Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An eco-shoe dilemma!

So I have a Groupon for Berk's Shoes in Harvard Square. Great right? Well now that I've started doing my eco-fashion thing, it seems buying shoes isn't so easy. Especially when I'm limited to a particular store.

Let me start by saying that I find the eco-friendly shoe world to be utterly confusing. It's hard enough for a consumer to determine if a clothing garment is eco-friendly, but for shoes? It's even more difficult! There are a variety of different materials used such as leather & plastics, production involves chemicals and glues, and while some of the leather may be from Italy and "handcrafted" the other half of the shoe could be made in China with who-knows what kind of materials and working conditions.

Walle and his plant in a shoe - he knows what's up
Because of this there are many different criteria under which a shoe could be considered "eco." I found a good list of eco-friendly shoe brands on this site: www.planetshoes.com/Eco. Planetshoes considers shoe to be eco-friendly if they meet one of these criteria:
  • Made from sustainable natural materials that can easily be recycled or biodegraded.
  • Made from recycled materials.
  • Made of vegan materials.
  • Fair Trade and/or ethically produced.
  • Energy used to make the shoes come from renewable resources like wind or solar.
For my sanity, I'm going to also use Planetshoes's criteria, because my own "rules" seem a little too stricted in the shoe department.

I've been trying to research the eco-friendly practices of some of the brands Berk's carries. And actually (I'm not surprised) Berk's is pretty good. They sell quite a few eco-friendly shoe brands.

Eco-friendly brands Berk's does carry: Arcopedico, Birkenstock, Chaco, Kigo, Merrell, Naot, New Balance, Reef, Teva, The North Face, Wolky.

Some of these brands are really great! But they aren't exactly what I'm looking for - I don't need sandals, and I don't wear the chunky style of many of those brands.  Unfortunately the brand I like the best from Planetshoes's eco list is not carried by Berk's, but you should still check them out: Naya.

One thing Berk's does carry is Tom's Shoes. I was sort of on the fence about Tom's because they aren't specifically eco-friendly. They say they use Earth and eco-friendly materials whenever possible, and although they manufacture their shoes in Argentina, China, and Ethiopia, they say they require their factories to adhere to their standards of fair wages and good working conditions. These things don't exactly fit my rules, but I think their philanthropic mission makes up for it. If you don't know, for every pair of shoes purchased, Tom's donates a pair to a child in need.  Pretty awesome.

Hmmm and cute!!

So what does everyone think? Can I buy a pair of Tom's shoes and stretch my eco requirements since I have a credit to Berk's? I vote yes, but I'm curious to see other's opinions... 

Also I stopped into the vegan shoe store Sudo Shoes near Porter sq this weekend and was very impressed. I plan on going back and giving you a full report!


  1. There's actually been a lot of buzz about how Tom's shoes are not necessarily doing a good thing by donating pairs of shoes to people in need. See for example:

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