Sustainable Travel Wear: Sneakers, Why Do They Matter?



When it comes to sustainable travel wear, I’d like to talk about sneakers (or trainers to me)! The most versatile and comfortable of all travel footwear one could argue. But this is not why I want to talk about them. Did you know that the average trainer sole takes upwards of 50 years to degrade in the landfill? In fact, according to the Guardian, those that contain ethylene-vinyl acetate which is used in the shock-absorbing midsole often found in trainers will still be there in 1000 years. Given that according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Americans alone throw away at least 300 million pairs of sneakers each year, this is a mountainous problem (Waste 360 article)! There is a current meme going around about the mother who is wearing a 10-year-old bra, but the children are in $100 sneakers. This seems bonkers to me in many many ways. 


Were you aware that there are over 300 million barefoot children who have no access to footwear in the world? Over 59 million children have no access to schooling and of these, 29 million because they don’t have the means to buy shoes? This will only have been exacerbated due to the pandemic. Donating old perfectly wearable shoes (let’s face it, children grow out of shoes so quickly!) to companies such as Shoe Aid (UK), Soles4souls (USA), Share your soles (USA), and Shoes for Planet Earth (Australia) can not only help those in need but also decrease the number of shoes going to landfill. 


It’s Not Just About The Waste

Thinking however that shoe’s only environmental impact is when they are thrown out is not accurate – in the stage of manufacturing, huge amounts of chemicals and large machinery are needed to produce shoes. One, the machinery is the same whether you buy ‘environmentally friendly’ shoes as very little information is available about how they power their factories – one of the main power sources used to power factories is coal. On average, according to The Shoe Industry page the production of one shoe produces 30 pounds of carbon dioxide and that doesn’t even count the impact of transportation (are they road, ship or air-shipped).  As mentioned briefly above the chemicals used in the production of many shoes as adhesives or tanning processes are seriously nasty for the environment when they leech into the waterways  – some of these chemicals include Chlorinated phenols, tribromophenol, paraffin, dimethyl fumarate. 


Think About Where You Shop

We all need shoes though, and they do wear out! Comfort is terribly important and if we suffer feet problems due to incorrect fitting or uncomfortable shoes, this will lead to more waste (and pain which is just not what anyone needs!). So what is the good news? All is not lost as there are companies investing hugely in creating more environmentally friendly footwear with some amazing innovations.

All Birds are one such company. They take sustainability and the environment exceptionally seriously and they have a list of sustainability commitments and plan to reduce their carbon footprint in half by 2025 and then reduce it to as near as zero by 2040. All Birds use materials such as Wool, Trees & Sugar to create fabrics for their shoes. They are super comfortable too. Members of Club Bébé Voyage are always quick to recommend them.

I also really like Hylo Athletics and their ethos which include being honest at every stage, taking ownership of the numbers, and embracing the journey, by which they are meaning that they aren’t perfect and that it is a work in progress as a whole we need to invest in a better tomorrow, and have patience in the process. They use 100% renewable materials and have their own recycling scheme where your old trainers become new ones! The ultimate closed-loop system. They do use carbon offset schemes but more importantly, they take the best step and are investing in better systems that actually help to reduce the reliance on carbon to create power. 


Interested in finding more sustainable footwear for the whole family? My Green Closet has an amazing list of sustainable brands. And if you or your children prefer to use big named brands (peer pressure – isn’t it great?!) why not look second-hand or search out Nike, Adidas, or Superga’s sustainable ranges. 


You might also like these articles on the Bébé Voyage Blog:

The Ultimate Eco-Friendly Toiletry Bag

How To Reduce Your Water Consumption While Traveling


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