Year for the Planet Year 2 Week 3: Choosing Planet-Friendly Sneakers

Year for the Planet is a campaign to make better choices for the planet. 2017 was when I fixed my eating habits. This year, 2018, is where I deal with my clothing choices.

In the middle of decluttering my family’s house, I’m glad to start the year with simple yet meaningful pleasures: ethical vegan sneakers!

I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, and with height comes big feet. Mine are a US size 10.5. Growing up in a country where I felt like a giant who can see everyone’s bald spots, it was hard to find shoes that fit, never mind those that looked good. And so I’ve learned to be very practical when it comes to shoes. I don’t have a lot: 2 pairs of sneakers, 2 pairs of hiking shoes, 1 pair of black ballet flats, 1 pair of black heels, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of flip flops, the occasional dress shoe for formal occasions. Thankfully, the sport I chose, taekwondo, requires no footwear at all. If anything, instead of shopping for shoes, I spend more time giving myself pedicures and reflexology sessions, making sure my feet are healthy and can still take me places.

Big feet attracts the sympathy of fellow tall relatives living in countries with wider availability of footwear, and this is where my aunts sometimes step in (haha, sorry). In keeping with this project, I asked my godmother for sustainable vegan shoes, which I am currently wearing.

Why pick on my shoes? More than 25 billion (that’s 25 followed by 9 zeroes, you all!) pairs of shoes are made every year, most of them in developing countries. A group of researchers found that a new pair of synthetic sneakers typically generates 30 pounds of carbon emissions, equivalent to a 100-watt light bulb running for a week. Another group of researchers discovered that a kilogram of leather is produced with 10 times as much greenhouse gas as synthetic or natural plant-based alternatives. Since I’m very active, I zeroed in on my sneakers first and wanted one that had no animal products and made with sustainable materials.

“Vegan” does not always translate to “environmentally friendly,” so make sure to check that the materials are ethically sourced. There are also more fashion-forward options available each year so “vegan” doesn’t always have to translate to “ugly.” I personally like classic aesthetics since I’m the type who can wear one pair of shoes and wear them forever, repairing them until they are unusable. I don’t need new kicks every month; as my decluttering of my family’s house continues and I fill three suitcases with my mother’s and brother’s unused footwear, so does my realization that having less shoes is a better state of being.

Making better choices for the planet can be simple ones. Sometimes it starts with your feet.

P.S. Thanks, Auntie Pearl, for my new sneaks!

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