The average woman in the U.S. buys three pairs of shoes a year and keeps 17 in the closet (and face it, plenty of us have more shoes than "average"). And because we rarely share shoes and there isn't much of a market for used shoes, most old shoes end up at the landfill, where they arent likely to biodegrade. And since shoes have to hold up to real wear and tear, many of them are held together with harsh glues. To produce cheap shoes, petroleum-based plastics and heavy metal dyes are often used, with potentially harmful effects on workers, many of whom aren't paid well.
But we can't go barefoot, so it's good that designers and manufacturers are rising to the challenge of creating tough, durable shoes that have a lighter footprint on the planet, from production to disposal. "With the amount of shoes that end up in landfills each year it's critical to think about design for disassembly and how the product breaks down after you have finished using it," said Galahad Clark, president of Terra Plana shoes and VivoBarefoot.
Fashion trends temp us to buy the latest styles each season, but we should be focused just on the opposite. "Durability is often an element that is overlooked and it is one of the most important factors in sustainable design," Clark said. Spending a bit more on shoes that will last for years is cheaper in the long run, better for the environment and more comfortable for you, Triple win.
What to look for in eco shoes:
> Recycled and sustainable materials
> Stitching, rather than glue
> Vegetable-dyed materials
> Durable, long lasting and repairable shoes
> Companies that reveal environmental policies transparently