Sustainable Sneakers Are The Future. Here's Why

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 months ago | Features

Image: Saye Modelo ’89 Sneakers


The conventional sneaker industry needs revolutionising because it is one of the world’s most polluting fashion categories. This is due both to the emissions generated and the impacts caused by the materials most commonly used throughout the industry. Which is why choosing sustainable sneakers matters.

According to research conducted by MIT scientists, the average pair of sneakers generates approximately 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s 13kg – the equivalent of leaving a 100-watt light bulb on for a whole week. In addition, many sneaker materials like plastics and chromium-dyed leathers also contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to both people and the planet.

Much of a sneaker’s impact comes from the manufacturing phase, through the extraction of certain raw materials. "It's the many small parts – the making it, the manufacturing – cutting out the pieces, injection-moulding the rubber, sewing it together,” explains Elsa Olivetti, co-author of the MIT study.

Which is where sustainable sneakers come in.

Fortunately, brands like Veja are using sustainable materials like organic cotton uppers – sourced through an association of local cotton growers (ADEC) in Tauá, Brazil – and wild rubber harvested in the Amazon, which adds value to the forest there. By contrast, most sneakers use synthetic rubber in their soles, which is made from crude oil in a process that churns through energy and water. The chemicals used in this production process can also seep from the shoe, as it wears.

Saye is another brand trying to subvert the conventional sneaker industry with its sustainable approach to making sneakers. This label’s iconic 90s-inspired styles are made in a transparent supply chain, from low impact materials – including LWG-certified leather, certified organic cotton, and recycled polyester from automotive leftovers.

In other words, when we are wearing sustainable sneakers like those by Veja or Saye, we are treading pretty lightly. So reduce your ~footprint~ and choose sustainable when shopping for new sneakers this season.

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