Plastics and other non-recyclable materials live within so many of our shoes, especially those manufactured by fast fashion companies. Unfortunately, though your shoes might be stylish, they likely will end up in a landfill at the end of their life cycle.
A landfill is a terrible place for a shoe to wind up in. It can take up to 40 years for some shoe materials to break down, and in some cases, the soles of shoes might still be in the landfill 1,000 years later. When you add up all the shoes in the world that are manufactured and ultimately thrown away, that equals tons of shoes added to our landfills every year.
Our general knowledge of pollution and the detrimental effects of residual plastic waste has grown exponentially over the past decades. It’s essential that companies like KOKOLU work to create clothing and products that are more environmentally friendly and that won’t take up thousands of years worth of space in a landfill at the end of their lifecycle.
One big trend in sustainable fashion has been the recent rise of sustainability footwear.
You might see the term sustainability footwear and feel wary about it since greenwashing has become more prevalent throughout the fashion industry. However, truly sustainable shoes through trustworthy companies are the real deal!
But what is sustainable footwear?
Sustainability footwear is essentially recyclable shoewear made from sustainable materials. Sustainable footwear is a much more environmentally conscious choice compared to many other shoe options.
Keep reading to learn all about the sustainable footwear movement and how these shoes work to better the environment!
Made With Sustainable Materials
The most significant sign that a shoe is truly sustainable is if it’s made with sustainable materials. So often, products are made from toxic materials that pollute the environment. When shopping sustainably, it's crucial to avoid these materials and seek out shoes with eco-friendly textiles.
Organic fibers are a tell-tale sign of a genuinely sustainable shoe. Fabrics like organic or recycled cotton, organic hemp, and organic linen indicate that the shoe material is eco-friendly. These fabrics are created without toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or GMOs, which make them a better alternative to synthetic fibers and newly constructed plastics.
Organic materials are also of superior quality, which is inherently more sustainable. Products made from these materials are more durable and have longer lifespans in your closet. This means you’ll have less need to replace your old shoes.
We tend to replace our shoes and clothes with regularity, but if we pay close attention to the materials that make up our shoes and make more informed clothing decisions, our clothes will last much longer overall.
Knowing what fibers are considered sustainable or not is a critical way to make these sustainable, informed fashion choices. You can seek out sustainable shoes and be able to spot greenwashing from organizations with ease.
Made With Recycled Plastics
Aside from organic materials, companies are making use of recycled plastics to create shoes, and KOKOLU is pioneering the recycled plastic shoewear game.
While organic materials are another sustainable alternative, shoes made from recycled materials are the ultimate in sustainable footwear. It is upcycling to the highest degree. Instead of plastics polluting landfills and oceans, companies like KOKOLU take recycled plastics and build comfortable, stylish shoes out of them.
With our KOKOLU Comfort Knit Sneaker, every aspect is made of 100% post-consumer recycled goods and other all-natural materials. Even our laces are made from recycled materials. Each set of laces is made from one recycled PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic bottle. The knit upper of the shoe is also made from 100% recycled PCR plastic.
Plastic is one of the biggest contributors to the world’s pollution and waste, so the fact that it can be transformed from a pollutant to a stylish, comfortable fabric is an eco-friendly miracle.
Plastics are not the only recycled materials at play here. The insoles of KOKOLU sneakers are made from recycled foam to provide support and ease with every step. Lastly, the soles of the shoes come from a combination of natural and recycled rubber.
Self-proclaimed sustainable brands often talk the talk, but companies like KOKOLU are here to truly walk the walk. We value transparency and staying true to our morals and mission.
Pay close attention to the materials sustainable brands use for their products. When you spot companies using recycled materials to the degree that KOKOLU does, you can rest assured that they are making environmentally conscious products that allow you to make eco-friendly choices.
Sustainability footwear engages in eco-friendly practices at every level of production. While the materials used to create the shoewear are extremely important in creating a truly sustainable kind of shoe, how the shoes are manufactured is equally as important.
Fast fashion brands typically manufacture their products in cheap textile factories where the clothes can be mass-produced with ease. While it is more cost-effective and quicker for brands to produce clothes in such a way, the immense, negative environmental impacts do not make it worth it.
Brands invested in creating sustainable footwear manufacture shoes in ways that mitigate waste and pollution and ultimately help the shoes have a longer lifespan.
3D Knitting Technology
KOKOLU aims to innovate the sustainable fashion space by using 3D knitting technology to make our Comfort Knit Sneakers.
This kind of technology is highly innovative as it essentially makes a three-dimensional model of the product which is uploaded digitally. Brilliant programmers design and edit the product using the software. They can even tweak and finalize the shoes down to the texture and individual stitch.
