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April 23rd, 2009

5 Questions to Ask to Find Eco-Friendly Shoes

Payless celebrated Earth Day yesterday by launching a new line of inexpensive eco-friendly shoes.  Called Zoe&Zac, the new collection features shoes made from organic cotton canvas, linen, hemp, non-PVC foam beds, recycled rubbers, and water-based glues.  Model Summer Rayne Oakes is the spokesperson for the new line, and said, “The most common misconception about sustainable fashion is that it comes in one color and looks one way- neutral, boxy, baggy, shapeless. The best sustainable fashion is invisible and that’s what zoe&zac is all about.” I’m not sure that I want my fashion to be invisible, but I do like the idea that eco-friendly designs are now nearly impossible to distinguish from more traditional options.  As more and more eco-friendly shoes hit the market, it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish real earth-savers from poseurs hoping for a tidy footwear profit.  Here are a few questions to consider when shopping for sustainable shoes.

1) How are they packaged? Yes, you’ll enjoy showing off that name-brand box during your jaunt home, but it’ll likely end up in the landfill before long.  Shoes are especially prone to over-packaging.  Choose shoes with little extraneous packaging.  When you don’t have a choice, try to reuse as many of the packaging materials as possible.  (I keep hoping the shoe manufacturers will put seeds in their packaging, so that boxes and paper will sprout flowers as they compost.)

2) Where are they produced? Shipping costs are a big part of our eco-footprint.  Choosing locally-made products not only promotes local businesses– it also cuts down on the fossil fuels used to transport goods across land and sea. When possible, avoid shoes that are made in distant lands. (Bonus:  If you buy shoes made in the US, you can be sure you’re supporting fair labor practices.)

3) What are they made with? Manufacturers can greatly reduce their environmental impact by selecting sustainable materials.  When you buy products with these eco-friendly components, you’re encouraging businesses to continue going green.  Some designers, like Stella McCartney, are helping to take the grunge out of green by using sustainable materials in their lush designs.  Look for shoes made with linen, recycled tires, silk, organic cotton, cork, bamboo, and other materials that are quick and easy to grow and/or recycled.

4) How long will they last? Rather than buying cheap shoes, spend a little more initially so that you can keep using the same pair for a long time.  Buying high-quality shoes that can be repaired helps cut down on your overall consumption.

5) How are they produced? It’s not always easy to figure out how products are made, especially when they’re not locally produced.  If you do have a chance to research how your shoes are made, it can be a great way to reduce pollution as you encourage eco-friendly processes.  Shoe manufacturing can be extremely harsh on the environment, as dyeing materials and tanning leather can taint nearby watersheds.

Shoefly has many eco-friendly options, including Comedy by Franco Sarto (shown above).  The Comedy’s canvas upper and rubber sole are complimented by braided rope on the espadrille-style heel.

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2 Responses to “5 Questions to Ask to Find Eco-Friendly Shoes”

  1. Topics about Shoes » Archive » 5 Questions to Ask to Find Eco-Friendly Shoes Says:

    [...] Shoeflyer | Shoes, Trends & Reviews placed an interesting blog post on 5 Questions to Ask to Find Eco-Friendly ShoesHere’s a brief overviewPayless celebrated Earth Day yesterday by launching a new line of inexpensive eco-friendly shoes.  Called Zoe&Zac, the new collection features shoes made from organic cotton canvas, linen, hemp, non-PVC foam beds, recycled rubbers, and water-based glues.  Model Summer Rayne Oakes is the spokesperson for the new line, and said, “The most common misconception about sustainable fashion is that it comes in one color and looks one way- neutral, boxy, baggy, shapeless. The best sustainable fashion [...]

  2. Shoe Smitten » Blog Archive » Favorite Reads of the Week Says:

    [...] ShoeFlyer also payed tribute to Earth Day with an article about the 5 questions to ask to find eco-friendly shoes. [...]

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