Sustainable Style: Where to Buy Eco and Ethical Trainers

16 May, 2018

Sustainable Style: Where to Buy Eco and Ethical Trainers

Ready to take a step in the right direction? These trainers will make you think twice about your environmental footprint.

As a city that loves style as much as it loves to shop, it’s crucial that Hong Kong begins questioning the impact fast fashion has on our environment. Whilst our streets are scattered with tempting boutiques and shiny shopping malls, there is a way to strike a balance between staying on top of trends and shopping sustainably. 

Did you know that over 20 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured each year? With majority made in China and other developing countries, there’s an unrecorded amount of toxins, chemicals and fossil fuels silently seeping into the environment.

When we found out that producing a pair of trainers emits 13kg of carbon dioxide, we were more than ready to explore some eco alternatives. Unlike many other types of shoes, your favourite pair of runners are made up of uniquely distinct parts – each with environmental implications. The separate parts mean that trainers are one of the hardest things to recycle, as so many different materials are used. Whilst Adidas have proudly sold almost 50 million pairs of the iconic Stan Smiths, more and more people are looking for quality over quantity.

The mindless draw towards consumerism has become an unhealthy part of our culture, so it’s particularly poignant to see places making eco initiatives fashionable. Locally, brands like Back for Basics, Rumi X, A.C.F, A Boy Named Sue, and even pre-owned stores like Vestiaire Collective, HULA and Label Chic are all making a notable impact to prevent fast fashion. Whilst initiatives such as Redress, Green Is The New BlackThe Conscious Collective  and Wardrobista have already hit the city with a sustainability storm. Globally, entrepreneurs like Boyan Slat, the 23-year-old founder of The Ocean Cleanup, are giving us the hope of wearing 100% ocean-plastic recycled sunglasses in the not-too-far future. And whilst we’re holding back the premature party for plastic-eating enzymes, there are plenty of initiatives adopting the prevention-over-cure case. Thankfully, some of these leads have walked us towards stylish and sustainable shoes…

Quick tips for sustainable shoe shopping? Wherever possible, opt for chrome-free leather, vegetable leather (or fruit leather!) or recycled PET, over animal leather and synthetic leather. And for the sole, which is generally rubber, look for natural or wild rubber. You can also double check the rating of fashion brands on independent sites like Better Shoes Foundation or the Good On You app.

Looking to gain a better understanding of our environmental footprint? Click through the slideshow to take a sneak peek at sneakers challenging the plastic game…

Read more: These Hong Kong Restaurants Are Saying No to Single-Use Plastic

Featured image via Veja. All other images via respective websites.

1 / 10


Made from: Completely sustainable materials including a range of vegetable tanned leathers, organic and Fairtrade cotton, recycled plastic, wild rubber, jute and hemp (ethically produced in Brazil).

2 / 10

Matt & Nat

Made from: 100% vegan, sustainable and recycled materials, including cork, rubber and recycled PET bottles.

Bonus points: All the Matt & Nat factories are also Social Accountability certified.

3 / 10


Made from: Natural rubber, organic and Fairtrade cotton (including the laces), using only non-toxic dyes.


4 / 10

Po Zu

Made from: Naturally renewable and sustainably harvested materials, primarily Piñatex (pineapple plastic), organic cotton, wool, coir (a mix of coconut husk and natural latex), cork, chrome-free leather and natural rubber. No toxic dyes are used on any products.

5 / 10


Made from: Soles made from recycled tires, uppers made from organic cotton canvas, banana leaves and grass.

Bonus points: All shoes are handmade, avoiding any unnecessary manufacturing emissions.

6 / 10

For Your Earth

Made from: Vegan materials including recycled plastic bottles for the uppers, organic cotton laces and recycled rubber soles. Only non-toxic, natural dyes and pigments, and non-toxic water-based glues are used.

Bonus points: By working with Planete Urgence, For Your Earth plants a tree for every pair of shoes sold.

7 / 10


Made from: Recycled PET bottles and renewable Sorona fibres, plus repurposed waste (like fishing nets, old tyres, and even coffee grounds).

8 / 10


Made from: Natural materials including cork, Piñatex, recycled PET and paperboard. It also uses carbon-neutral manufacturing to create all the vegan sneakers.

9 / 10


Made from: Reclaimed wood, natural cork, recycled PET bottle fibres and recycled cotton.

Bonus points: It also recycles all remaining materials from the production process to reduce waste.

10 / 10

Adidas X Parley (Adidas range)

Made from: Recycled yarn, with some of the yarn featuring Parley Ocean Plastic™ which is made from recycled waste from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean.

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