Once the product is completed and the final design is uploaded to the 3D knitting machine, the machine itself can produce a real, three-dimensional replica of the digital shoe. Aside from being sustainable, this practice is innovatively impressive for its simplification of the production process.
3D knitting is a creative and easy process; better yet, it makes more sustainable footwear. These knitting machines are efficient and reduce waste.
Since it is such an efficient mode of production, 3D knitting also uses less energy than traditional textile plants would.
Overall, 3D knitting technology creates fashionable, comfortable footwear while also being sustainable in the process.
Dope Dye Technology
The sustainability shoe process is truly planet-focused in every way. Even dyeing the shoes is done in an environmentally conscious way.
Color is a critical part of fashion, especially in our shoes. Brands need to nail down vibrant colors in their garments to maximize sales; unfortunately, however, many traditional fashion brands use techniques to dye clothes that harm the environment.
Many brands use synthetic, toxic azo dyes to color their garments. Azo dyes are rampant in the fashion industry, but at what cost? The dye is carcinogenic and filled with toxic chemicals that often run off into nearby water supplies.
The environmental impacts of these synthetic dyes is frightening, but thankfully brands prioritizing sustainability footwear are innovating the clothes-dyeing process by using more eco-friendly dyes.
KOKOLU and other sustainable shoe manufacturers use dope dyeing technology to color their shoes. Dope dyeing is an excellent alternative to synthetic dyes for several reasons, namely because it reduces water waste.
Dyeing clothes the traditional way leads to excessive amounts of water waste, so discovering alternative methods, like dope dyeing, is essential to reducing the risk of ecological damage.
Dope dyeing is also conducive to creating bright, vibrant garments and shoes. Take KOKOLU’s collection of Comfort Knit Sneakers as an example. So many beautiful shades are accomplished using this dyeing process.
You can get a subtle yet chic sneaker shade with the Comfort Knit Sneaker - Blue. Or, add a playful pop of color to your wardrobe with the Comfort Knit Sneaker - Yellow. The yellow shoes especially display dope dye’s impressive shade range, as the color is so striking.
There are so many ways companies can shift their practices to become more environmentally conscious and ethical, and sustainability footwear is pioneering the fashion industry through 3D knitting technology and dope dyeing methods.
Sustainability footwear is sustainable until the end. This means that even when it is time to say goodbye to your old sustainable shoes, you can still give back to the environment by recycling your sneakers instead of throwing them away, where they’ll just end up rotting in a landfill for decades upon decades.
Truly sustainable shoes will be made with materials that are 100% recyclable once that time comes. KOKOLU ensures this is a possibility since our products are already created entirely from recycled plastics, foams, and rubbers.
Keep in mind that not all sustainability footwear brands utilize recycled goods to create their shoes — but that doesn’t mean their shoes are not also recyclable!
If a shoe is made from organic materials and fibers, like bamboo, organic cotton, organic hemp or even organic linen, your shoes can absolutely be recycled. Organic materials can be recycled and reused several times, so your organically made sneakers are still recyclable.
Unfortunately, footwear made from synthetic fibers and cheap plastics can’t be recycled, but don’t let that scare you. Even shoes that are not sustainable in nature can be disposed of or given away in environmentally friendly methods.
If you have a pair of sneakers or other shoes that are still in relatively good condition, but they have worn out their stay in your personal wardrobe, you can donate them to Soles4Souls instead of tossing them in the trash.
Soles4Souls is a nonprofit organization that collects peoples’ unwanted shoes and clothing and redistributes them to countries and communities around the world that can benefit from your unwanted footwear. For instance, they accept donations for Ukrainian refugees, provide jobs in different communities, and help impoverished people and communities develop their own businesses.
They are a great organization to remember when your shoes are either non-recyclable or just unwanted.
Donate to Shelters or Thrift Stores
Similar to the Soles4Souls organization, you can donate your unwanted shoes and clothing to local shelters if you would like to aid your local community. Your immediate community might need clothing, often shoewear specifically, for the impoverished and unhoused folks who stay in local shelters.
If your local shelters are not accepting donations, you can also donate them to a local thrift store like Goodwill or Salvation Army. These stores can sell your unwanted footwear at discounted prices so that other folks can enjoy them at an affordable price.
Invest in Sustainability Footwear
Clearly, there is much more to sustainability footwear than meets the eye. Some brands claim to utilize sustainable practices, but now that you know the ins and outs of what makes footwear sustainable, you can easily spot and invest in brands that actually make environmentally ethical choices.
Some Soles Last 1,000 Years in Landfill: The Truth About the Sneaker Mountain | Fashion | The Guardian
The Increasing Dangers of Corporate Greenwashing in the Era of Sustainability | Forbes
The True Cost of Colour: The Impact of Textile Dyes on Water Systems| Fashion Revolution