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Sustainable Footwear- The Right Choice

Consumers today are more aware of their impact on the world than ever before, and that extends to the products they buy. More specifically, consumers are increasingly concerned with things like sustainability, fair labor practices, and a product’s effect on their own personal well-being. After all, why would anyone want to support an industry known for its sweatshops, pollution-producing factories, and unsafe working conditions? Fortunately, this shift in consumer awareness has also opened up new opportunities for brands that prioritize ethical manufacturing processes. In fact, the demand for sustainable footwear is growing so quickly that many see it as the next big trend in the fashion industry. But what exactly does “sustainable footwear” mean? How can you tell if your shoes are being produced sustainably? And what are some of the good, bad, and ugly examples of sustainable footwear out there today? Keep reading to find out…


What does “sustainable” footwear mean?

The term “sustainable footwear” generally refers to any type of footwear manufactured in a way that helps preserve the environment. This can include using renewable (rather than non-renewable) resources, minimizing the use of toxic materials, and maintaining a responsible approach to waste management. Sustainable footwear is about looking at the bigger picture and considering how each step in the production process affects the environment. Now, sustainable is a broad term that covers several different types of production styles. There are feature-driven, style-specific certifications like Fair Trade and Vegan, which are well-known among consumers. Then there are more general terms like “organic” and “eco-friendly,” which are really just marketing terms that don’t really mean much.


The good: Finding platforms that practice sustainable manufacturing practices

While sustainable footwear can be hard to pin down, there are a few brands you can trust to produce their products in a way that minimizes their impact on the environment. Start by looking for these common sustainable footwear manufacturing platforms:

 - Organic: You probably know that organic produce is grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. But did you know that organic footwear is also sustainable? This certification indicates that the production process involved no toxic materials, no synthetic dyes, and no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Instead, the shoes are made with renewable, non-toxic materials such as cork, Tyres, and wool.

- Fair Trade: The Fair Trade certification is a great way to ensure that the workers behind your shoes are being fairly compensated for their labor. Keep in mind, though, that this certification goes way beyond just footwear it applies to many different product types, including coffee, rice, and tea. So, while it’s not the best example of sustainable footwear, it’s still a good place to start.

- Vegan: Vegan footwear might seem too good to be true, but it’s not. This certification indicates that no animal-based products were used in the production process. This means no animal hides, glue, dyes, or other materials derived from animals were used at any point in the manufacturing process.


The bad: So-called “greenwashed” brands

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are as progressive as they claim to be. In some cases, brands that are trying to cash in on the sustainable trend are actually doing more harm than good. These so-called “greenwashed” brands claim to be environmentally friendly, but they’re actually just greenwashing their image to sell more products. Greenwashing is the practice of deceiving customers about a product’s environmental impact. Greenwashing is more than just slapping an “eco-friendly” label on a product. It’s an entire marketing strategy that claims certain products are better for the environment than they actually are. Greenwashing is rampant in the footwear industry. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to dupe customers by slapping a label on a product, even if the product itself isn’t sustainable.


The ugly: Shoddy products made without any regard for their environmental impact

Unfortunately, all of the examples above are actually great, but there are also plenty of bad examples out there, too. For instance, lots of brands produce cheap, low-quality, synthetic materials that are extremely polluting to produce. They’re not really sustainable, even if they claim to be. These types of brands really only care about one thing: profit. They care about their bottom line, not about the environment or their workers. These companies produce cheap, low-quality products that are likely to break or fall apart. They don’t care about the environment and they don’t care about their workers. They just want to turn a profit as quickly as possible, even if it means making a sub-par product and polluting the environment.



Thanks to the growing demand for sustainable products, there are plenty of examples of good, sustainable footwear out there. Organic, Fair Trade, and Vegan footwear are all great examples of sustainable footwear. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of bad and ugly examples out there, too. Greenwashing brand is a major problem in the footwear industry. And there are also plenty of brands that produce cheap, low-quality, synthetic materials that are polluting. Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to be a sustainable shopper, but it takes a bit of research to determine which brands are actually worth your money.


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