Do You Have Green Feet?
Copyright (c) 2009 Dr. Jennifer Feeny
The environment has been an extremely hot topic over the past few years (just look at how central of an issue it was
during the 2008 presidential campaign), and industries
across the board are responding - including the footwear
According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association,
in 2006 alone, U.S. consumers purchased 2.4 billion pairs
of shoes. Granted, this was the year the U.S. population
passed the 300 million mark, but we're still looking at an
estimated average of eight pairs of shoes purchased by each
U.S. resident that year. And the fact is, for the bulk of
history, shoes have been manufactured at a high
environmental cost - resulting not only from actual
production, but also from transportation. So what's being
done about it, and what can you, as an individual, do to
contribute to the success of the eco-friendly footwear
movement? There are a few options available - both before
and after shoe purchase.
Before you Buy. The shoe industry has several players,
large and small, that have responded to the call of the
green movement. In fact, several have been in the game for
longer than many of us realize. Take, for example, Nike,
who in 1993 established an internal team, the Nike
Environmental Action Team (N.E.A.T.) (now part of the
company's Corporate Responsibility Division) dedicated to
the direction and coordination of Nike's global
environmental programs. The company has also joined with
Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, Sun Microsystems and The
Timberland Company to form Business for Innovative Climate
and Energy Policy (BICEP), an organization calling for
strong U.S. climate and energy legislation in early 2009.
But Nike isn't the only one making a concerted effort to go
green. Brooks has a section of its Web site dedicated to
the green movement, The Green Room. And just last year,
Brooks introduced BioMoGo, the world's first fully
biodegradable midsole foam for footwear. According to The
Green Room, once a pair of Brooks shoes with BioMoGo has
reached an enclosed landfill, it will begin to biodegrade.
In roughly 20 years, the midsoles will be completely
converted by common soil microbes into useful humus and
nutrients. That's about 50 times faster than a standard
midsole degradation. (Traditional Ethylene Vinyl AcetateT
[EVA] midsoles can last up to 1,000 years in a landfill.).
New Balance maintains U.S. production factories, helping to
eliminate the carbon footprint other manufacturers cause in
transporting their footwear the thousands of miles to get
to the United States.
Timberland takes a creative approach in providing a"nutrition label" on each of its shoe boxes, which lets
consumers know "exactly what went into making the shoes" -
from chemicals to recycled content.
But it isn't just the shoes getting the attention of the
manufacturers; it's also the packaging. Several
manufacturers are also investing in biodegradable shoe
boxes and filling. There are several other companies
leading the way in providing greener footwear options as
well - Birkenstock, ecco, END, Flat Tire, KEEN, Mephisto,
Patagonia and Teva, to name a few.
So before you buy those shoes you've been wanting, check
out the manufacturer's environmental practices, and
determine for yourself whether they fit with your personal
Your Shoes Have Lived a Good Life. Now What? The average
advised life expectancy of a pair of shoes is six months -
doesn't seem very long before sending your shoes off to the
landfill, right? But there are options!
There are several programs worldwide dedicated to the
donation of shoes that may have a little life left in them
after all, including RecycledRunners.com and Soles4Souls,
and a host of other worldwide programs that can be found at
Run the Planet. And for those shoes that aren't at all fit
to be worn, check out true recycling options such as Nike's
Doing Your Part One Shoe at a Time. Despite the progress
being made toward more eco-friendly footwear, the sector
still represents less than four percent of the overall
footwear market, according to Marshal Cohen, chief industry
analyst for The NPD Group. Therefore, when it comes time to
purchase a new pair of shoes, and you want to go green, do
your research; talk with your podiatrist about eco-friendly
brands he or she recommends. And remember to keep your
feet's best interest at heart. You don't have to sacrifice
comfort and support for the good of the environment; you
can have both.
As a podiatrist specializing in treating foot pain, Dr.
Feeny has helped thousands of people to put their best foot
forward. She is a board certified foot and ankle specialist
located near Roanoke Virginia.
For more foot health tips, visit her website http://www.ShenandoahPodiatry.com