We care about the footprint, let’s not forget the foot

Today my feet are nice and cozy in a pair of Merrell slippers. Like 90% of shoes, they were Made in China.

This is going to be a brief Where Am I Wearing Wednesday because today I want to talk about feet more than shoes.

The Shoe:

Merrell’s corporate code of conduct – I couldn’t find one on their site. Contact them and join me in asking them what’s up with that:

The environment and labor practices both factor into my shopping decisions. I scanned your website for your corporate code of conduct and couldn’t find one. Could you please direct me to it?

Thanks,

Kelsey Timmerman


Labor conditions in the shoe industry in China
– Well, it is China. When I visited there in 2007, I met workers who put in nearly 100 hours per week, even though the Chinese labor law stated they weren’t to work more than 44 hours. The workers would clock out and then go back to work. As if making our shoes was a privilege.

Still, going barefoot sucks and non-Made in China shoe options are limited.

I was speaking to a group of Labor Studies faculty the other day and the subject of fair trade shoes came up. I stated that I haven’t seen a pair of fair trade shoes in which I would run a marathon (note: I don’t really want to run a marathon regardless of the type of shoe, but that’s beside the point). They found this remark distasteful, but because they couldn’t directly argue the matter, they said, “Maybe we need to change our lifestyle – stop running marathons.”

Now there is a campaign I wouldn’t want to touch: Stop Exercising! We Americans are tubby enough already.

The Foot:

Today is Earth Day and I haven’t stepped foot outside. I feel like I’ve been huffing exhaust from the world’s most fuel inefficient SUV – light headed, sore throat, and feverish. But I can’t turn on the news without hearing something about our carbon footprint. Even my favorite TV show, 24, has reduced their carbon footprint and now claims to be carbon neutral.

This is great. More and more corporations are jumping on board and offering environmentally-friendly products. I’ve seen shoes made from hemp, others glued with glue that does less harm to the environment, and shoes packed in boxes that are 100% post consumer recycled. As an engaged consumer, I’m happy to have these options. Still, I want more.

What about the feet? We care about our footprint on the world, but what about our impact on one another. Saving the environment is in style, but concern for the workers who make our shoes isn’t.

Don’t believe me? Call up any shoe company and ask them how they reduce their impact on the environment. They’ll likely have a long list of ways their trying to do this. Then ask them about what they are doing to ensure that the workers who make their shoes are being treated fairly. You’ll soon find yourself lost in the corporate phone chain.

This Earth Day, I’m glad to have the option of buying environmentally-friendly shoes, but what I’d really like to see is a pair of socially-conscious shoes.

Know of any?

 
4 comments
Caitlin says:

Its funny how I was just looking for shoes. Just like my food, I would like my clothing – shoes included – to be free from animal and human exploitation.

Which means I don’t have a lot of shoes and clothing. Let me know if you find some really friendly shoes.

Kelsey says:

Caitlin,

You might be on to the newest fashion trend: not wearing clothes and eating very little in the name of ethics.

Seriously though, I would like to know if you find it easier to find food than clothes that match your ethics.

Keep it up!

Caitlin says:

Its much easier to find friendly food. Mostly because I’m able to grow a lot of food and also get it from local farmers. I’ve never hungry thats for sure.
Clothing is harder, but thats why there are thrift stores. If I can’t afford something new that was made ethically than I will at least try to save something from the dumpster.

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