The summer weather brings the need (or want) for sustainable summer sandals and in the era of working from home, socks and bare feet have found their way into most outfits. But now, it's time to put our best foot forward with these 10 eco-friendly and ethically made sandals for summer fun!
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How to choose Eco Friendly Ethical Sandals
Basically, it's the same deal as when choosing sustainable clothing brands. When sharing ethical and sustainable fashion brands, I always take all of the following into account:
Natural or organic fabrics & materials;
Environmentally-conscious packaging (plastic alternatives);
Who can access and use this product?;
Equity and cost;
Animal rights. (In this case, the use of leather in some shoes—more on this at the bottom of the post.)
Here are my FAVORITE Eco Friendly Ethical Sandals
Poppy Barley is a Canadian shoe brand that is easy to fall in love with. I own a few of their winter boots because I am obsessed with their quality and style. They also carry some of the best eco-friendly sandals.
They have a really chic collection of summer sandals, from flats to mules. I love that each pair will stand the test of time—they are trendy but not so much that you wouldn't be able to wear them every season. If you need a sandal with a small block heel, they have that too!
Poppy Barley's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
For materials, they use source leathers that are a by-product of food production and are natural alternatives to synthetic leather that sometimes come from the fossil fuel industry. They work with tanneries that are certified and audited by the not-for-profit Leather Working Group.
"Leather Working Group, an international not-for-profit that audits tanneries for environmental performance. LWG is responsible for the world’s largest leather sustainability program. The average LWG-accredited tannery saves 12.1 billion litres of water and 775 megawatts of energy per year through its sustainable practices."
The leather that lines their footwear is a vegetable-tanned leather that comes from a Gold Certified Leather Working Group tannery that is chemical and chrome-free.
They also use a material made from a cactus. This is an excellent vegan alternative. Vegan leather is a complicated subject for sure, but they are typically made from plastics like PVC or PU. PVC is known to contain harmful, toxic ingredients (phthalates), and both these types of plastic also support the fossil fuel industry.
In place of PU and PVC, they use PB PLNT which is sourced ethically in Mexico. The cacti grow in abundance and require no water. They only harvest the leaves, so the rest of the plant is left intact. Cactus leather is free of phthalates and other harmful chemicals.
Poppy Barley's ethical sourcing
Their sustainable sandals are built to last, designed in Canada, and made ethically in family-owned factories in Mexico and Brazil. Not only do they sell these at a fair price, but they also donate 1% of their sales back to their communities. Poppy Barley is the brainchild of sisters Justine and Kendall Barber who had a lightbulb moment after travelling to Bali.
They then set their eye on León, Mexico "in search of a leather shoe factory that prioritized its people and could offer flexibility in sizing and inventory through small-batch manufacturing."
Poppy Barley's corporate responsibility
Poppy Barley is a certified B Corporation, meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
All of their factories are strictly vetted and all the artisans are paid a living wage and have safe working conditions. Every year, they publish their People and Planet Report which was created as a means of full transparency.
All of their shoe boxes are made with FSC-certified paper and they ship everything plastic-free!
Brave Soles makes upcycled tire sandals for men, women, and kids. This Canadian sustainable shoe brand was founded by Christal Earle, who is also the founder of an international youth humanitarian organization. She's been working with a local community of garbage dump workers in the Dominican Republic since 2005.
After seeing the overwhelming amount of tires being discarded in the garbage dump, which are a breeding ground for bacteria and are highly toxic, she decided to do something about it... and Brave Soles was born. Why not use tires for the soles of shoes?
Brave Soles Natural or organic fabrics & materials
The top part of the shoe is made with ethically sourced leather from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Argentina. It all comes from certified gold members of the Leather Working Group. The brand is working towards being 100% upcycled. The part between the tire sole and the leather shoe bottom is made from high-quality foam.
Brave Soles ethical sourcing
They work with artisans across the North Coast of the Dominican Republic and have developed close relationships with all of them. This ensures that they build trust and transparency. All of the shoes are made ethically and all the craftspeople are paid a fair wage and work in safe conditions.
The man behind the design of the shoe pictured is named Bernard and they call him the "Tire Wizard". He's been upcycling tires most of his life and actually built a car from upcycled parts! He now trains all the up-and-coming tire wizards at Brave Soles.
They also carry really cute bags and accessories that are "Upcycled aircraft seats and furniture cutoffs from furniture makers and overstock leather from the manufacturing zones of Dominican Republic."
Brave Soles Corporate Responsibility
At Brave Soles, you can shop their carbon-neutral products, as they say, you’re investing in projects that promise stronger communities, cleaner skies and a greener Earth!"
