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Wednesday, April 23, 2008 03:00 pm

Soft shoes

Where does one find environmentally friendly shoes for children?

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Two eco-friendly options in kids’ shoes are Isabooties, which are made with soft, synthetic Ultrasuede; and hemp and recycled rubber sneaks by Patagonia.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ISABOOTIES AND PATAGONIA
Untitled Document Where does one find environmentally friendly  shoes for children?
Children’s shoes are a quickly expanding market, and companies with a green perspective are now jumping into the race with mini-versions of everything from flip-flops to slippers to heeled dress shoes. Although green kids’ shoes from makers such as Simple, which offers organic-cotton EcoSneaks with car-tire soles, might seem expensive at $40 or more, they are durable enough to get passed from sibling to sibling. “It is an investment if you’re going to do quality,” says Craig Throne, general manager of footwear at Patagonia. Patagonia has been making climbing gear and outdoors wear for over 30 years and is committed to using sustainable materials, including recycled polyester and only organic cotton in their clothes. Using hemp and recycled rubber content, the company has created kids’ shoes that are rugged and sturdy enough for hiking or climbing or for simply running around in the back yard. Of course, packaging plays a big role and in Patagonia’s case — that means 100 percent recycled content boxes with soy-based inks and fun graphics that encourage kids to reuse the boxes. “We’re getting kids to participate and be more aware of the outdoor world,” Throne says. Timberland has launched its own line of sustainable kids’ shoes. “Kids today are learning about the environment at a younger and younger age — in many cases they’re even teaching their parents,” says Lisa Demarkis, head of Timberland’s kids’ division. “It’s important to show kids that even small choices can have a positive impact.”
The company strives to use the most environmentally friendly materials when possible — like recycled soda bottles (PET) in linings or meshes, recycled laces, and organic-cotton canvas — while always making sure that the shoes meet performance goals: “At the end of the day, the shoe has to stand up to kids and their daily adventures,” DeMarkis says. Curious customers can read the “nutritional labels,” which include the amount of renewable energy used in production, right on Timberland’s 100 percent postconsumer recycled shoeboxes. Parents looking to avoid leather in their kids’ shoes, whether for ethical or environmental reasons, have to do a bit of hunting online. Although many vegetarian and nonleather clothing sites have yet to add kids’ shoes, KidBean.com has, including the popular baby shoes called Isabooties, which are made with soft, synthetic Ultrasuede. For parents of budding dancers, a vegan-alternative ballet slipper can be had from the Cynthia King Dance Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y. The dance instructor and studio owner approached a local shoemaker when she couldn’t find an affordable outlet for vegan slippers, and now she provides them to the world at large. 

For more information: Cynthia King Dance Studio, www.cynthiakingdance.com; Isabooties, www.isabooties.com; KidBean, www.kidbean.com; Patagonia, www.patagonia.com; Simple, www.simpleshoes.com; Timberland, www.timberland.com.

Send questions to Earth Talk at P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 or e-mail earthtalk@emagazine.com.
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