Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eco Friendly Shoes Shopping

Dear MamaBird,

You always give your devoted readers hearty (and healthy) food for thought. Yesterday, J and I spent half an hour ruminating on this post. My private agony at the moment, however, is about a virtually incurable addiction to TJMaxx and Marshalls shoes, the one accessory I depend on to add a touch of pizzazz to my limited black-on-black or tan-on-tan wardrobe. Feel free to weigh in on the topic of environmentally responsible footwear for an aging resident of variable New England climes, but my guess is that you'd probably come up with significantly fewer than 50+ (gulp, that's pairs, not individual shoes).

Love, N (P.S. Is it sandals weather yet in DC?)

Oh, Dearest N (cough...Imelda),

Not only has 5 year old EGirl broken out her sandals here in DC, it is time for the sparkly sleeveless leotard! But I digress. I love your question and dug around a bit online to scope out eco-friendly footwear options for you and all of our green fashionista friends. Even though I should be fleeter of foot by virtue of my calendar age, I personally have custom orthotics for my (cough again! bunions) so I have completely given up on shoes as a positive accessory in my life (so jealous of your effortless chromatic wardrobe!). Honestly, I think that the most enviro option is probably to a)buy fewer shoes (sorry!!) or b)go to the secondhand store (possibly an icky idea where shoes are concerned). My daughter will one day join you, though, perhaps literally, on a shoe shopping trip, and I'd bet that we're all going to get at least one or two pairs of kicks in the near future so here are a few ideas:

Natalie Portman came out with a very spendy vegan shoe line recently that's fun eye candy but won't hit your "I can't pay a lot for that muffler" buttons.

MooShoes is a cruelty-free NYC boutique (love these basic boots!).

These vegan wedge sandals are awfully cute (not like I can ever wear heels again, sob)!

Mink's black sparkly spike heels would make you a stylin' dancing fool at the annual Old Neighborhood New Year's bash.

Could these red Ultragirl glittery flats be more adorable? Holy Dorothy shoes, Batgirl.

Vegan and sweatshop-free Chuck-T knockoffs...

For your own perusal, I got many of the above tips (if not the exact shoes, lists of eco and vegan-friendly sites) from The Daily Green, MSNBC, and the Vegan Girl Next Door (best title! You Don't Have to Wear Ugly Shoes). As with any other purchase, you have to decide what's important to you (recycled materials, sourcing, manufacturing byproducts, not to mention comfort, style and price, not all of which are self-evident in promo materials). One of the vegan sites recommended Payless. If you care about fair trade issues, sadly, I am guessing that the buy one get one 1/2 off shoes are not for you. And to get a bargain-basement deal, I fear, you'd need to get awfully lucky at the sales rack.

All that said, I also consulted with our family shoe expert, someone who's worked in outdoor and retail product development (including shoe sourcing and design) for decades... I'll call him PDawg. Anyways, PDawg said, practically speaking, that you should check into Teva (hey! whimsical side-button flats!), Patagonia, (huh, more whimsical casual flats), Simple (hmm...stylish espadrilley kicks), Nau (no shoes yet), and possibly Timberland (hey! cute sandals), but had a fine caveat. Even if you get a 100% recycled shoe, he noted, the upcycling process itself will have undesirable manufacturing byproducts. There's no shoes currently made that then get recycled back into other shoes (a closed loop, so to speak). And even if there were, the recycling process itself isn't usually perfect. In his experience, even though a material like polyester is highly recyclable, the moment it's got nylon thread in it, or a screen printed logo, it ends up with inconsistencies in the finished product. The melting process itself may degrade the polyester or at the very least change it so that it can't be used for precisely the same purpose again. As he said, "It's hard to make something perfectly recyclable." He suggested that we all read Cradle to Cradle.

A big thanks to PDawg for taking time away from his adoring family to answer my 17,000 questions. Anyone else have any green, fair trade shopping tips for fashion-and-bargain-loving N?

xoxo

12 comments:

Mrs. G. said...

I just read an article on Natalie Portman (I think it was Vogue)and she talked about her favorite eco-friendly shoes. I'll dig it out and see if I can find the specifics for you.

MamaBird said...

Thanks Mrs. G! Looking fwd to it. Hope you're feeling better.

Green Me said...

Another good tip on shoes is to alternate pairs every other day. I thought that my mom used this as an excuse to buy 2 pairs of shoes at once, but I looked into it online and asked the expert shoe guy at a local store and they all claim it is true. Apparently, giving your shoes a break over a night and day lets them dry out and recover. Usually, I just wear one pair day in and day out, but I think I am going to have to try this out. One site I came across said that 2 alternated pairs will last as long as 3 individual worn pairs...

MamaBird said...

Thanks, Green Me - great tip. I myself am guilty of wearing the same shoes day in and day out. Duly noted!

Gray Matters said...

My kids wear one pair of shoes all summer - crocs! I buy a neutral color so they can be passed on from brother to sister. Crocs has a great program SolesUnited that recycle them once they have reached the end of their life cycle.

http://www.solesunited.com/index.html

MamaBird said...

Thanks, Gray Matters! We pass on the shoes from cousin to cousin in our family (and then back again) too. I love that Crocs recycles their shoes! Appreciate the link.

Nicole said...

great info!!

I had heard about the Natalie Portman shoes but not the other ones... good stuff!

Anonymous said...

My husband spent a college semester in Kenya and traded his beat-up Tevas for a pair of sandals made from recycled tires, leather strapping, and recycled Bic pen caps (for decoration, of course). They were there craziest looking pair of shoes, but if it weren't for a very determined teething puppy I think they would have lasted an eternity.

MamaBird said...

Oh, anon - those insatiable puppy teeth! Would have loved to check out those sandals. We lost many a pair of shoes to our beloved furry friend. Nicole, glad to be of service. Let us know if you find any other great shoes...

CRL said...

Nike also recycles old shoes - into playgrounds for kids around the world.

http://www.letmeplay.com/reuseashoe

MamaBird said...

Thanks CRL/Foodie Tots! I love that Nike turns our kicks into playground surfacing. How perfect is that?

katydidnot said...

natalie portman has a vegan shoe line. one problem though. they cost like a gabillion dollars each. like, per shoe.