Do you know fashion waste is one of the highest contributing scraps around the world? Eco-warriors often highlight how we can recycle clothes, but what about shoes? Unlike clothes, where vintage is now a fashion class on its own, most of us deign to purchase a pair of second-hand sneakers when our current training kicks start to wear out.
From renowned shoe brands to startup footwear companies, ‘green’ shoes have been developed to join in this battle towards sustainability. As consumers, our dollar is our vote and by casting our vote for sustainable brands, we are taking a clear stance at the right side of the fence.
Here’s eight eco-friendly shoe brands that prove you can rock your kicks and at the same time, feel good knowing that you are part of the solution towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
1. Adidas x Parley
Adidas’ campaign cheers “Impossible is Nothing”. Taking that overachieving spirit from sports to sustainability, the global brand partners Parley for the Oceans where both brands aim to address environmental threats towards the oceans, specifically plastic pollution.
How it works is that plastic trash collected from beaches and coastal communities is spun into threads and used to make the laces, heel linings, and sock liner covers for this eco-conscious line of shoes. Adidas x Parley training wear is made of at least 75% upcycled plastic trash.
To give the brand further credit, the production process uses low energy and low water printing methods without compromising the durability and quality of the product.
2. Nike Flyknit
With their “Just Do It” attitude, Nike has also embarked on its own sustainability journey. The giant sports and lifestyle conglomerate has implemented multiple programs and technologies to pave its way towards zero waste.
Its groundbreaking cleantech endeavors include Flyknit technology and ColorDry technology. Flyknit technology ensures minimal fabric wastage through a precise cutting process, and ColorDry technology reduces water consumption during its fabric dyeing. It has been reported that they have saved more than 20 million litres of water. Three cheers to Nike!
Nike’s eco-conscious programme ropes in the consumers too. In its ‘Reuse-A-Shoe‘ program, Nike collects used shoes and transforms them into the Nike Grind—an exclusive branding for their recycled scraps, which will be reused to make more new apparel.
Looking forward, Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ initiative has set higher goals—to achieve 100% renewable energy in its facilities by 2025, to reduce carbon emission by 30% before 2030, and divert 99% of footwear manufacturing waste from the landfills.
3. Reebok NPC UK Cotton + Corn
With the growing popularity of vegan food in our dining options, Reebok is here to spice up our footwear experience by introducing vegan shoes as an alternative. Their vegan shoes are made from anything that is farm-grown; the uppers from 100% cotton, the sole from corn, and the removable insoles from castor bean oil. Reebok’s commitment to sustainability extends to its packaging, which is made 100% out of recyclable material.
Reebok envisioned creating shoes that are fully biodegradable and completely compostable. As Reebok Research and Development manager, Bill McInnis puts it, “One day, you could bury it in your backyard, and it will go away in a couple of years.”
4. Converse Renew
The sustainability space is not only limited to the purveyors of sports. Converse Renew is the brand’s innovative line that marries style and eco-consciousness in a pair of sneakers that pays homage to the spirit of renewal.
Converse Renew partners with UK commercial recycling company, First Mile, that helps recycle plastic bottles and processes them into the yarns, which in turn, is used to make the shoe’s uppers.
In another sustainability-focused collaboration, Converse partners up with Beyond Retro to produce a new collection, Renew Denim, that turns discarded denim into fashionable footwear. Due to the nature of the denim-cutting process, each pair is distinctive, original, and boasts an exclusivity that you just cannot get with mass produced sneakers. Sizes run from toddlers to adults which means you can now don a matchy pair with your kid!
5. Nothing New
As the name suggests, Nothing New uses nothing new in creating its shoes. Every element has been meticulously curated to be a tree-hugger—its uppers, laces, and insole lines are made from 100% recycled material. Interestingly, its in-built support is made with recycled fishing nets!
‘Nothing New’ sustainability practices extends beyond its production. Customers can participate in their eco-friendly movement by sending back their pre-loved Nothing New sneakers and enjoy a $20 off their next purchase. The worn shoes are then given a new lease of life—refurbished for donation or disassembled for ‘reincarnation’ into a new pair.
The brand pledges its support to a carbon-neutral program with the ultimate goal to eliminate as much carbon output as possible.
6. New Balance x Reformation
Breaking fearlessly into the sustainability arena, New Balance collaborates with Reformation to launch its eco-conscious line of shoes .
Developed for eco-fashionable consumers, most of the uppers are made from recycled polyester while the sole inserts are made from algae and Eva foam, and coloured with soy-based ink. Unlike traditional footwear which uses solvent-based adhesives, here, water-based adhesives are applied to secure each component of the shoes. Minimalist packaging is also adopted to lessen paper wastage.
As a part of RE100, New Balance is committed to achieve 100% renewable power by 2050. Furthermore, the English brand has set its goals to attain 75% and 100% renewable electricity by 2020 and 2025 respectively.
7. Vivobarefoot x Bloom
The ingenious brand collaboration between Vivobarefoot and Bloom, has turned pond scum into a high-performance foam. The origins of the Ultra III shoe series are environmentally-harmful algae from polluted waterways. The algae is collected, dried, made into plastic compound pellets, and enlarged into flexible foam that goes into the shoe’s construction. Also known as algae foam, they make stunningly incredible footwears due to their flexibility, durability, and thermoplastic traits.
Vivobarefoot has set its goal to achieve 100% sustainable materials by 2021, across their product range through the use of natural, recycled and bio-based material.
Allbirds, a San Francisco-based startup shoemaker, is taking their innovation for vegan shoes up a notch. Their shoes are lined with soft merino wool in its interior, covered with eucalyptus tree fibre at the exterior, and finished with sugarcane in its sole. The product is thoroughly soaked in nature’s elements, making it a highly desirable eco-friendly footwear option.
The packaging comprises 90% recyclable cardboard and is highly multi-functional. It resembles a shoebox, doubles up as a shopping bag, and triples up as mailer.
To-date, Allbirds has attained its carbon-neutral position. Discontented with the status quo, Allbirds is imposing a carbon tax, Allbirds Carbon Fund, to ensure its carbon emission remains low. They are also investing aggressively in regenerative agriculture, especially in areas where they obtain resources in their production.
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