The rise of veganism has been dramatic in recent years, and has become much more mainstream, with there being much more availability of vegan food on supermarket shelves, and as options in restaurants.
As we become more aware of what we should be doing to look after the environment, veganism has been thrust even further into the spotlight, as it is shown that following a plant based diet, or at least eating less meat products is good for our planet.
However, people have now also started considering how their clothing impacts the environment. With the rise of fast fashion, and people becoming aware of how damaging it is, consumers are leaning towards more sustainable fashion, and also away from products made from animal products.
Vegan shoes are a huge part of that, read on to find out more.
What Are Vegan Shoes Made Out Of?
Traditionally, most shoes have been made from leather, but as we become more aware of how problematic the dairy and beef industry is, shoe manufacturers have been looking for alternatives.
Some shoes are made of canvas or cotton materials, which is vegan, however, the glue used to hold the shoes together may not be vegan, so shoes that are vegan are usually clearly marked, so that shoppers know what to look for.
As for leather alternatives, the most usual materials to use are, unfortunately, derived from plastic. PVC used to be used many years ago, but it is now rarely used as it is a non-breathable material that makes the wearer sweaty, which can lead to skin issues, and just generally being uncomfortable.
The favourite leather alternative currently is Polyurethane (PU), and this is much more breathable than PVC, making shoes comfortable to wear. Currently, PU is manufactured from fossil fuels, and so it does have an impact on the environment, but, as the demand for vegan shoes rises, scientists and manufacturers are working on finding better alternatives.
There are also ‘leathers’ available that are made from mushroom and pineapple, which have a much lower environmental impact to produce. Currently, these leather alternatives are expensive as they are produced on a small scale, but the higher the demand, the lower the cost will fall.
There are also some plastics being made from vegetable oils, which will hopefully negate the need for fossil fuel based plastic in the future, and make them more recyclable.
What Kind Of Vegan Shoes Are Available?
There are all sorts of vegan shoes available now. One of the largest, and well known shoe brands to start producing vegan shoes are Dr Martens, who are producing their world famous boots in vegan leather alternatives now, and have seen demand surge.
Topshop, Nike, Adidas and Converse are also producing shoes that are clearly marked as vegan, and other smaller brands are swiftly following.
You can get almost any shoe in vegan alternatives, from stilettos to vegan hiking shoes, the choice is wide and varied, and will only get more so as shoppers become more aware of what they are buying.
Animal Leather Is Bad For The Environment
Many people will think that animal leather is better because it’s natural, however that is not the case.
Raising animals for meat is problematic in many ways. The scale that animals are raised for meat in the modern world, is unsustainable.
Producing meat creates a lot of harmful greenhouse gases, not to mention the methane that each livestock animal produces.
Huge swathes of land are wiped clear of all the natural vegetation to make way for grazing livestock, the most noticeable of this is the huge amounts of rainforest that are disappearing at an alarming rate, and will not be able to be replaced. This ruins habitats and decimates species.
Once you have raised and then killed the animal, the skin then needs to go through a process to turn it into leather. This is called tanning, and stops the skin from the natural decomposition process.
The chemicals used to tan leather are incredibly harmful to the people working with it, and to the local wildlife, the waterways and aquatic life. Leather tanning is considered to be in the top ten most polluting industries in the world.
So whilst, currently, producing vegan leather does have an environmental impact, it is not nearly as damaging as the production of animal leather.
Can You Get Vegan Accessories?
So now that you have your vegan shoes, you will want to make the rest of your wardrobe as vegan and as sustainable as possible.
Any accessories previously made from leather are available as vegan leather alternatives, including handbags, belts, jackets, purses, wallets and anything else that can be made from leather.
Wool is not usually considered vegan as it comes from an animal, so when you are looking for your clothing options, make sure to carefully consider the materials it is made from.
Canvas, linen and cotton are fantastic alternatives, and to make your wardrobe more sustainable consider thrifting, or buying vintage.
Do You Have To Be The ‘Perfect Vegan’?
No, in short. Any steps that you can take to help the planet, and to help animals can only be for the good.
If you decide you want to follow a vegan lifestyle, you do not have to switch everything at once. Just because you have leather shoes, does not mean that you have to throw them all away and replace them with vegan alternatives.
Wear your shoes until they are no longer of use, and at that stage, replace them with vegan shoes. You can do this for your entire wardrobe, and your diet.
However, it is important not to get too stressed and caught up in trying to make your life perfectly sustainable and carbon neutral.
Simply living on this planet will leave a carbon footprint, if everyone takes small steps to make small differences, this will eventually add up to big things. We can all do our bit to help this wonderful planet that we call home.