We all know about the clothes waste problem, but did you know that shoes are one of the worst culprits? Of the 20 billion pairs of shoes produced globally each year, 95% end up in landfill sites and it can take them 30 to 40 years to decompose. While wearing the sneakers in your closet for as long as possible is the best thing you can do for the planet, the second-best is ensuring any new purchases take into account eco-conscious credentials.
Luckily, there’s now a ton of options to choose from. Whether it’s vegan kicks, recycled materials, or clever carbon capture initiatives, the innovation in this area is huge. Naturally, big brands have got in the action with Adidas, Reebok, and Superga all investing in greener materials. However, for a fully sustainable buy, it’s better to invest in a brand that is totally eco-conscious across the board. With the huge range of sustainable sneakers out there, why wear anything else?
Counting Kate Middleton and Emily Ratajkowski as fans, VEJA was arguably the brand that put sustainable sneakers on the mainstream map. The B Corp certified company (the highest eco accolade) makes vegan trainers from a variety of green materials including B-Mesh made from recycled plastic bottles, fair-trade, and ethically sourced cotton and wild rubber. VEJA is passionate about working directly with farmers and local co-operatives, and according to the brand, it costs five times more to produce than big brand sneakers.
Designed in Barcelona and made in Portugal, SAYE creates vegan sneakers from bio-based, organic, and recycled materials. For instance, the uppers of their shoes are made from a leather-look material called Corn Vegan Napa. It’s PETA-approved, derived from renewable resources, and biodegradable. Every time you purchase a pair of their shoes, SAYE plants two trees. At present, they’ve planted over 200,000 trees.
Founded in San Francisco in 2015 by biotech engineer Joey Zwillinger and former footballer Tim Brown, Allbirds had early success when Leonardo DiCaprio came on board as an investor. A 100% carbon neutral business, Allbirds specializes in making sustainable shoes that are also supremely comfortable. This is down to the use of superfine merino wool — sourced in Zwillinger’s home country of New Zealand, processing wool uses 60% less energy than the materials used in typical synthetic shoes.
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Much like their name implies, Nothing New makes sneakers entirely from recycled or upcycled materials. This includes post-consumer recycled plastic alongside recycled fishing nets, rubber, and cotton. To complete the circle, Nothing New will offer a $20 discount on any new pair of sneakers when you return an old pair. Nothing New breaks said sneakers down and reuses the materials once again — smart.
Loved by Meghan Markle and Reese Witherspoon, this Swedish brand is the second oldest sneaker manufacturer in the world. In recent times, they’ve had a planet-friendly makeover with its range now coming under an Eco Essentials Initiative. For example, they reinvented their ‘60s tennis shoe with fully recyclable and recycled materials.
The name Yatay — a palindrome that reads the same both ways — is a nod to how this brand takes care of everything from the beginning to the end and back again. Handmade in Italy, Yatay uses an array of better materials including recycled plastic, tree pulp and recycled rubber from old tires. Yatay is also on a tree-planting mission. They plant a tree for every pair of sneakers sold and you can even track your tree by entering the unique code printed on the back of the shoes.
The founders of Rio de Janeiro-based Cariuma bonded over their mutual love of board sports and their home country of Brazil. They’re passionate about making conscious sneakers using materials like organic fair-trade cotton, natural rubber, and leather from gold-rated tanneries that don’t impact deforestation. To cut down on superfluous packaging, the brand ships the sneakers simply in a shoebox, nothing else.
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