Hemp shoe

One of my readers asked me how to avoid leather in shoes.  This is a great question! Avoiding leather in shoes can be challenging, especially for those who live in cold climates or have sensitive feet that are irritated by petroleum-based synthetic shoe materials.

Simple Shoes is one company that makes “shoes for a happy planet.”  The average shoe takes 1,000 years to biodegrade, whereas many of the Simple Shoes will biodegrade in 20 years.  The company aims for 100% sustainability and offers shoes made from a combination of cotton, hemp, cork, silk, natural rubber, wool, coconut, bamboo, recycled plastic, recycled rubber, or eco-certified leather and suede.  They also produce a vegan line of shoes and bags.

By the way, this is not an advertisement for Simple Shoes.  I’ve never tried their products and can’t vouch for their comfort or durability. I just want you to know that there are alternatives. Safer products are almost always available for whatever you need! Just keep looking and asking questions till you find healthier items.  BTW, you can read customer reviews for Simple Shoes at zappos.com.

If you can’t avoid leather and can afford the prices, you can buy eco-certified leather and suede, which is available from Simple Shoes, or Silver Tannery Rated leather products from the Earthkeepers™ line from Timberland.  Eco-certified and Silver Tannery Rated means that the leather is produced in a more sustainable way.  These are just two examples; there are other companies making earth friendly shoes as well.

It’s not a question of one ‘right’ solution for everyone. Each individual will need to consider items they purchase in light of their particular situation and genuine needs as well as the overall earth friendly, sustainability factor.  Someone who lives in Finland will require different footwear than someone who lives in Hawai’i, for example.

A new way of shopping

Clearly, it’s no longer viable to buy products based on our old habits and preferences. A new way of shopping is in order, which requires taking some time for research and a willingness to try new products.  When you find a sustainable product that works well for you, spread the word.  Doing so will save time for others.  Your generosity of spirit will be rewarded when others respond in a like manner.  We need to create new chains of word-of-mouth and blog-to-blog eco-marketing that circumvent the standard, wasteful techniques.

On the short run, it may be more expensive to buy sustainable products, but let’s keep an eye on the bigger picture.  What can be more costly than developing one of the many conditions—like cancer and allergies—that are on the rise due, in part, to environmental pollution?  What could be more costly and devastating than having increasing numbers of children with early-onset chronic illness?  In part, you can offset the extra cost by buying fewer items.  Not to be a killjoy, but no one actually needs a whole closet full of shoes.

In a new eco-friendly, green world, there will be earth friendly products available for everyone at reasonable prices, but it will take time to get there. Imagine a PayLess Shoe store that doesn’t stink of plastic and chemical toxins!  Some of us will have to pay more now until larger markets are created for sustainable products.

No one would intentionally poison themselves.  As more environmental information becomes available and greater dialog ensues, people will gradually learn to make better choices for themselves and the planet.

“Rubber” flip-flops

It’s the height of summer in my part of the world and local stores are advertising zori flip-flops as “rubber” slippers for as low as $2.59. What does “rubber” mean in this context?

According to Wikipedia, “most flip-flops are made with polyurethane, which comes from crude oil. This material is a number seven resin and cannot usually be recycled in small amounts.” Real “natural” rubber flip-flops usually cost around $15-20, but some companies now offer flip-flops made from recycled tires at a more reasonable price.

While it may not sound fashionable, if you can, it’s better to buy sturdier shoes that will last longer rather than disposable ones like cheap flip-flops.  As unchíc as it may seem, try to wear your shoes until they are well worn.

Have you found eco-friendlier shoes?  Do you have any suggestions for avoiding leather shoes?

If you liked this article, please share it with others.  Thanks very much, Sandra