Handmade Love makes some of the cutest sustainable beach slide sandals that come in a variety of colours. This Etsy shop is based in India and not only do they carry the most affordable sustainable sandals at $25, but they also make home goods that range from basket to Macrame Lamps, which are gorgeous by the way!
Handmade Love's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
Their sandals are made uses 100% natural straw with a rubber sole. They use sustainable materials like jute and straw and handmake all of their items. These cute sandals are 100% vegan too.
Handmade Love's ethical souring and corporate responsibility
All of the cute sandals are handmade by the shop owner herself.
I love this brand's eco friendly and comfortable sandals—they remind me of my homeland, South Africa. They are so pretty, colourful, and beaded. They also carry bangles, cuffs, earrings, and beautiful home goods like baskets, bags, and towels. You'll love them all!
Swahili Coast's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
All of their eco friendly ethical sandals are made from locally sourced, naturally-tanned, free-range Tanzanian leather.
Swahili Coast's ethical sourcing
Swahili Coast works with artisans in East Africa who are part of worker-owned cooperatives that are provided continual support through fair exchange and promotion of workers' rights. This brand is all about Worker-owned, worker-managed, and worker-financed.
Swahili Coast's Corporate Responsibility
"Swahili Coast supports their worker-owned co-op in Tanzania and Kenya through their fair trade business based in Wilmington, North Carolina. Their mission is to provide fair wages, safe working conditions, growing opportunities for women artisans and creating a cross-cultural exchange. 80 percent of Swahili Coast’s co-op members are women."
Proud Mary's Pink Fringe ethical outdoor sandals are to die for! I love pink, so it's no surprise that I'd love them! If pink is not your thing, don't worry, they've got lots of other colours and styles to choose from. You can also choose from strappy sandals, open and closed-toe and loafers, which I am currently eyeing.
Proud Mary's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
The raffia is sourced ethically from Madagascar and the leather comes from Europe. Raffia is a natural fiber made from palm trees but sliced more thinly than the traditional palm goods you’ll find, such as handbags and furniture. The soles are made from scrap cow leather.
Proud Mary's ethical sourcing
These sandals are handmade in Morocco by women artisans who are paid a fair wage for each pair. Not only do they make them, but many of them also use the work to become more independent. They also make one trip a year to visit their sourcing partners in Morocco.
To ensure that they are in fact ethical, Proud Mary makes a point of working with local coordinators who have been audited. Many of the coordinators refuse to work with foreign retailers who do not pay ethical and fair wages.
Proud Mary's corporate responsibility
Proud Mary is actually owned by another company called Catrinka that was founded back in 2013 and works with local women artisans in Mexico and India. They are all about empowering women is all aspects of the manufacturing process. They have provided fair work to 284 women in 16 countries and supported 595 adolescent girls in 5 countries. They also created the Catrinka Girls Project to contribute to their life skills mentoring program.
Darzah is an ethical footwear brand based out of Palestine that also happens to be a not-for-profit company. Not only do they sell beautifully made shoes, sandals and mules, you can also find a range of accessories and home decor items like pillows and aprons. All of them are so stunning.
When you buy a pair of their shoes, you are directly contributing to artisan salaries and employment programs.
Darzah's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
Their sandals are made from rubber, leather, and embroidery. Their leather is sourced locally from a family-run leather manufacturer in Khalil/Hebron.
Darzah's ethical sourcing
The shoes are all hand-made in Palestine by skilled women and the leather is sourced locally and ethically in the same region.
This Fair Trade certified brand helps women in the West Bank earn a fair wage. These women have historically faced marginalization in the form of gender inequality, low income, and lack of economic opportunities. When you buy a pair of these ethical shoes, you are helping to empower these women by proving fair income, job opportunities, and training.
Darzah's corporate responsibility
Darzah is a project of Child’s Cup Full, a 501(c)3 non-profit social enterprise. They also created Zeki Learning, the sister brand to Darzah. Zeki Learning is a children’s educational resource brand committed to creating high-quality learning materials that promote cognitive development and language learning for preschoolers.
Rawganique is another fantastic Canadian brand that not only sells ethical vegan footwear but also shower curtains, clothing, socks, pyjamas and bath and home goods. Their summer sandals are made from hemp, one of the most sustainable fabrics on the market today. And if you are chemical sensitive these are a great choice for you.
Rawganique's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
Rawganique's products are as pure as they get. This is what they have to say about that on their website: "Our products are really pure. We know this because we grow, comb, spin, weave, knit, and sew them, so we know what goes in (and doesn’t go in) to our organic products. As chemically sensitive people, we personally only use our own products because we know how pure they are."
