As a small business that imports leather shoes into the UK, we are challenging ourselves to be more sustainable. Our previous blog post details how we and our Spanish factory are endeavouring to be a more sustainable business. When it comes to shopping habits, how can we be more sustainable as consumers? Here are 5 suggestions:
1) Do the 30 Wears Test
Before you buy a pair of shoes or an item of clothing, ask yourself “Will I wear this at least 30 times?” If the answer is “No” don’t make the purchase. Just like a pair of trusted jeans, challenge yourself to create a wardrobe (and shoe closet) that only holds items that you will get lots of wear out of. This means ensuring the products are robust and will withstand a lot of wear.
When it comes to footwear, so many shoes are only worn once, not because they go out of fashion but because they are such a poor fit. Usually, this is because they were purchased in a shop where they were only tried on for about 30 seconds which is not enough time to determine whether a shoe truly fits or not. Everyone has experienced this situation. In being more sustainable sometimes online shopping can be a better option because it allows you to wear the shoes for a much longer period (at home and on a carpet, of course!) so you can actually tell if the shoes are going to be a good fit. You can even try them on at different times of the day when feet are more or less swollen. Choose a wider fitting shoe if you need one. Don't be tempted to squeeze your feet into shoes that are too tight. You will wear them once, remember the occasion purely for the pain your feet were in and never wear them again!
2) Be More Informed – Think about where and how your products are made
Read the labels on clothes and shoes. If the products are manufactured in the Far East, for example, consider the journey they have taken to get to you and the environmental impact of this. Furthermore, if said product is cheap, can you be confident of the ethical policies of the manufacturer or supplier? After all, whatever it is costing you, you know there will still be a huge mark up on the base cost in order for it to be financially viable if it has come all the way from China or other distant shores. If it cost peanuts to make, how much are those working in the factories being paid to make it?
3) Invest in Timeless Pieces
Not only should the products be durable so you can get lots of wear out of them, consider buying timeless items; items that transcend seasons. For example, black polo neck jumpers and little black dresses have been popular for decades and will continue to be so. Similarly, a nice pair of classic court shoes in colours such as black and navy, or a pair of little navy pumps will always be on-trend, whereas chunky trainers or neon heels will soon become the Shell Suit of your wardrobe!
4) Look after your shoes
Take a make do and mend approach to your shoes and clothes. Over time shoes will become worn, but if you look after them when they are not on your feet they should last you for a long time. Simple actions such as using a suede protection spray or leather cream on your shoes before wearing them will help protect the material. Using a cotton dust bag to house your shoes when they are not in use will also protect them and increase their longevity. When shoes do become worn on the heels or soles, take them to a shoe mender and get them fixed. They can also do an amazing job repairing ripped material on heels which have become stuck in irritating drain covers and grates!
5) Choose Quality over Quantity
Many people baulk at the cost of an expensive pair of shoes and delight in having found a pair of heels on the high street at less than half the price, but if those cheaper shoes are also of a cheaper quality then it won’t’ be long before said shoes are discarded in favour of the next bargain pair. Often cheap shoes are not repaired quite simply because it seems like a false economy to spend a large percentage of the original cost of the shoe getting them repaired, whereas with an expensive pair of shoes, getting new soles and heels seems like a completely rational expense. What this means is that often those who purchase cheap shoes also purchase on a regular basis. Maybe you are getting two pairs for the price of one but if the quality if lacking the cheaper shoes just end up as landfill.