If there's one trend that's here to stay, it's eco-friendly fashion. The fashion world has been seeing the rise of eco-friendly brands and established brands making the switch (at least partially) for the past few years, and it's still going strong. The more we learn about the environmentally-detrimental impacts of the fashion industry, the more we want to make a change. But despite the rise of organic cotton t-shirts and recycled nylon swimsuits, there's one item that tends to be ignored.
When it comes to eco-friendly fashion, the footwear industry is definitely behind. New eco-friendly labels and established brands tend to focus on clothes, leaving a gap where footwear is concerned. Established footwear labels stick to the same manufacturing process that they have for years, and this is where the problem lies.
Traditional footwear manufacturing uses practices and materials that aren't great for the environment. Whether it's leather, plastic, or even canvas, there are plenty of issues that need to be addressed. Though leather is durable, it requires intense chemical treatment before it can be used for shoemaking.
This process is known as tanning and is incredibly harmful to the environment and to the people doing it. Tannery waste kills surrounding wildlife, and the toxic chemicals can severely reduce a human's lifespan. Synthetic shoes aren't a great alternative either, as they heavily rely on plastics and glues that aren't recyclable. This means most synthetic shoes end up taking up space in landfills all over the world, especially cheap shoes that need constant replacement.
So how can you dress responsibly and sustainably from head to toe? Seek out sustainable footwear brands. Though they are fewer than sustainable clothing brands, they do exist. And some conventional brands are slowly but surely introducing shoes made out of recycled and durable fabrics. Look for shoes made of recycled plastic rather than new plastic, wool, sugar cane, bamboo, natural rubber, and water-based glues.
And don't sweat it if none of your current shoes fit the sustainable bill. You don't need to throw them away and build up your shoe collection from scratch. Use them to their full potential and be more mindful when purchasing in the future.
Do your part for the planet, starting from the ground up.