Brianna Love's Guide to Ethical Shoe Shopping

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Brianna Love (@Brianna__Loves ) is a high school senior and founder of an eco-friendly blog called the SEA. She adores music, nature, fashion, food, beauty, knowledge and volunteering and she will be a freshman at Yale University this fall.

When I go shoe shopping, which has become more frequent, a lot of different things go through my mind. I have a set list of things I look for before I purchase a pair of shoes. This list can be divided into 4 different categories: ethicality, sustainability, quality, and outfit pairing possibilities. For ethicality I ask 4 simple questions:

  • 1.Where are the shoes made?
  • 2.How are the workers treated? (Are they paid a living wage and what are the factory conditions?)
  • 3.Does someone periodically check on the factory and its workers?
  • 4.Is there a philanthropic aspect to the company? (For example do they help fund clean water projects with every pair purchased?)

For sustainability I ask myself 2 basic questions, the first being: What are the shoes made from? I preferably like vegetable tanned leather, organic cotton, hemp, and linen. These products are all easily biodegradable and leather is frequently a by-product of the meat industry, this makes sure that nothing goes to waste. The second question is: What does the sole consist of? I prefer soles made out of recycled tires, recycled plastic, wood (FSC or sustainably managed wood), and natural rubber from South America. I say South America because China also produces natural rubber but Para rubber trees are not endemic to Asia. This leads to habitat destruction and deforestation (read more here).

Once I receive a pair of shoes I like to check the quality of the product, and ask myself questions like how long it will last? Is it well constructed? Then, I like to check to see how it will pair with my current wardrobe. If I can create 3 or more outfits with any one pair of shoes, then I know the shoes will be well worn. These shoes would be a perfect fit for a conscious shoe lover. I know this list seems extensive and difficult to remember, but after buying a few pair of shoes and going over these questions each time it will become second nature.