickstarter (more than fully funded).
3. Vivobarefoot's Primus Lite II
This shoe is Vivo's initial effort to phase out fossil fuels and use all sustainable materials within the next two years. These shoes are made from a corn-based vegan polymer, natural rubber, and BLOOM plant-based foam (harvested from pond algae), although it should be noted that these materials comprise only 30 percent of the shoe's construction. The rest is still virgin polyester and polyurethane.
4. Sanuk's Yoga Sling Sandals
Perfect for summertime, these comfy and casual sandals feature 'anatomically perfect' footbeds made out from repurposed yoga mats and soft, stretchy knit uppers that promise to keep your feet firmly in place – none of that flip-flop slapping that gets annoying after a while.
5. Pons Avarcas Sandals
It's been 5 years since Margaret wrote about Pons Avarcas sandals on TreeHugger, but the company is as hot as ever. Its open-toe, flat sandals come in many colors, with either a slip-on back strap or an ankle buckle. The traditional style uses ethically-sourced leather, but the company recently launched a vegan model. Both feature a grippy rubber sole. I've owned a pair for a year now and they're my all-time favorite sandals – supremely comfortable, versatile, and good-looking. Learn more here.