Eco-friendly Shoe Maker Making Impressive Strides

Walk a mile in a pair of Simple shoes and you’re likely to experience the traction of recycled car tires, the look of certified organic cotton or the cushiony effects of cork or reclaimed carpet padding.

A leader in sustainable footwear, California-based Simple Shoes, a division of Deckers Outdoor Corp., began treading down the environmental path before the green movement hit its stride, introducing its first line of planet-friendly.

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Green Toe Shoes

“We sat down and thought, `How cool would it be as a footwear company to figure out how to make shoes as green and as sustainable as possible?”’ said Greg Nielsen, marketing manager for Simple Shoes, which makes shoes for men, women, children and even babies with its Green Piggies line of baby booties made from hemp and organic cotton. “Essentially we want to be 100% sustainable down the road, and we set out with our first collection of Green Toe shoes, which represents our best effort at sustainability.”

Since those first two shoes in the very first Green Toe collection, Simple Shoes has steadily increased the amount of green materials and processes that can now be found in some element of every shoe it manufactures.

“We’ve changed just about everything in our product line,” Nielsen said. “Green Toe showed us that it’s not only possible to reduce the ecological footprint left by our shoes, but it’s our duty to do so. We developed the scale of good, better and best to help us guide where our products fit on the sustainable level.”

Simple Shoes’ products are resonating with socially conscious consumers. The company’s sales increased 8% to more than $13 million in 2007.

Also in 2007, the company introduced ecoSNEAKs, the world’s first sneakers made from recycled and sustainable materials. Competitively priced from $50 to $75 a pair, ecoSNEAKS are made with hemp, certified organic cotton, recycled car and bike tires and ISO 14001 certified suede and BLC leathers.

ecoSNEAKs

“Using the car tires is one of the cooler things because it is definitely an item that we are saving from the landfill,” he said. “We also use 100% post-consumer pulp for the foot forms that go in our shoes. We developed new boxes that were made of this recycled pulp, and we mix the pulp, and we sun-dry it as well and save on energy benefits.”

Expand Its Palette of Environmentally Friendly Materials

Simple Shoes even ships it line of flip flops in biodegradable corn starch-based bags.

Sold at Whole Foods Markets across the country, independent retailers, outdoor shops and department stores such as Dillard’s and Nordstrom, Simple Shoes is always looking to expand its palette of environmentally friendly materials. In spring 2009, the company introduced silk as a natural upper for its ecoSNEAKS, as well as shoes that have more stitching and much less glue.

Through its sustainable journey, the company, which started in 1991 as an alternative skate shoe, developed something it calls its manifesto: how it makes shoes is just as important as why it makes them.

“With global warming and climate change and the general plight of the environment, people are asking themselves to change their ways, whether it’s filling up the air in your tires and checking them regularly, or recycling, or composting,” Nielsen said. “I always like to think of Simple as what a shoe company would be doing with that same level of commitment.”

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