By Sophie Weissensteiner
Sneakers have it all – from casual, sporty to chic and stylish. You can’t go wrong with them. The time when sneakers were only acceptable for the gym is definitely over. They have become an allrounder as being versatile and easy to style for every occasion at any given time in the year. As multi-purpose shoes, they work for casual gatherings, business meetings, and, if combined wisely, even for fancy nights out. The best thing about them is that they are simply the comfiest of all footwear.
However, trainers are not known to be particularly sustainable. A typical pair of running shoes creates about 13.6 kilograms of CO₂ emissions, according to a study conducted by the MIT. To give an idea of how big the impact is, 13.6 kilograms of CO₂ emissions equivalent to keeping a 100-watt light bulb on for one week, says the report.
So when we look at the materials being used, utilising a vast amount of plastic and synthetics, it isn’t hard to see that something needs to change in order to shift the footwear industry in a more eco-friendly direction. But more than two-thirds of the sneakers’ carbon footprint can occur due to the manufacturing process.
The energy is said to be problematic as the majority of shoes are produced in China, where coal is still one of the most prominent sources of energy. But it’s all the manufacturing steps combined that add up. As sneakers compound of 65 parts that require more than 360 processing steps for assembly, each task – from sewing and cutting to moulding, foaming and heating – contributes to the carbon impact.
Let’s just keep in mind that the bigger picture is even worse, considering that besides the production process, involving sourcing of materials and manufacturing, also distribution and post-consumption is damaging for the environment. Recycling proves to be difficult as the composition of so many different constituents suggests. In the UK, only an estimated amount of 15% (or 26,244 tonnes) of post-consumer shoes are collected and redistributed, whereas the remaining 85% (or 142,756 tonnes) end up in landfill.
It is time to revaluate our behaviour in terms of consumption and cut back on overbuying and make good use of what we already have. The next step would be to look out for more eco-friendly solutions. These sustainable sneaker brands found a way to incorporate natural and recycled materials, giving hope that someday we will manufacture goods that are not only sustainable but ethical at heart.
We have curated a selection of vegan sneakers and sustainable brands that use materials like vegan leather, recycled plastic, or organic cotton. Explore the 9 best vegan sneakers that you can wear all year round!
VEJA is known for its sustainable, ethical, and fair trade practices, being a leading force in the evolution of creating eco-conscious sneakers. The French company was founded in 2005 and manufactures its trainers in Brazil. They make an effort to utilise the most ecological materials like organic cotton, natural and recycled rubber, and recycled PET. VEJA claims to be the first sneaker brand to use fabric that comes entirely from recycled plastic bottles – for one pair of VEJA sneakers, 3 plastic bottles are needed.
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These canvas sneakers are made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, recycled rubber soles, and recycled eco-lite footbeds. As a company, Good News promotes social sustainability, making sure that the manufacturing process coincides with sustainable and ethical standards. The British shoe brand was launched in 2016 in London and has made it its goal to sustain a healthy planet. Our favourites are their low-top sneakers in the colour oatmeal – perfect for summer but also suitable for dry autumn days.
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SAYE is a Spanish brand that manufactures all its products in Portugal. The company pursues an ecological ethos – they are planting 2 trees for every pair of sneakers sold. How cool is that – planting trees by buying vegan trainers? The vegan range uses PU (polyurethane leather) which is an artificial leather considered to be vegan as it doesn’t contain animal products. The thermoplastic polymer used for the sneakers is made from recycled post-consumer fibres, meaning SAYE gives this plastic material a second life by recycling it into stylish retro-inspired trainers.
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As a vegan company, Flamingos’ Life was founded in 2015 to save animals by producing the best vegan sneakers possible. The brand uses corn waste, bamboo, hemp, linen, and recycled polyester and cotton in their different collections. Always aiming for more eco-friendly alternatives, they thrive by investing in innovative materials such as corn waste. Flamingos’ Life produces solely in Spain.
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Humans Are Vain
You are looking for a sleek yet casual-looking sneaker? Consider yourself lucky because Humans Are Vain creates vegan shoes that are perfect for everyday life and nights out. The vegan and sustainable company from Sweden pins hope to plant-based materials, such as pineapple leaf fibre and corn. They also make use of recycled plastic from ocean waste and are keen to find the latest innovations for their trainers. Humans Are Vain curates a collection of timeless sneakers with a minimalist design.
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The time has come where vegan sneakers are no niche thing anymore. All the mentioned brands are trying to reduce their plastic amount by giving recycled plastic a second life and using plant-based materials. We hope that sustainable innovations will make it easier for brands to incorporate eco-friendly and vegan products into their collections in the future. Let us know your favourite sustainable sneakers in the comments below and tell us how you style them all year round.
This article may contain some affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, KeiSei Magazine receives a small percentage of the sale price, or some brands may have paid a small fee to be featured. We only recommend brands that match our sustainable and ethical criteria and that we truly believe in.