Building a more sustainable wardrobe doesn’t, and realistically can’t, happen overnight. You can starting by slowly buying into ethical fashion brands, or looking at which areas are worth investing in more, such as sustainable trainers.
Why? Because trainers, and sportswear in general has historically been the black sheep of the industry, with 95% of the 20 billion pairs of shoes produced globally each year ending up in landfill sites, according to Good News.
Luckily, a lot of trainer brands are looking into more ethical and sustainable ways to produce their shoes, and therefore reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the planet.
The likes of Veja, Superga and Tretorn, beloved by Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle for examples, are focusing their efforts on eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp (more durable and better recyclable), as well as vegan leather, natural rubber and recycled materials.
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Other brands such as Yatay are off-setting their footprint by taking back your old trainers to recycle them, and planting a tree for every pair sold. Ethical running shoe brand Allbirds are making their models carbon neutral by creating fabrics from Forest Stewardship Council-certified eucalyptus trees, and their trademarked SweetFoam used in midsoles is made with carbon-negative green EVA material.
While it doesn’t seem as important, the packaging your trainers comes in is obviously key. Sending eco-friendly shoes in a plastic bag just isn’t going to cut it, which is why some labels are also focusing on recycled cardboard packaging that is free of single-use plastic.
Shop my edit of the best ethical trainers from the likes of Stella McCartney, adidas, Veja, Clarks and more.
As part of adidas’ journey to End Plastic Waste and help reduce the use of virgin plastic, this next generation of more sustainable Stan Smith’s takes the iconic silhouette and propels the franchise firmly into the future. The sneaker features a white PRIMEGREEN upper, a series of high-performance recycled materials, matched with a recycled rubber outsole.
The Origin features an interesting and considered design that only uses five pieces to make up the final product, reducing its carbon footprint and using zero glue in the process. Clarks have incorporated mono-materials, recycled materials from production waste and recyclable materials throughout, even the laces are made from 100% recycled polyester.
Yatay plants a tree for every pair of trainers bought, and also allows you to return your old pair so that it can recycle them for you. You can scan the code printed on your pair to choose the tree planted and monitor its growth and CO2 emission.
Po-Zu uses organic cotton and natural linen in its shoes and only uses leather in small quantities and chromium-free. It uses solvent free leather alternatives, working with materials like Eco Micro Fibre, Frumat Appleskin and Piñatex, all great hard wearing and 100% vegan.
Everyone is eliminating all virgin plastic from its supply chain by the end of this year, including products, packaging and materials used in stores and offices. It also uses durable and sustainable fabrics such as recycled polyester and rubber. Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment.
These running shoes are made from materials using 100% recycled plastic bottles, Pebax RNew (100% ricinus oil), natural and synthetic latex and rubber and recycled rice waste.
From recycling scrap material with a 0% wasted material policy, local production, 0% oil use, 100% use of renewable resources and 90% recycled water in the production process, Giesswein has a huge Green Strategy company policy. They also 100% support a no mulesing process and animal ethicacy standard - meaning happy and safe sheep. The brand also supports recycling and has made 100% recycled ocean plastic flats and jackets, to give plastic a second life. Their Flats also contain a biodegradable sole, utilising organic materials where they can.
Good News and H&M are joining forces on a unisex trainer collection with a smaller environmental footprint - each with their own sustainable elements, such as recycled rubber soles and recycled cotton, Vegea™ and Bananatex® uppers.
The sneaker is handmade in high quality Ventile® DRY 400 RCO (a very exclusive recycled cotton) and built with a traditional 60’s technique of vulcanized outsole with 30% natural rubber.
This style is made with responsibly sourced eucalyptus tree fiber, though all birds also uses New Zealand sheep wool for other styles, which uses 60% less energy than materials used in typical synthetic shoes.
Stella McCartney shoes have been made from recycled polyester since 2012, made from plastic waste, using up to 50% less energy than virgin polyester.
The upper composition of all the Organic shoes is a unique blend of 60% organic cotton and 40% natural hemp, while the eyelets and shoelaces are entirely made of organic cotton, sourced in Vietnam, according to the internationally recognised organic farming standards.
The insole of all the shoes is composed by a layer of natural cork, which is light, durable, impermeable and hypoallergenic. Superga®’s sole rubber is natural and manually extracted from the rubber tree forests of Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.