Step back to school with eco-sneakers

Photo: www.simpleshoes.com

New shoes are always part of the back to school ritual. You need well shod feet for lugging all those books around. But there is good news this season. Socially responsible shoes are more fashionable than ever!

Not just for hippies
Whether we'll admit it or not, eco-friendly shoes in the past have been quite bland. But thanks to a growing population of environmentally conscious consumers, designers have finally developed fashionable options in colors other than brown, using materials that don't resemble something dug up from a landfill.
Fashionable Sustainability
Simple Shoes has developed a saavy and chic line of sustainable footwear that resembles your trendy designer sneakers. But the similarity ends there. Their ecoSNEAKS, with witty names like Satire and Retire, use PET (recycled plastic bottles) for laces and pedbeds, organic cotton for liners and recycled car tires for soles. Their Green Toe Shoes are equally as eco-friendly, using bamboo lining and water-based cements. And to top it off, their prices are reasonable. Simply the best.

Turning a green leaf
Though you wouldn't immediately think of NIKE as helping to pave the way for eco-friendly shoes, their CONSIDERED line has proven there is an earth friendly market that can hit a mainstream audience. These shoes are created without any adhesives, the materials used are obtained locally within a few hundred miles of their factories and the product can be easily disassembled for recycling. Not entirely green but certainly an improvement over their other lines.

No label
Using 100 percent organic hemp and water-based glues, Blackspot has produced an edgy shoe perfect for college-aged student that also takes a cut into Nike's stranglehold on shoemaking. Worker- and eco-friendly, their classic Blackspot Sneaker resembles the design VANS made famous. The Unswoosher boots, made from all-vegetarian materials, looks like something cool rockers would wear.

Not Only for Fashionistas
If you are looking for an earthy feel to your footwear, check out Gurkees. The company likes to call their products "Jesus Sandals," though they look much more comfortable than their clunky predecessors. These sandals are made from rope fibers, are salt-water and chlorine resistant and machine washable -- especially comfortable for lounging around the dorms and perfect for the communal showers.

Patagonia has a diverse selection of rugged casual shoes with familiar earthy colors. With options for men, women and children, picky shoppers are likely to find what they're looking for. Even better, their footwear use vegetable-based laces, recycled rubber and hemp fibers.

"Green" Up Your Old Shoes
Of course, you don't have to buy brand new shoes in order to lessen your footprint on the planet. If you're in need of new shoelaces, look for laces made from Jute, a natural fiber made from some plants found in the warmer climates of India. Plenty of online shops sell the product.

Jason Antebi is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.