what is sustainable footwear

What is Sustainable Footwear?

With the increased interest in sustainable products, it's important to consider what makes some shoes more sustainable than others. Much of the focus around sustainable footwear has been on fast fashion and the harm that it does to the environment. In addition, people are bringing attention to garment workers in the fast fashion industry, along with their working conditions and the low wages they receive. Sustainable footwear brands, however, are taking steps towards changing these conditions while making a positive impact on the environment. Let's dive into what makes a shoe sustainable, why it matters, and where to find sustainable shoes.

Sustainable Shoe Materials

The first thing to consider while buying sustainable shoes is the materials used for making them. Sustainable shoe materials consist of natural fibers or anything that comes from a plant or animal. This can include sources from mushrooms, apples, pineapples, cork, algae, and cacti. Leather would technically fall into this category as well. While there is some controversy around the subject, experts are discovering that leather can, in fact, be sustainable. 

Traditionally, leather shoe manufacturing relied heavily on chrome-tanned leather, but this has changed in recent years with the introduction of vegetable-tanned leather. Vegetable-tanned leather is sourced from tanning agents such as quebracho wood, gall nuts, mimosa trees, and others. Unlike traditional chrome-tanned leather, the production of vegetable-tanned leather does not require chromium III and other toxic chemicals, making it more environmentally friendly.

Transparent Working Conditions

As our understanding of sustainability grows, the definition continues to evolve. The term sustainable has not always been synonymous with ethical production. In many shoe factories, workers are subjected to work in extreme temperatures with limited ventilation and bio-hazardous conditions. To make factories safe, employers must ensure their workers are properly trained and given protective equipment while handling chemicals and machinery.

In an effort to raise the bar in ethical manufacturing, multiple organizations have developed techniques for measuring a brand's transparency — their openness to share factory conditions and materials used. Consumers are growing more aware of the need for transparency, and surveys show that an increasing amount of consumers want to purchase ethical products. Fortunately, as the sustainability market grows, transparency will become more and more important.

Purchase Sustainable Footwear

At Adelante, most leather components used in our shoes are vegetable tanned or sourced from tanneries with verified environmental sustainability certifications. We also use handmade production methods, which emit very little CO2 into the environment. In addition, our craftsmen earn more than twice the local wage and receive additional benefits to help them plan for a better future. True social impact must also be environmentally sustainable, and we drive that mission through each pair of our high-quality sustainable leather shoes. Learn more about our environmental sustainability objectives in a letter from our founder, or view our full collection at Adelante today!