Today I was a guest on a Dandelion Branding Sustainability Podcast – my first time being interviewed! It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to share what I have learned about ecological problems with the footwear industry, and about the alternatives that I offer, on a very modest scale. The podcast will be available for viewing or listening to sometime in February, I’ll post links as soon as I know them.
I was able to describe my vision – of people everywhere making shoes from repurposed materials, using non-toxic cements – and making them LOCALLY! I especially encourage people to make shoes for children, as they need new footwear as they grow. Cotton fabric that people no longer need, old wool coats, and recycled denim or canvas jeans all can be used as well as leather.
The reason making footwear locally is important is because of the contrast with the miles that leather hides travel before becoming shoes in a store is mind-boggling, especially in the U.S. Cows might be slaughtered in Texas. Their hides are preserved in salt, and are shipped by rail to Los Angeles. There they are put into a shipping container on their way to Pusan, South Korea for tanning. All of this happens because environmental laws are much more lax in Korea, so toxic chemicals and dies can be discharged directly into rivers. The water becomes unfit for use by the people who live there. Can you believe that this is done so blatantly?! It seems to me that polluting the environment anywhere will eventually have an effect on life everywhere.
The tanned hides head to an East-Asian country, to be made into shoes. Three percent of the price of a pair of shoes is paid to the makers. Then, of course, the shoes are packed into shipping containers to take the journey back to the West Coast, to be distributed across the country.
Using leather that already exists is another way that locally-made shoes can be more ecological than factory-made shoes – I sell leather from a defunct handbag company, and finding leather items to make shoes from at thrift stores provides another source.
Lastly, using non-toxic cement differentiates our hand-made shoes from factory-made shoes. I recall a photo I saw in a National Geographic magazine of workers in a small space applying toxic cement to sneakers, wearing a mask like the cheapest of those used in the pandemic, which does absolutely nothing to protect the workers from the volatile organic compounds in the air.