Have you ever thought about how much you shop? It seems like every month there’s something new we just HAVE to have in our closet, and now that the summer sales are enticing us to splurge once again (I mean, have you seen the SSENSE sale right now? Up to 70% off!). However, the ecological impact of our consumerism can be detrimental to the earth. Whether it’s the fabric used in production or the immense amount of shipping and packaging used to deliver a piece right to your door, we often forgo the environment for the latest fashion fad.

Nevertheless, there has been a new wave of brands that are invested in sustainability as much as they are focused on style. One of the most predominant areas where these young companies are thriving is the footwear industry. It’s hard to imagine getting a new pair of shoes without the shoebox, the stuffing, and various other packaging frills that only end up in the garbage. Furthermore, the mass production of plastics, leathers and other fabrics made for our comfort – or realistically, the lack thereof – are only contributing to the problem. Yet, entrepreneurs have been able to create brands which sell shoes made sustainably, from natural and recycled materials, and can deliver them right to your door without the devastating impact.

We love sustainability: our magazine has the Forest Stewardship Council certification, which means that the paper we print on meets strict standards to protect forests, and the animals and people who depend on them. So, it’s only natural that we love brands who strive to hold themselves to similar standards.

If you’re looking to step into a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, here are the top shoe brands that will help you put your best foot forward, so you can reduce your carbon footprint.

1. Allbirds Sneakers

With Mother Nature as their muse, Allbirds have pioneered a way to use natural materials to create stylish, breathable sneakers. They are famous for their innovative material: all their shoes are made of tree fiber or wool blends. Their website claims that their tree fiber, TENCELTM Lyocell, is “sourced from South African farms that minimize fertilizer and [relies] on rainfall, not irrigation.” In comparison to a standard material, such as cotton, the fiber uses 95% less water and cuts the carbon footprint in HALF. Their wool blends are made in partnerships with leading organizations like ZQ Merino to ensure a high standard of farming, land management and animal welfare in material production, and the process uses 60% less energy than materials of typical synthetic shoes. The wool is sourced from New Zealand, where sheep outnumber humans six to one.

Their list of materials is impressive. It only takes one recycled plastic bottle to turn into one pair of Allbirds laces. Castor bean oil is used for insoles with supreme cushioning and the eyelets are created by microorganisms that consume plant sugars. The packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard, which relieves any guilt when ordering online.

The shoes themselves save the planet, your feet AND your style. The pair I’m longing to get my hands on is the Women’s Wool Runners in their Limited Edition Kotare Heather(Cream Sole), which is a gorgeous lilac colour perfect for the summer. Yes, you can wear these woolies in the heat, as the fabric is breathable to keep your feet cool in warm weather and warm in the cold. Plus, they are machine washable, they minimize odor AND you can wear them sockless.

 

What are you waiting for? Pair with athleisure, or to dress-down your favourite summer frock.

 

2. Rafa

Born in LA, this luxury footwear collection is designed and hand-made by a group of 20 local artisans. The brand was created to fill the need for a smart and timeless design that transcends trends and is dedicated to using local craftsmanship, top quality eco-friendly materials, and sustainable processes, all for an accessible price.

The impressive array of offerings prove that style and sustainability can come hand in hand. Their shoes are made to order from vegan recycled textiles, double lined with an orthopedic foam insole for added comfort.

Each product is stunning and on trend. Their sock boots, made with a bungee cord back lace and a 3-inch heel, could compete for best sock-shoe hybrid with the popular Balenciagas – or the Zara knock-offs – as the staple version of the trendy style you need in your closet. They also have a thigh-high version, called the Stick Boot, that is 26 inches long and is a great alternative to the classic Stuart Weitzman that decorate many a model’s Instagram feed. The Mary Jane styles – the simple sandal or the pump– are set to be a fan favourite with their sleek silhouette and versatile outfit options.

Each design is offered in a variety of luxurious colours to enable endless styling possibilities. Rafa is on its way to becoming one of the best luxury women’s footwear companies, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

 

3. YATAY

YATAY is rooted in the Italian design and craftsmanship that the world adores but produces sneakers through a process focused on reducing environmental impact. They are made of entirely environmentally-friendly materials, are PETA certified, and prove that shopping without hurting the environment is possible – and cool. They’re so committed to the environment that even their data center is hosted by a green provider that achieves energy efficiency: their electricity consumption is halved in comparison to a standard data center.

They offer two types of shoes: a standard sneaker and a high top. Each pair comes in a 100% recycled box and is made of recycled fabric and bio-based resin that looks and feels like leather but is exponentially better for the earth. The lining of the shoe is made from organic cotton and pieced together by water-based glue, as well as a breathable insole that is solvent free and made from recycled plastic, ensuring sustainability inside and out. The sole of the shoe has biodegradable cores and is made from renewable raw materials.

If you needed another reason to shop, YATAY has partnered with ONETREEPLANTED to plant a tree for every pair sold. The unisex sneakers are extremely versatile and will perfectly adapt to each individual’s dynamic lifestyle. Think your classic Stan Smiths gone green.

 

4. Adidas x Parley

There’s a fact that floats around schoolyards that we’ve discovered more of space than the ocean. Unfortunately, it looks as if things continue the way they are, with our waters being polluted with chemicals and marine life dying because of our plastic, waste or over-fishing, this will always be true. Parley for the Oceans wants to stop that.

The organization addresses major threats to our oceans and believe that the power for change is up to the consumer and the choices they make. Through collaborations with artists, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, journalists, architects and scientists, Parley is encouraging us to change our reality and seek alternative business models and products to save our oceans. As Captain Paul Watson puts it bluntly, “If the Oceans die, we die.”

 

Their most exciting project is a collaboration with athletic apparel heavyweight Adidas. They have taken some of the sportswear’s most popular styles, including the ULTRABOOST shoe in all its forms (including the Stella McCartney collab), and produced a version made from recycled plastic that once polluted the ocean. They’ve also got apparel to match. Which means for every workout completed, the world can advance in the race to save our great blue seas.

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