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Your sneakers are polluting the planet. Here are 7 greener alternatives

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03.05.2019

Sneakers are the shoe of our time, ergonomically designed to fit our feet, and engineered to get us through our busiest days. They’ve become the ultimate aesthetic statement for increasingly casual modern workplaces.

Unfortunately, sneakers have a big environmental footprint. This is partly because they are very complex to make, containing an average of 30 components–and some shoes have as many as 80 components. In practice, that means tiny scraps of plastic, leather, rubber, and cotton are shipped around the world to make a shoe, generating carbon emissions in the process.

The component materials aren’t particularly sustainable either. Most sneakers contain plastic in the sole and the footbed, which is not biodegradable, so it could sit in landfills for hundreds of years. And because these parts are attached to the shoe with glue, the plastic is currently impossible to recycle because current recycling systems do not accommodate materials that have been adulterated with chemicals. Many sneakers are also made of leather, which increases their carbon footprint further; raising cattle accounts for a whopping 14.5% of total manmade greenhouse emissions.

All of these individual problems are bad, but they are compounded by the fact sneakers tend to be trend-driven and consumers often treat them like fast-fashion items. They might buy a color or silhouette that is currently in vogue, and throw it out at the end of the season. In 2017, the global athletic shoe market was valued at $63.4 billion, and it is expected to grow by 5% annually over the next seven years to hit $95.1 billion by 2025. Grand View Research forecasts that nearly one billion sneakers will be sold that year.

However, brands–and consumers–are increasingly aware that sneakers are polluting the planet. A couple of startups have developed innovative solutions to making sneakers more eco-friendly, and even sneaker giants like Nike and Adidas are developing techniques to improve the sustainability of their sneakers.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of kicks–but want to limit their environmental impact–here’s a list of sneakers for you to explore. While none of these shoes are perfect, they’re probably better than the average sneaker you might get from a fast-fashion brand without any environmental practices in place. We’ve vetted these brands to ensure they are moving the needle when it comes to sustainability. Importantly, we’ve also tested them to make sure they are comfortable and perform well.

Five-year-old Allbirds has made a name for itself creating shoes out of renewable materials that nobody previously thought could go into a sneaker. The company launched with a $95 runner and a loafer made out of merino wool from New Zealand sheep.........

© Fast Company