Let me start this by saying I looooove my Converse sneakers. Or maybe that should be past tense, as they seem to be nearing the end of their life.
So, let’s start over. I loooooved my Converse sneakers. We have been together since college — I’d rather not divulge exactly how long ago that was, but for the sake of this story, let’s just say it was more than 5 years ago and less than 15 (probably closer to 15, just sayin’).
We’ve been thick as thieves. They accompanied me to pretty much every baseball game, football game and any other random game I have ever gone to (because, really, what’s sportier than a good pair of Converse). They have gone with me on countless road trips, camping trips, river trips (they make a great water shoe, FYI) and trip trips (because yes, I’m very clumsy). They’ve gone with me to work on days when I needed to really buckle down and get shit done and on days when I was tired and just didn’t really give a shit. But most of all, we’ve been together for walks — short walks, long walks, museum walks and walks that actually turned into hikes where Converse is definitely not the appropriate footwear choice.
So with everything we’ve been through, it is a sad, sad day to say that I think they may have to be retired (except as water shoes, because, I’m telling you, they’re great). While I used to be able to give them a good washing and a good pep talk, I think they are finally beyond repair. And because I did get so much use out of them, I probably also need to start searching for a replacement pair of sneakers. Below I have gathered some of the best ethical alternatives to Converse. Enjoy.
I love Australian based Etiko for a few reasons. They are definitely closest in aesthetic to my old loves, but even better they are 100% committed to Fair Trade and they use sustainable practices whenever possible. Etiko was started when the founders didn’t feel they could find ethically produced products when they were looking for clothing, footwear and sports gear. So they started a company that ensured they could. Etiko promotes Fair Trade through every step of their products’ lifecycle — from purchasing Fair Trade products from marginalized producers in developing countries to paying fair trade premiums (above and beyond fair trade prices) that are invested by factories in social and economic development initiatives to benefit workers and their families and communities. They also aim to protect the environment by investing in the sourcing of raw materials that are environmentally sustainable, ethically produced and they use them efficiently.
Since they began in 2005, Etiko has received several accolades – they were the first company to provide a range of footwear in that Australia/New Zealand/Pacific region, the first non-food brand to gain fairtrade certification in that same region, they have achieved an A+ ranking for the ethical supply chains in the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Australian Fashion Report (p.s. There was no report in 2014), and they were the winner of the 2013 and 2014 Australian Fair Trade Product of the Year. Even with all that, they continue to look for ways to raise the bar.
Certified B Corp, Indosole is amazing because they are actually taking something that is polluting the environment — old tires — and turning them into something functional and new — great shoes. Indosole founder, Kyle Parsons, started his company after a surf trip to Bali where he learned that over 1 billion tires a year end up in landfills and other illegal dumping sites. And because it takes thousands (yes, you read that right) of years for a tire to decompose, it really does a number on the planet. Fortunately, Parsons and the team at Indosole saw a way they could turn that indestructible characteristic into a positive, and started creating really durable shoes.
The team at Indosole started by making sandals using salvaged tires from motorbike tires in bali and has since gone on to create a awesome line of footwear. So far, Indosole has prevented over 30,000 tires from ending up in landfills and are on a mission to save 1 million tires from further degrading the environment. And in addition to preventing tire waste, Indosole uses a toxic-free manufacturing process and does not use fuel powered machinery to make it’s footwear, as they are all handmade. They also employ artisans in Indonesia that construct the uppers of the shoe (i.e. everything but the sole) from natural materials like organic canvas, banana leaves and grass. They also consistently partner with organizations that contribute to taking care of the planet, host beach cleanups and other community based events.
The founders of Veja believe in transparency, organic materials and fair trade sourcing, what they don’t believe in is advertising and excess stock. After travelling the world for two years and seeing the dark side of globalization, the founders of Veja set out to change the sneaker business model.
They think of everything from fair trade and ecology to economy, social initiatives and the environment — and have created one of my absolute favorite lines of sneakers in the process.
Instead of advertising like most sneaker brands, Veja invests that money back into their production chain. The company pays a premium price for their material, makes sure the money goes directly to the producers and that it is sustainably produced. And instead of carrying extra stock or demanding a certain quantity, their production is dictated by the availability of the materials. They also partner with the Atelier Sans Frontières association (ASF), which assists people facing social exclusion to find work and helps them to build a new life and promotes their social, professional and personal development.
Nae is a Portuguese footwear brand with a vegan philosophy. The company started with the goal of creating a footwear company that involved no animal exploitation, but maintained the design, style and quality recognized in Portuguese footwear. With that, the company works with alternative materials to leather to make all of their shoes — which includes great sneakers, as well as great options for when you want to dress your outfit up. And just because they use alternatives to leather, doesn’t mean they use materials that are bad for the environment. Nae also focuses on environmental sustainability, so they work with materials like cork, ecological microfibers, pineapple leaves and PET — recycled plastic bottles. And don’t think Nae just cares about the animals, they’re 100% against human exploitation too.