Shoe brands are getting the memo: Environmental consciousness is the new black.
In commemoration of Earth Day — as people across the world reflect on the importance of protecting the planet by identifying new ways to reduce their carbon footprint or enjoying eco-friendly activities — footwear firms are also taking the opportunity to get in on the action. (Earth Day is celebrated in nearly 200 countries around the world.)
In some cases, brands like Allbirds and Rothy’s have made sustainability their core ethos, while others — industry heavyweight Adidas is one example — have recently taken aggressive steps to move environmental protection higher on their list of priorities.
Here, nine shoe brands to support this Earth Day.
Last week, the athletic brand revealed Futurecraft Loop — a 100% recyclable performance running shoe that can be returned to Adidas, broken down and reused to create new performance running shoes. The release is a part of the company’s largest-ever global beta program, ahead of the wider commercial release targeted for spring ’21. In partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Adidas made its big splash in the eco-friendly space in 2015, introducing the first performance footwear concept with an upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from marine plastic waste and illegal deep-sea gill nets. This year, the brand pledged to produce 11 million pairs of shoes with Ocean Plastic by Parley through intercepting plastic waste on beaches, remote islands and in coastal communities.
The direct-to-consumer brand first introduced its eco-friendly flats in 2015. Made out of discarded plastic water bottles and using a special 3D knitting process, the sustainable shoes have since garnered a loyal following through word of mouth, winning even Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s seal of approval. Last year, Rothy’s sold more than 1 million pairs, posting revenues upwards of $140 million. (Each pair costs between $125 and $165.) The company also owns and operates a factory in China, scaling from 19 employees in 2017 to 450 today due to its rapid success.
The sustainable shoe label is taking its mission a step further by going 100% carbon-neutral with the Allbirds Carbon Fund, an internal carbon tax that will fund emissions reduction projects. The company has calculated its own carbon impact in monetary terms: It produces 10 kilograms of carbon for a single pair of sneakers; meanwhile, it costs about 10 cents to offset those emissions. (In other words, the brand will tax itself and donate those collections to the fund.) Beginning today, customers will be able to help decide which projects the brand supports with each new purchase through the fund, which invests in tree planting, air purification that extracts greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and clean energy projects. Consumers will be contacted post-purchase via email for their fund selection. Allbirds also launched a limited-edition unisex collection in collaboration with the National Audubon Society, with five shoes released starting last week that are inspired by endangered birds.
The Wolverine World Wide Inc.-owned brand has teamed with Zappos and Atlantic recording artist Josie Dunne for a limited-edition shoe made with Bionic yarn spun from plastic recovered from marine and coastal environments. The shoes launch today on Zappos.com and retail for $69.95. Supported by Zappos for Good, the company’s charitable arm, the shoes benefit Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on citizen action on issues affecting waterways.
Nomadic State of Mind
Using fair trade and ethical practices, the handmade footwear brand has its sandals created in a small community in Nicaragua. Its shoes — made from recycled materials such as hemp, rope and upcycled sails — come in a variety of colors, from earthy camel hues to summer-ready yellows. Nomadic, which has been designing shoes for nearly two decades, is sold on Amazon as well as Free People, & Other Stories and its own website. All styles range between $48 and $76.
The VF Corp.-owned label is making what’s old new again with the Brooklyn Collection, a series of men’s styles that feature components made with at least 50% recycled plastic and 34 % recycled rubber outsoles. Styles include sneakers to hikers and retail from $100 to $150. The company is also hosting the Timberland x Something in the Water festival, inviting consumers to step into the Timberland Pop Up Park from April 26 through April 28 in Virginia Beach, Va. A larger-than-life Timberland Classic Boot will be at the event, featuring living trees native to Virginia Beach, sourced locally and donated back to the community afterward. For each pledge made to live a greener lifestyle, the company will plant a traceable tree in Haiti.
The brand is going green with a series of shoes made of eco-friendly materials, starting with uppers made of 100% recycled plastic boots. Footbeds are made of sustainable cork, while the insoles and outsoles are a plant-based foam made from algae. This week, the company will increase their give-back program to their nonprofit partner, Mwalua Wildlife Trust, that helps protect the wildlife and ecosystems in Kenya plagued by droughts, from 1% to 10% on all sales of shoes online.
Clothing label Ace&jig, which specializes in ethically made textiles crafted in India, has partnered with the women’s sneaker brand on a collection of sustainable yarn-dye woven shoes. In addition to the line of four styles is an Earth Day exclusive: the sustainable No Waste Shoe — a lace-up sneaker that’s hand-sewn and patched with textile scraps, sold at select Nordstrom Local stores in Los Angeles during a pop-in event on April 25. The shoes are priced at $225. (The four releases are also available on Keds.com and Nordstrom.com.)
The cult-favorite Brazilian sandal brand is getting the color treatment, thanks to world renowned graffiti artist Arlin Graff. In honor of the eco-holiday, Havaianas has released two whimsically designed pairs inspired by its native roots in the Amazon rainforest. Seven percent of proceeds from the custom sandals, which retail for $26, will be directed to the Institute of Ecological Research, which works toward biodiversity conservation.
The North Face
The outdoor brand made a big push this Earth Day when it opted to close all 113 stores to commemorate the observance as well as partner with 15 organizations to launch a global Change.org petition aimed at making Earth Day an officially recognized holiday. On the lead up to today, the VF-owned brand hosted several events in New York with musicians — including Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Ella Mai — artists and culinary influencers encouraging people to disconnect digitally and engage with their surroundings. It also activated an initiative dubbed “Explore Mode” across other major cities.