Down in sunny Australia, we sure love our thongs!
No, not that kind of thong! You’ll need to read our ethical lingerie article for that.
Here, we’re talking flip flops folks…
With over 3 billion sold per year, flip flops are the most popular style of footwear around the world. People have been wearing them for centuries, which is why they are doing less flippin’ and more floppin’. Namely, by washing up on beaches by the tons along with other plastic waste. Read more about all this at the bottom of the page.
These cheap plastic versions are generally so flimsy you’ll be lucky to make them last the summer. While tempting to replace them with a $3 pair from Old Navy (another example of Fast Fashion at its worst), consider investing in a pair that might last for a couple of seasons!
Any of these vegan, eco friendly and recycled flip flops we’ve listed here will do the trick.
Remember that repairing the ones you have or buying second hand should be your first choice. You might even score some decent ones through online thrift stores. However, if nothing flips out at you, choosing to buy sustainably made flip flops from ethical brands is the next best thong, err…thing.
Read on to learn what hoops these brands had to flip through to make it on our list. Or flip over here.
And if you’re in the market for new flip flops, make sure you properly recycle your broken, old ones before investing in a new pair. Terracycle offers flip flop recycle boxes in various sizes, so convince your friends and family to join in all the waste-free fun! Read down here for more recycling options.
While we admire lots of brands, our top picks for best eco friendly flip flops come from B-corp Indosole’s classic recycled rubber (hemp lined) flip flops. We also love Guardians of Our Future who use a combination of natural and FSC-certified natural rubber (and also have a return and recycle scheme). And cork and compostable flip flops never go out of sustainable fashion brought to you by the Original Cork Shop.
If you’re looking for sandals with a bit less beach and a bit more style, check out our list of ethical and eco friendly sandals.
About Indosole Recycled Tire Flip Flops
“Indosole represents a lifestyle of resourceful creation”. We love this because that’s what it means to both create and consume sustainably.
It all started when founder Kyle Parsons visited Bali in 2004 and purchased a pair of sandals made from motorbike tires. He got carried away with the idea and launched Indosole in 2009. It’s now one of the most widely available ethical flip flop companies in the world. Kyle is still the CEO and speaks about mindful consumerism.
With arch support, a waterproof quality, and a non-slip textured top sheet, both the slides and flip flops are designed for all-terrain use. These ethical outdoor sandals are adventure-ready and built to last.
Indosole Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: These are recycled tire flip flops, first and foremost. The outsole is made from tire tread, and the straps are made out of a material called “ENVRO” fiber which uses little water in the process and gives off a leather-like feel while not using any animal, is low-impact, cruelty free and does not contain any plastics and is also 100% waterproof.
Read about the #TiresToSoles process.
- Supply chain & labor practices: As a certified B-corp, Indosole maintains top-notch ethics throughout their manufacturing processes and supply chains. With yearly audits across a variety of impact areas, this certification ensures their workers are paid fairly and work in safe environments. They also operate within a relatively safe range of environmental impact.
For an extra step above the rest, most of their supply chain is within Indonesia – from the sourcing of tires from garages and tire brokers to the final manufacturing by local artisans.
- Community & charitable giving: Indosole organizes and supports various charitable events to cultivate a community of Good Humans. These include charity basketball tournaments, Fashion Revolution Week events, and more.
They will also launch a partnership with Soles 4 Souls to give back to displaced families through a disaster relief program.
2. GUARDIANS OF OUR FUTURE
About Guardians of Our Future Ethical Flip Flops
Based in NSW, Australia, Guardians For Our Future is relatively new company is run by a woman who spent years working with at-risk youth and in the Australian fashion industry. Eventually, she decided to combine these two passions by creating this Etsy shop.
To benefit youth-focused charities, they sell GOTS certified organic cotton clothing, mostly ethical activewear for men, women, and kids. Their fun footwear really embodies the notion that “there truly is no wrong thong”. Featuring funky insole designs by artist Keo Match, these planet-friendly flip flops can even be personalized with your own text.
Fun fact: They also partner with Etiko (an eco friendly sneaker brand) to sell some of their vegan, organic cotton high tops.
Guardians of Our Future’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: These blended recycled rubber flip flops are made from part recycled rubber and part FSC-certified natural rubber. No glues or chemicals are involved in the bonding process. If you’re unable to compost your flip flops when they wear out, send them back to Guardians for re-recycling into furniture!
- Supply chain & labor practices: These flip flops are made from sustainably harvested materials by a Fair Trade entity in Sri Lanka.
GFOF ship in Hero Packaging compostable satchels made from sweet cornstarch and sugarcane. Even the PureLabels are made from all-natural, unbleached sugarcane paper and are certified compostable with an earth safe adhesive.
- Community & charitable giving: $1 of every sale is donated directly to ReachOut Australia, a non-profit that provides aid to youth struggling with mental health issues.
3. ORIGINAL CORK SHOP
About Original Cork Shop Compostable Flip Flops
We love cork for many reasons (which you can read about below), and thankfully, the Original Cork Shop does, too! It began in 2011 with one boy’s disappointing search for environmentally friendly flip flops and became a family-run “meaningful brand” in 2015.
Their cork flip flops are available for adults and children in a variety of colors. We especially love how the kid’s styles have additional heel straps, so your little one will be less likely to lose their shoes.
