The fashion market has come under scrutiny lately for its ethics and impact on the environment leading to a surge in eco friendly fashion and ethical tags. Shoes aren’t something that people always think about when it comes to eco friendly fashion. They could be just a small part of an entire outfit but they’re a very important part and their manufacture can have as many ethical and ecological implications as clothing.
Recently the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation issued warnings about the elevated levels of toxins from plastic shoes such as flip flops, clogs and sandals from quite a few countries including the Philippines, advising that the high levels present were injurious to human health and the environment. The tests that were performed in cooperation with the EcoWaste Coalition and associate teams in India, Indonesia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda found 17 of the 27 pairs of plastic Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Ladies positive for phthalates which are related to developmental and reproductive disorders, including incomplete testicular growth and decreased fertility in men. One special Phthalate, DEHP can cause diminished fertility and harm to the unborn child. The shoes also tested positive for varying amounts of heavy metals, a number of that damaging to endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems, are carcinogenic and allergenic, and highly toxic to aquatic organisms.
Even allegedly safe plastic shoes which don’t include phthalates or heavy metals are created using petro chemicals, a non renewable source and definitely cause some sort of pollution and significant carbon dioxide emissions within their production.
Whilst many people might think about leather shoes, a natural and eco friendly alternative to plastic and synthetic shoes, they also have their own significant environmental impacts. The raising of this live stock where the leather comes from is in itself damaging for the environment as it causes elevated levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Whilst quite a great deal of leather is a by product of meat, the income from the leather effects the price of beef and therefore the supply and demand. Tanneries, in which leather is produced, use a cocktail of powerful compounds including lead, zinc, formaldehyde, dyes and cyanide-based compounds to remove the flesh from skin and also stabilise the arrangement of the leather.
Not only are poisonous chemicals in shoes potentially bad for the environment and the people who wear them but notably to the employees who create them. Back in China Benzene is occasionally used to paste shoes together. Whilst it’s prohibited in other nations Benzene is used in China since it is cheaper than other glues. Employees in the Bishwan district where much of the shoe sector is focused, commonly suffer with severe anemia brought on by the benzene.
Workers in tanneries in the Hazarabagh area of India, in which there are 185 leather processing businesses are continuously exposed to dangerous substances often with no protective clothing or even shoes. Factories have high walls and very little venting, the suffocating heat, fumes and odour of substances make them quite unpleasant places to work. Skin ailments lung damage, respiratory disease, asthma and bronchitis, diarrhea, digestive complaints and eyes harm just some of the health care complaints which commonly affect the employees.
Urban dwellers residing in the are of Hazarabagh are also at risk from the toxic pollution brought on by the leather industry. The industry also generates 150 metric tons of waste every day which also contaminates the environment and water. There is also intense air pollution brought on by the cooking of skins and hides to attain glue for the industry.
There are a number of feasible alternatives to conventional leather and plastic shoes. Whilst not ideal, shoes made of eco friendly and moral leather are a better choice than traditional leather. They’re biodegradable and tanned with vegetable tans which are kinder to both the environment and the employees that make the leather. Other eco friendly and ethical alternatives contain shoes made from organic hemp, organic cotton, latex, wool, cork and recycled materials.