Why Your 'Green' or Vegan Shoes May Be Neither
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Dansko says it is open to trying local production again, especially with a planned compostable cellulose shoe called the Solvei High-Path of the Sun. It currently is in research and development at the company's headquarters in West Grove, Pennsylvania, a gold certification winner in LEED design.
"Ideally, our zero-waste line of footwear should be sourced locally and distributed locally, and as we expand our brand internationally, we need to make appropriate shoes for those local markets with local components." she says. " If you ask what I want written on my gravestone, it would be about putting something out on the marketplace that is truly sustainable and responsible."
Cabot returned from China recently after opening a new office there; she says she closely supervises the workshops and they are run with high ethical standards. "We have been working with the same folks for three or four years in the same factories and we go half a dozen times a year," she says. "We know factory conditions are good and have good sense of our component suppliers, tanneries, sole makers, all of that."
Meantime, Dansko and other companies might find a mentor in athletic shoe maker New Balance, the only locally made comfort shoe brand for men and women posted on the new Planet Shoes Made in the USA site. While not considered an eco brand, the company decided that in a global economy where quality components come from all over the world, it strives to play a leadership role by making a percentage of its shoes in the USA. Those that contain 70 percent of locally sourced materials qualify. NB has five factories in New England, three in Maine and two in Massachusetts.
This promotional video attests to how being local has affected the local economies:
Some responsible brands, such as El Naturalista, are striving to leave behind a reduced carbon footprint by being commercially viable enough to be able to donate 1 percent or more of their profits to helping the planet. This is how they commit to sustainability while sourcing out.
As Cabot sees it, the solution of being as profitable domestically would require a two-fold commitment: More cobblers, tanneries and makers of outer soles setting up shop again at home and a workforce interested in this line of work. "It depends on culturally what the American worker is ready to handle and up to handling," she says. "If not a wartime patriotic motivation than perhaps the greening movement and the idea of green-collar jobs will inspire people. When that has more maturity, we can consider our footwear as part of that movement and that would be a thrilling opportunity."