Shoe manufacturing is associated with many environmental problems, and a conscious consumption of shoes can feel difficult. To make leather, the leather must be tanned, a process that requires large amounts of water and chemicals that give off emissions to air, water and soil. Tanning entails serious health risks in mainly low-wage countries where our shoes are produced. The chemicals can also remain in the finished shoe, which does not always have to be dangerous for the person wearing the shoes, but can lead to problems when the shoes become waste and the contents are released into the environment. Natural tanned leather is gentler on the environment because degradable vegetable substances are used, provided that the tannery has proper sewage treatment. Shoes made of common synthetic materials also cause environmental problems, as these materials are made from oil. On the positive side, there are now shoes made of sustainable and organic materials, e.g. here.
Advice for conscious consumption of shoes
- Take good care of your shoes so that they last longer.
- Choose shoes made of natural tanned leather or plant products, avoid synthetic materials.
- Soles made of natural rubber or recycled rubber material are better than synthetically made rubber.
- Buy second-hand shoes.
- Support the environment and at the same time your shoemaker – leave your broken and torn shoes and boots to your shoemaker for repair instead of buying new.
- If you are going to buy new shoes, there are eco-labels to look for and also shoes in recycled or organic material.
It is difficult to recycle a shoe, which consists of many different materials. But one can always, if the shoe is still in good condition, donate them to Second-hand stores.
Page updated 2021.