Hemp is pretty amazing—it's breathable, vegan, and cruelty-free. These shoes are biodegradable, eco-friendly, unbleached, and dye-free!
Rawganique's Ethical sourcing
These affordable sustainable sandals are handmade in the USE and EU in sweatshop-free factories. Their motto is Zero animal testing. Zero animal cruelty. Zero slave labour. Zero sweatshops. They never have to test on animals because their organic products come from perfect natural fibers and can't harm any animal or human!
Rawganique's corporate responsibility
Not only are they 100% sweatshop-free. They also homestand off the gird on rural Denman Island, BC. They work on 45 acres without power tools and grow tons of fresh organic foods. Rawganique's organic wearables and home products are chemical-free, cruelty-free, and animal-friendly.
Eating The Goober makes recycled ethical sandals that also happen to be vegan! They are based in Athens, Greece (OPA!) and make super chic clothing and bags. Not only did the sandals win a 2019 Etsy Award in the earth-friendly category, but they come in more than 55 designs in three main categories: Classic, Fancy and Playful!
If you want affordable, sustainable sandals, this is it! You know how much I love products that have a dual purpose, and with their Ethical Magical Sliders sandals, you get 45 changeable tops, one to match every outfit. Truly magical.
You are probably wondering where this name comes from—I know I was curious. This is how the brand explains it: "Super goober was the magic peanut that would miraculously transform Goofy, the cartoon character, into “Super Goof”. Metaphorically, “Eating the Goober” represents the effort to reveal our very own superhero alter ego."
Eating the Goober's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
These sliders are made from a variety of materials. The fabric on the top comes from upcycled fabrics, the liner is made from cork, and the outer soles and inner soles come from recycled tires and recycled motorbike inner tubes. Pretty cool! They are ethically made and fully vegan.
Eating the Goober's ethical sourcing
They are ethically made and fully vegan. Everything is produced in Greece locally. Noting on their website that "our production is made locally manufactured by craftsmen with fair treatment of workers at every stage of production."
Third Oak's sustainable beach slide sandals and flip flops are responsibly made in the USA. They're manufactured locally, which means they have less of a carbon footprint as the sandals do not have to travel the world before they get to you.
Third Oak's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
They are made from a blend of recycled plastics that are vegan and cruelty-free. They spent years co-developing their unique bio-based material: 45% soy by weight, and 100% vegan.
They carefully created this material blend to be the perfect balance of flexibility and durability, to add just the right amount of bounce to your step.
All of their shoes are also 100% recyclable, which means anything that is left as scrap is reused to make more shoes, reducing waste even further. AND, you can also recycle these shoes, which is pretty amazing and means that the entire process of making these shoes is landfill-free.
Conventional foam flip flops are not recyclable after use and will end up polluting landfills. They also produce a lot of waste in the manufacturing process. Third Oak certainly offers a better alternative to those!
Third Oak's ethical sourcing
Everything is made and sourced ethically and locally in the USA.
Third Oak's corporate responsibility
When you are ready to get a new pair, simply mail your old ones back to be recycled and get 15 percent off your next pair as a thank-you! Third Oak is owned by Okabashi and was featured in Google’s 2018 Economic Impact Report as one of Georgia's businesses that helps local economies & creates jobs.
As mentioned at the top of this post, it comes down to a few keys parameters, including:
Materials/Fabrics: What kind of textiles make up the shoe? Are they biodegradable, recyclable, ethically sourced, and do they have any third-party certifications, like OKEO-TEX? In the case of ethical sandals, most of the soles are made from recycled tires, and the fabrics are either upcycled or natural. If leather is used, it needs to be sourced responsibly.
Some brands are using innovative materials like cactus and even pineapple (Pinatex). Others are using Recycled PET or Nylon that comes from fishing nets and ocean plastic. And some do use leather. Leather is very controversial, especially in the eco-space.
Leather can come from a few sources. It can be a byproduct of the meat industry, which means it's being reused instead of discarded. Leather that comes from the leather industry is not a good option—killing animals for this fur or hides is not ok! And when you realize one billion animals are killed for the hides, it makes you think twice. Upcycled leather is best. It also needs to be naturally dyed, and chrome-free.
Most vegan leathers are made from plastic, which isn't necessarily any better because it's most likely a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, it can be toxic, and it's often a lot less durable. At the end of the day, each consumer has to shop according to their own conscience and priorities.
Corporate responsibility: Are the people that are making the shoe working in safe conditions? Are they being paid a fair wage? What steps is the company taking to ensure this? Are they a certified B Corp company? This information should be easy to find when you visit their website. Transparency is key.
There are so many great brands, if you want to share, please drop a note in the comments below and happy sunning!
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