Goody Two Shoes

I want to do the right thing, I really do. But until recently, “eco” footwear involved a clunky array of sweaty pleather, graceless felt and retro-sporty canvas. As a vegan teenager, I actually owner a pair of wool Birkenstock clogs, but even then, even with my layered broomstick skirts and ankle bells, I felt embarrassed by the shapeless, plodding things and found myself envying the strappy leather sandals of every other hippy chick at the Grateful Dead shows.

So, good intentions be damned. I just couldn’t “love my mother” (meaning the planet, for those of you who missed that round of self-righteous bumper stickers) at the expense of my fashion sense.

But all of that is changing. I knew it for sure when I caught, of all things, an episode of “Farmer’s Almanac TV” on which they featured the Green Toe division of Simple Shoes. The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company not only makes vegan (no animal products) footwear, they incorporate recycled materials (bicycle tires, inner tubes, plastic milk jugs) and renewable plant-based materials (jute, crepe, cork) at every turn.

Yeah, great, I thought, but do they look like something only Clementine would love? After all, “herring boxes without topses” only work for a select few. The same, I figured, for recycled tire shoes.

Wrong. Green Toe not only knows how to save the planet, they know how to design cute slides, Mary Janes, and casually athletic lace-ups. (And they love a pun, too, christening their creations “Toe Foo,” “Toe Stir,” “U.F. Toe” and other silly monikers) My favorites, espadrille-inspired ballet flats (“Toepaz”), are a laidback, sustainable marriage of hemp, organic cotton, bamboo, natural latex, water-based cement, and of course, a car tire outsole. Even the box they come in is made from post-consumer recycled paper.

But the best part is, I’d buy these shoes even if I wasn’t clued in to all the good they accomplished. Sure, I feel pretty smug with them on, knowing I’m walking around not burning rubber on the very same tires previously used to smoke countless gallons of fossil fuels. But the best part about being eco-chic the chic part, and these slightly beachy, slightly earthy, totally graceful flats accomplish that without breaking stride. Talk making it easy to do the right thing!

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May 2008
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