Confessions of a Shoe-Aholic: How to Make Your Shoe Obsession Eco-Friendly

By Heidi Harrison

I am a girl who loves shoes. Flats, sandals, sneakers, and heels—I don’t discriminate. Recently I began to feel guilty for this un-environmentally friendly, consumerist obsession. I started to wonder—is there any way to be environmentally friendly and love shoes? The answer is yes, there are several ways to maintain your shoe addiction and minimize your carbon footprint. Here are the rules:

  1. Don’t buy shoes on a whim – if there is a pair you’ve been dreaming about take a while to see if you really need them. Impulse shopping is always a big environmental and financial no-no. You might find that a pair you already have will do the job just fine.
  2. Or, if they don’t, swap shoes with your friend for a month (given that you two have the same size feet). It’s just like getting those new shoes from the store, except the excitement won’t be tainted by guilt. You can even have a shoe trading party with all of your girlfriends (Yankee-swap, anyone?)
  3. Check out the thrift store shoe department before you hit the mall. You may find a pair you love for a fraction of the price—and carbon footprint. (Here’s a jingle to remind you: When it comes to shoes, always reuse!)
  4. When you have thought about it and still want that new pair make sure you’re looking in the right place. A month ago I bought a pair of Rainbow Sandals and I have worn them every day since. I bought them because the Rainbow company hand-makes their products using eco-friendly hemp and leather. Make sure that when you buy shoes, they have been made to last a long time—that way you won’t be needing new ones for years. By getting all of the use out of them that you can, you are decreasing your shoe-related carbon footprint.
  5. You may be thinking there are types of shoes you just can’t buy used, or made of eco-friendly materials because they will not be as functional as their non-eco-friendly prototypes. One example you may be thinking of is running shoes. I am an avid runner and so I can relate to this concern. As a runner, the important thing is to have the support and durability you need. However, there are ways to find “green shoes” that will last mile after mile. Running shoes with minimal environmental impact include those built with eco-friendly materials and fewer materials in general (such as “barefoot” running shoes, made with Vibram soles and environmentally-friendly materials).

I’m certainly not carbon footprint-less yet but I’m working on it. Who knew that my favorite apparel could also be an opportunity for me to get creative and kinder to the environment? And just so you know, I’m a size 9 ½ in case you want to invite me to your next shoe swap!

About the author: Heidi Harrison is a volunteer intern in the EPA’s Public Affairs Division. She is a rising senior at Bowdoin College in Maine, her home state. She is majoring in Government and Legal Studies as well as concentrates in Creative Writing (so she is very excited to contribute to this blog). She has also interned at the United States Attorney’s Office in Portland, Maine for the last two summers. Upon graduation she hopes to enter into politics, marketing, or public relations – largely dependent on where she can get a job.

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