Think Eco-Shoes Stop at Birkenstocks? Think Again.

There’s a lot of talk about greening your closet these days. With cotton production accounting for 10% of the world’s insecticide use and 25% of its pesticides, choosing alternative fabric options like organic cotton, hemp or bamboo can send a powerful message to the conventional cotton industry.

Rachel_sarnoff_2008_lowres_head But as Rachel Sarnoff, CEO and Founder,, points out in this guest column, greening your closet doesn’t stop at your ankles. Here's what Rachel recommends for the shoes in your life:

"Obviously, the greenest thing to do when you’re updating your closet is to start with vintage stores. But I'll be the first to admit: Although reusing and recycling can go a long way towards reducing your "footprint," because most shoes mold to their wearer’s feet, it can be difficult to find pre-worn pumps and other footwear that fit right.

Most shoes are made from conventionally processed leather. And processed leather is a by-product of the meat industry, a resource-intensive business that consumes 25% of our world’s land surface and one-third of our grain while generating a majority of our carbon emissions: 18 percent —that’s more than cars. Processing leather from meat animals adds environmental insult to injury, given that it requires an estimated 225 toxic chemicals during the tanning process.

What to do?

Choose "Eco-Leather" – If you do plan to buy new and still want to wear leather, look for shoes made from so-called “eco-leather,” leather tanned without heavy metals like chrome. Reputable companies will also recycled materials and packaging. Consider El Naturalista (, Coclico ( and PURE by Rickard Shah (

Try "Faux" Leather – With so many faux leathers and suedes out there, it’s easy to eliminate leather completely from your footwear repertoire. Consider shoes made from dioxin-free polyurethane (a slightly more environmentally-friendly option than PVC) or natural elements like hemp. Kailia ( and Charmone ( both manufacture completely vegan shoe lines in artisan factories in Italy, but it’s the hemp Nadia Ankle Boot from Sui Generis by Beyond Skin ( that we EcoStilettoistas are head over heels for.

Don't Forget Birkenstocks – Oh and about those Birkenstocks, the symbol of social consciousness since 1966: They’re leather, but the company uses every ounce of its scraps, and recycles the cork from the soles. ( Plus, with the right outfit, today’s Birkies can look downright chic.

Fashion_beyondskin_thumb Want a smaller carbon footprint? Beginning in January 2009, will give away a free pair (or pairs) of eco-friendly shoes worth $500 or more each and every month! Get on the list now, and get the lowdown on shrinking your carbon footprint from an Ugg boot to a Manolo with daily green fashion, beauty, lifestyle, parenting, celebrity and eco-events nationwide."

Thanks, Rachel!

For more ideas on sustainably made, shoes, don't miss these links! Toepaz shoe

One Response to Think Eco-Shoes Stop at Birkenstocks? Think Again.

  1. Diane MacEachern January 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    Wow – love the story about the great pair of “vintage” shoes for $5. Gives me hope!

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