Want some ethical shoes?

I suppose that shoes aren’t something we buy as often as groceries or coffee or tea, but they are something we invest a reasonable amount of money into.

nice… right?

The last pair of shoes I recall buying were my Adidas sneakers.  If I recall more correctly, my mom bought them for me and they probably cost around $60.

They’re nice: black suede, and orange rubber sole, and the classic 3-stripes in bright green-yellow — I like them.

But I don’t like things like this:

Indonesian factory workers producing clothes for the German sportswear giant Adidas are subject to forced overtime, physical abuse and poverty-line wages, the European parliament heard yesterday.

– The Guardian, Thursday 23 November 2000

Or this. (click link for expanded chart)

Company/Label Factory in China Wages Per Hour Hours Per Week Conditions
Nike and Adidas
Athletic Shoes
Yue Yuen Factory
Forced overtime, no overtime premium paid; excessive noise pollution, fumes in the factory; no worker had heard of Nike or Adidas Corporate Code of Conduct
Many people look to TOMS as an ethical choice, with their Buy One Give One model of business.  Yet, they are made in China.  Bethlehem Tilahun of SoleRebels says this:
“If you give a kid shoes, they wear out or they grow out of them, and then what do they have? If you give the kid’s parents a job, the whole family will always have shoes.”
(See this blog post for a perspective on TOMS)
Henceforth, I would like to attempt to ethically buy shoes.  Friends, please hold me accountable to this.  Tom F., a friend, quite some time ago, sported a pair of shoes made from recycled materials that he ordered from the UK.  As a 15-year-old, I really liked the idea, wanted a pair, but never followed through.  It’s now 5 years later and I still haven’t done so.
When first thinking about buying shoes from across the ocean, I think, why would I pay for the cost of shipping?  Seems like sacrificing the environmental cost for a fairly traded product.  But I quickly see my folly in that almost all of the clothing available in stores (in Canada) is made in Southern Asia (my first guess is usually Bangladesh when playing the “what part of the world was this t-shirt made in” game) – we really don’t think about the cost of shipping it when we buy such things, let alone the hourly wages a person is getting paid to make it, I don’t at least.

Today, we have some options before us.

Specifically for shoes:

  • Oliberté manufactures its wide selection of very cool fair-trade footwear in several African countries, from locally sourced leather, and they retail at 50 stores across Canada.
  • England’s oldest co-operative factory sells Vegetarian shoes.  Which, slightly puzzled me at first but after reading that the founder, in his quest to not use cows leather made a discovery: “a synthetic Microfibre material used for yachting upholstery. It looked and felt like supple leather, but was ‘breathable’, unlike other plastics. After some experimenting, I realised that this was what I had been looking for, and Vegetarian Shoes was born.”

This is all I have for now.  I hope that you too can quest for fairly traded goods and ethical shopping (as ethical as it can be in a hyper-consumerist society).

For plenty of fair-trade products visit Ten Thousand Villages; they’ve been at it for 65 years!


One thought on “Want some ethical shoes?

  1. I received a spam-like comment from someone telling me to look at their blog about shoes. Unfortunately, the focus of this person’s blog was: how much they liked shoes, how they couldn’t stop thinking about the next pair they wanted to buy, and how much shoes made them happy.

    I apologize if I came across as an encourager of purchasing as many shoes as possible. I simply want people to buy things ethically when such needs arise. Buy things when you need them, not when you want them.

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