What is sustainable footwear?
Footwear can be considered as ‘sustainable’ if they are manufactured responsibly by embracing biodegradable or reusable raw material, minimizing the energy use, implementing ethical processes, practicing fair trade supply chain, cutting the release of harmful substances to the environment, designing the product that is durable and is easy to dispose of.
Why do we need sustainable footwear?
We have been heavily drawn towards the fast fashion shoe market, where the products are produced in mass; they tend to have an extremely short-term or low quality. The footwear we buy contributes a lot of waste before and after the use of the products. And, The overall making a shoe is associated with this process involves the following :
Difficult to recycle
The major problem in the mass-produced footwear industry is the recyclability of waste generated by them. An average footgear contains a complex blend of 15 components like leather, rubber, textile, polymers, and metallic materials, that are put together and bonded to such extent that these different materials make it difficult to perform thorough separation and recycling of material sustainably. Lastly, they get to the landfill.
Overconsumption of natural resources
The footwear that we purchase is made of non-renewable resources; hence, we need to minimize the global consumption of natural resources. Also, they are made of toxic materials and chemical substances that cause harm to the environment.
The demand for fast fashion engage in the unethical practice of exploitation of the workers in this industry; they are often underpaid and not given a rightfully safe environment and facilities to work. Many reports talk of worker intoxication due to Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC), like Toluene and Formaldehyde, generated from latex, neoprene, and adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process.
Impacting Toxicological Footprint
Usage of harmful substances with legal restrictions. There are harmful substances used in the manufacturing of these footwear including the raw materials used to like, leather, dye, synthetic fabrics, rubber soles, adhesives, and azo dyes are used during shoe-making.
Impacting Water footprint
High water usage while making shoes as well as wastewater released into the environment untreated, causing land and water contamination.
Factors to be considered for buying sustainable shoes
The purchasing decisions of sustainable footwear are totally linked in the minds of consumers with a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, and environmental friendliness.
There are substantial aspects that you must consider when we choose your sustainable footwear. The following tips will give you a practical guide and help you with your next sustainable footwear purchase.
1.Quality of raw material
The raw material extremely important if you are looking out for sustainable footwear. I would mention three different options you can look for
a. Raw materials from renewable sources or biodegradable materials like vegetable-tanned leathers, natural rubber.
b.Raw materials from eco-friendly fibers
|Ecofriendly fiber||Source||Special feature|
|Seacell18||Wood pulp and seaweed||Anti-inflammatory properties in the skin|
|Lenpur19||White pine tree clippings||Gives comfort of silk & lightness of linen.|
|SoySilk20||Tofu-manufacturing waste||Receptive to natural dyes.|
|STINGplus Nettle Fabric21||The fabric is woven from the stinging nettle.||degrade back to the earth in 6 months & leave no waste.|
c.Raw materials from recyclable materials like coastal and marine reclaimed plastic waste are converted into threads, which uses to make recycled shoes.
similarly, Billions of used tires are discarded every year, which pollute waterways and other natural habitats. These discarded tires use for the soles of the vegan footwear line.
d.Raw materials from a local source, buying mass-produced, imported shoes (usually) means a reduction in product quality.
Quality is the prime feature of the footwear that is the first preference for you as a consumer, always check if the shoe made from a sustainable raw material or not.
Choose organic cotton, linen, hemp, and wool are eco-friendly fabrics. Avoid Polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
2.Resource efficiency during manufacturing
The traditional footwear industry work with an extreme amount of harmful glue and a wide variety of synthetic mixtures and It also takes agricultural energy to produce natural fibers and mining or processing for synthetic fabrics. Energy also is needed for production, processing, and shipping of the fabric and finished product.
It is not just the workmanship of the shoe which is crucial, but also the manufacturer uses and under which conditions the raw materials have been processed, is equally important. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the origin and sustainability of their shoes And rightly It is important to consider resource efficiency including a minimal amount of material and minimal energy consumption during manufacturing.
|Harmful chemicals||Embracing eco-efficient materials reduces the requirement of chemicals. Secondly, the production plant must take care of chemical waste and treatment management.|
|Water usage & discharge
|The manufacturing process must participate in saving water, and the treatment of contaminated water before it is released into the environment. It could be treated and reused as well.|
The production process must practice less usage of energy. Otherwise, the alternatives to the same are sustainable energies like, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and wind, which tend to be renewable at the same time.
Ask yourself, Is it purchase an investment?
Yes, you’ve all done it. We purchased something super trendy and cheap. After two wears, we learned our lesson, because it pilled and from then on appeared tattered. A higher price tag (often but not always) means higher quality. Instead of buying 10 cheap footwear, consider investing in 2 well-made shoes from a reputable company that utilizes resources efficiently along with the look and feel of luxury.
The products of fast fashion engage in the unethical practice of exploitation of the workers in this industry as the demand requires the use of cheap materials and cheap labor in order to gain more profit. This may often lead to underpaid and not given a rightfully safe environment and facilities to work. Many reports talk of worker intoxication due to Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC), generated from latex, neoprene, and adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process.always support companies who opt for Fairtrade as it helps the third world while socially responsible production can help disabled people by creating jobs for them. These are the three main factors that refer to social responsibility in the footwear industry:
- Avoiding and standing against child labor
- Socially responsible production
Consider the lifespan of the piece. . Getting into fair-trade collections is a wise option. It offers you with viable prices and designs. This way you can support the small individual artists and shoe-makers; the workers and other middlemen who participate in the manufacturing process are given fair wages and this way you can help improve their lives. Fairtrade creates a positive impact on the environment, especially if you are going for fully eco-friendly footwear.
4. Biodegradable packaging
Packaging protects the products as a protective covering for the product. while packaging adds tons of non-biodegradable waste to landfills every year. Footwear companies can attempt to decrease this number and to encourage biodegradable material
As a consumer, we need to take responsibility for the packaging that comes along with the products we buy. They generally may be packed in recycled paper or plastic if they are eco-friendly products. Or else one can bring their own bags and avoid the boxes or plastics from the shopkeeper. Otherwise the boxes, wrapping materials must be given away for recycling.
Choose the footwear with minimum packaging, recyclable packaging-Foldability, flat-packaging Where cardboard boxes are used for the final packaging of footwear, they shall be made of 100 % recycled material. Where plastic bags are used for the final packaging of footwear, they shall be made of, at least, 75 % recycled material or they shall be biodegradable or compostable.
I hope the practical guide helps you with your next sustainable footwear purchase. Besides the right shoe size and an optimal fit. The ethical practice and the use of biodegradable materials are also important when it comes to sustainable quality and mindful selection. Leave your comment below if you feel it is helpful.