I am in love with a pair of shoes. Boots actually, and they're recycled. But they don't look recycled. They just look fabulous.
I met my first pair of Simple's Green Toe shoes a few years ago, a pair of slip-ons I'm not sure they carry anymore, but which took me around Rwanda, New York City, and survived in good enough condition that they still serve as my backup shoes here in Colorado. But when the temperature started to drop last month, I began looking for shoes that would get my very cold-prone toes through the winter. I'm pretty skeptical about products that label themselves "green"—it's great that there's a growing demand for eco-friendly goods, but that often encourages greenwashing, giving companies eco-street cred for labeling products with terms like "recyclable" when they haven't done much to actually lighten their load on the earth. (Yes, recyclable is better than nonrecyclable, but as the third R in the chain, Reduce and Reuse should always come first. If Organic, Local, and Compostable all started with Rs, they would also come out ahead of Recycle.) Meaning, recycling is an important, but should be the final, step in the let's-go-green process.
Simple, it seems, knows that. They make the soles of their shoes out of recycled inner tubes, they use recycled carpet padding, 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and recycled PET plastic (which, as Simple will tell you, is "a fancy-pants word for clear plastic that comes from soda and water bottles"). To make the body of the shoes, they use self-renewing materials like hemp, bamboo, cork, and the cotton they use is organic—a pretty important point considering that, grown conventionally, cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world—with some of the most toxic chemicals around. Did I mention they make buttons out of coconut shells?
Many of their shoes are vegan, though they do use wool, silk, and "eco-certified" leather and suede in some of their products. But everything is clearly marked, so it's easy to know what you're getting.
When Simple sent me the TOEst boots, I was overrun with excitement. They looked even better in person than they did on a computer screen, and luckily for my feet, a cold front hit later that week, so I got to give the boots a test run. My feet were so happy to slip into these incredibly comfortable, incredibly adorable, and incredibly recycled boots. Granted, the shoes aren't the greatest for snow, but as long as I'm not slushing through the stuff, they're plenty to keep me warm. The weather warmed up again anyway for a bit so it was back to summery shoes, but I think the cold is now here to stay, and my Eco-boots are, too.
If you're going to gift... make it green
If you are gifting this season—well, I can't not first recommend considering non-material gifts. Putting a little thought into how you can bring cheer to your loved ones during the holiday season, rather than simply buying more stuff, is always rewarding. Plus, less consumption is better for the earth. (Remember from about four paragraphs ago? Reduce, reduce reduce. Then reuse, then recycle.)
But if you are going to buy stuff, think about Simple's awesome eco-shoes. Or bags! They've got those, too. Just about all of their products seem to avoid two all-too-common traps: greenwashing "green" fashion on one extreme, and genuinely organic styles that...well, look genuinely organic.
This is the kind of eco-fashion I can get behind. Or, um, already am. Your turn.