Eco-Friendly Shoes: Treading Lightly on the Planet

Eco-Friendly Shoes: Introduction

Welcome to this week’s sustainability tip where today we are stepping into the world of eco-friendly shoes! Our mission is to empower you with practical advice to make conscious choices that positively impact our planet.

Did you know that traditional footwear can have a significant environmental footprint? From the materials used to the manufacturing process and disposal.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of shoes and the environmental impact of conventional options. We will also let you know what to look for in sustainable alternatives, and introduce you to some fantastic brands making a difference.

Let’s step into sustainability and make our footwear greener!  

The History of Non Eco-Friendly Shoes

The history of shoes is rich and fascinating, stretching back thousands of years. The earliest known shoes, dating back to around 3500 BCE, were simple sandals made from plant materials. In ancient Egypt, shoes were a symbol of status, with the wealthy wearing intricately designed sandals.  An intriguing fact is that the first known pair of leather shoes, discovered in Armenia, dates back to around 3500 BCE and were remarkably well-preserved.

These shoes were made from a single piece of leather, stitched with a grass thread, showing remarkable craftsmanship for their time. The evolution of shoes saw significant advancements with the Romans, who introduced more durable leather shoes that protected the feet.

Roman soldiers wore caligae, heavy-soled sandals that could withstand long marches. During the Middle Ages, shoes became more varied, with different styles emerging across Europe, including the pointed poulaines of the 14th century. The 19th century marked a revolution in shoe manufacturing with the advent of industrialisation, making shoes more accessible to the masses. 

Eco-Friendly Shoes The first shoes found were made of plant materials and are from thousands of years ago
The first shoes found were made of plant materials and are from thousands of years ago

The 20th century introduced synthetic materials, leading to the mass production of affordable footwear but also contributing to environmental issues.

This journey from ancient sandals to modern sneakers highlights our quest for comfort and style, balancing convenience with the need for sustainability. Please read on to find out about the environmental impact of traditional shoes.

The Environmental Impact of Non Eco-Friendly Shoes

Traditional shoes create a number of environmental challenges. Each year, billions of pairs of shoes are produced globally, with most ending up in landfills. These shoes are often made from a combination of leather, synthetic materials, and rubber, which are not biodegradable and can take centuries to decompose.

Manufacturing these materials involves significant resource consumption. The resources include water, energy, and chemicals all contributing to pollution and deforestation. For example, the leather industry is notorious for its high water usage, with an estimated 8,000 litres of water needed to produce a single pair of leather shoes. The manufacturing of shoes generates greenhouse gases and other pollutants, further exacerbating their environmental footprint.

Moreover, the chemicals used in shoes, such as dyes and adhesives, can persist in the environment and potentially harm wildlife and ecosystems. Disposal is another significant issue. Used shoes often contain synthetic materials that can contaminate soil and water sources. 

Eco-Friendly Shoes Traditional shoes have bad manufacturing processes and often end up in landfill
Traditional shoes have bad manufacturing processes and often end up in landfill

As awareness of these issues grows, it becomes increasingly important for consumers to consider the environmental implications of their footwear choices and seek out more sustainable alternatives.

By switching to eco-friendly shoes you can significantly reduce your environmental footprint, making a positive impact on the planet. Read on to find out what to look for when it comes to eco-friendly shoes.

What to Look for in Eco-Friendly Shoes

If you have decided to look for a pair of eco-friendly shoes, it’s essential to consider materials, manufacturing practices, and overall environmental impact. Look for shoes made from eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, hemp, or recycled materials. These products are biodegradable and have lower environmental footprints. Furthermore, the materials not only offer excellent durability but also reduce the need for synthetic chemicals and plastics.

Choose shoes with natural, non-toxic components, free from harmful chemicals like chromium, formaldehyde, and PVC. Fun fact: some brands even use innovative materials like pineapple leaves (Pinatex) and mushroom leather (Mylo) to create sustainable shoes. Packaging is another critical factor; opt for brands that use minimal, recyclable, or compostable packaging to reduce waste.

Certifications such as OEKO-TEX, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) can help identify products that meet high environmental and health standards. Additionally, consider the manufacturing process—brands that prioritise energy-efficient production methods and ethical labour practices contribute to a more sustainable product lifecycle. 

Eco-Friendly Shoes Look for shoes made from natural materials with eco-friendly packaging
Look for shoes made from natural materials with eco-friendly packaging

Supporting companies that are transparent about their sourcing and production practices can make a significant difference. By thinking about these factors, you can choose shoes that benefit both your feet and the planet, ensuring your footwear choices are as eco-friendly as possible. 

Next up we take a look at three of our favourite eco-friendly shoe brands.

Three of Our Favourite Brands

Ethical Wares

Our first featured brand is Ethical Wares offers a range of vegan, cruelty-free footwear made from sustainable materials. Their shoes are designed for comfort and durability, with an emphasis on ethical production practices. Ethical Wares combines style with a commitment to animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

Head over to their website and use voucher code 10OFFEMAIL for a 10% discount on Ethical Wares products.

Eco-Friendly Shoes Ethical Wares Ethletic Vegan Sneaker Boot in black and white
Ethical Wares Ethletic Vegan Sneaker Boot in black and white


Our next brand, Thought provides a range of eco-friendly footwear made from sustainable, ethically sourced materials. Their shoes focus on comfort and longevity, using organic cotton, hemp, and recycled materials. Thought’s designs are perfect for the conscious consumer looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

Visit their website and use voucher code CHARLOTTE20 for a 20% discount on Thought products.

Eco-Friendly Shoes - Thought's Alohas Danny Vegan Black Check Boot
Thought's Alohas Danny Vegan Black Check Boot


The final brand this week, Allbirds offers eco-friendly shoes crafted from sustainable materials like merino wool and eucalyptus. Their footwear prioritises comfort, durability, and a minimal environmental footprint. Allbirds’ innovative designs make them a top choice for those seeking sustainable, stylish options.

Check out their website where they are currently running an up to 50% off sale.

Eco-Friendly Shoes Allbirds natural white women's plant racers
Allbirds natural white women's plant racers

Eco-Friendly Shoes: Wrap Up

We appreciate you exploring eco-friendly shoe options with us!

Switching to sustainable footwear from brands like Ethical Wares, Thought, and Allbirds not only enhances your style but also supports a healthier planet.

The Play It Green community is here to empower each of us to make these small changes that lead to amazing impacts. Together, we can step into sustainability and inspire others to join us on this journey towards a more sustainable future.

Remember, every sustainable change you make matters. Let’s make every one of them count!

Play It Green: Empowering Your Sustainability Journey

Ready to take your commitment to sustainability to the next level? Play It Green stands as your partner in creating positive environmental change. From educational resources on sustainable practices and signposting to sustainable services to initiatives like tree planting and social giving, Play It Green offers a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. 

Join us in the journey toward sustainability—embrace eco-conscious practices and be a force for positive change in our world. All whilst staying relevant, meeting legislation and aligning with the values of today’s consumers and employees.

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