Do Shoppers Care About Sustainability?

Eco-conscious consumers have a message for footwear brands: We need more education. Earlier this month, Footwear News hit the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the city’s epicenter for vegan restaurants and eco-chic boutiques, to ask shoppers what they look for in green footwear and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Brands should take heed because many said they’re willing to pay premiums for sustainable product they can trust.

1. Danny Hicks, New York

Ideal footwear features: “I don’t wear leather shoes, so I look for non-animal-product shoes that are not too expensive. I love [materials such as] bamboo and charcoal.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “There isn’t a big variety. For a long time, Converse was the only vegan shoe [brand] I could find. I’m a restaurant manager, so [the shoes] also have to be comfortable.”

Price limits: “Price is really important to me. I would be willing to pay a little more, but not excessively. I can’t afford $120 shoes that will last as long as my cheaper ones [do].”

2. Jennifer Kelley, Los Angeles

Ideal footwear features: “I spend a lot of time researching fashionable eco-friendly shoes that are not too expensive. My favorite site is Ecostilletto.com.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “You really have to do your research to discover what’s out there.”

Price limits: “Some [green] brands are too expensive. I haven’t bought very many of them.”

3. John Guanlao, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ideal footwear features: “I stopped looking for eco-friendly shoes because there aren’t enough out there for guys. [Many are] too homemade and crafty looking. I’m more about the way they look and their function.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “It’s not talked about enough. Right now, fashion dictates what’s going on and being made. Big shoe factories damage the environment, but [with the economy], people need to sell shoes.”

Price limits: “I would definitely pay more money for an eco-friendly shoe, even $800 for something like a Stella McCartney, but she doesn’t have men’s.”

4. Jolene Boyce, New York

Ideal footwear features: “I’m vegan, so I would like to buy more vegan shoes, but I don’t really know what’s out there. I look at fair-trade, biodegradable, sweatshop-free companies.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “It isn’t clear who’s eco-friendly. It doesn’t come across on my radar.”

Price limits: “I would not pay more for green shoes.”

5. Kristy Dodds, Adelaide, Australia

Ideal footwear features: “I look for something light and comfortable and with fair-trade, sweatshop-free [aspects].”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “Australia seems a little behind. Information needs to be more obvious and simple in stores and online.”

Price limits: “I would pay extra for eco-friendly shoes if there was some sort of certification for where they come from.”

6. Mercedes De Jesus, New York

Ideal footwear features: “I have never bought green shoes, but it does interest me. I’m looking for shoes without animal products that are comfortable and last a long time. Also, [I’m interested in] things that are handmade locally.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “There needs to be more online and in-store advertisement.”

Price limits: “They can’t be too expensive.”

7. Roberto Gordils, Queens, N.Y.

Ideal footwear features: “[The shoes] need to be comfortable and maybe [made] with recycled materials. But I wear Timberland shoes because they are functional.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “I don’t know a lot about [brands being] eco-friendly. There’s not enough advertising or people talking about it.”

Price limits: “I would pay a little more, maybe 15 percent more. It would be nice if there was some incentive to buy.”

8. Rose Kennedy, New York

Ideal footwear features: “Shoes need to be fashionable and look cool, as well as be eco-friendly.”

Are brands getting across their green messages? “There is not enough advertisement, but it is up to the [stores]. Vintage is in right now, so it needs to be approached from that side, with a positive reinforcement for buying eco-friendly.”

Price limits: “I would definitely pay more for green shoes. I even pay more for green electricity.”

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