Original Cork Shop’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Original Cork Shop’s flip flops are 100% cork, from the footbed to the straps, to the flexible and grippy rubber cork sole.
While these are water and beach-friendly, cork can deteriorate with prolonged exposure to salt. If wearing in the ocean, be sure to wipe them afterward to give your flip flops the longest life possible.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Original Cork Shop is all about keeping things local, Fair Trade, and cruelty free. Everything is 100% sourced and made at their base in Portugal, where the majority of the world’s cork trees are.
About Okabashi Sustainable Flip Flops
Okabashi’s eco friendly flip flops for men and women provide support for foot health. They feature a slip-resistant design, toe rest, and gentle massage beads. Whether treating plantar Fasciitis or post-fitness recovery, these 2018 winners of the Woman’s Day Health Great Value Awards may just help you.
The concept draws on Japanese reflexology and design, largely because Okabashi is the culmination of the Irvani family’s “true American dream story.” With Japanese influence and the Made-in-the-USA quality and ethical guarantee, they’ve now sold over 35 million pairs.
Okabashi Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Okabashi flip flops are a combination of 25% recycled materials and bio-based soy material that are free from any BPAs, latex, and phthalates. They’re not biodegradable but are fully recyclable via Okabashi’s own US-based recycling program.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Since 1984, Okabashi has been creating shoes out of Buford, Georgia, which has a long history of footwear manufacturing since the days of World War II. While many shoe companies now manufacture overseas, they’re “proud to be in the 1% that chose to stay and thrive in the USA”. This also means partnering largely with local vendors, so on average, their shoes only travel about 7% as compared to other shoes. Talk about a low carbon shoe print!
Their manufacturing facility runs under the guidance of a mostly female team, and “goes above and beyond stringent US standards to create opportunity and community for our diverse 200 employees”.
As mentioned above, they attempt to close-the-loop by offering a recycling service for all their shoes in exchange for 15% off the next order. See the address to send worn-out Okabashis here.
About Waves Eco Friendly Flip Flops
The colorful patterns and designs of Waves environmentally friendly flip flops remind us that just because something is green, it doesn’t need to look so. Their flip flops and thong wedges are perfect for those who want to get wild with a two-toned color pattern or those that like to keep it straight and simple.
Waves’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Waves uses 100% premium-grade natural rubber for their flip flops, making for a cushioned, grippy, and durable shoe.
- Supply chain & labor practices: This natural rubber is sourced in Sri Lanka, where it doesn’t need to travel far for manufacturing… because they’re made there, too!
Waves flip flops are handcrafted under a “strict socially responsible manufacturing process” and in exchange for fair wages. Waves is proud that their production supports communities in Sri Lanka by providing fair and stable job opportunities: “When you wear a pair of Waves you touch the lives of many Sri Lankans.”
6. THIRD OAK
About Third Oak Ethical Flip Flops
Third Oak makes two simple yet elegant ethical flip flops: the Scout Flip Flops and Journey Sandals (which feature a T-strap design and adjustable heel strap).
With thin straps, a choice of 20 colors, and even some metallic-tinted styles, these are a great option if you’re looking for slightly fancier flip flops to wear to the beach then out to a romantic dinner.
Third Oak Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: After years of development, Third Oak finally perfected a bio-based soy material made of 45% soy and 55% recycled blended plastic called Microplast.
This material is more durable than many other natural fiber flip flops, and it’s also fully recycled via their closed-loop manufacturing process. They not only recycle factory scraps into new flip flops but will gladly accept your worn-out ones.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Third Oak is based in Georgia, and all their sandals are entirely made in the USA. That means you know all their workers are treated fairly, and their factory is upheld to top-notch ethical standards.
About Gumbies Recycled Flip Flops
Australian-inspired Gumbies was founded by Michael Maurer under the belief that “life is too short for complication. Keep it simple. Ride a wave, climb a mountain, wear Gumbies.”
Their footwear line includes boat shoes, slide sandals, canvas slip-ons, and of course, three different types of flip flops. Choose between Island Canvas, Corker, and waterproof Duckbill, which are all available in a variety of vibrant colors and come with shock-absorbing and slip-resistant qualities.
After rugged testing and proven durability, they call the Island Canvas their “1000-miler”.
Gumbies’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Gumbies use a few different combinations of materials, depending on the model. The Corkers are the most sustainable, with an upcycled cork top layer (and foot-cooling antimicrobial benefits), salvaged cotton strap, and recycled rubber outsole reinforced with jute for strength.
The Island Canvas line is a close sustainable second, featuring recycled rubber soles, salvaged cotton straps, a 100% cotton insole, and an EVA midsole (which is not biodegradable).
The Duck Bills sacrifice a little more sustainability for their waterproof quality, with a textured EVA top layer, recycled PET strap, and the same recycled rubber outsole.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Originating in Australia, Gumbies is one of the more international brands on our list. Now with offices and manufacturing locations in the USA and UK, production is kept a little more local.
After reaching out to Gumbies regarding their supply chain, they noted that while they do manufacture in China, they don’t hide it from their customers and really want them to understand this sometimes controversial choice:
“We chose this location because of the influx of rubber that needs to be disposed and we’re helping to prevent from these from being thrown into landfills or being burnt. We have found a factory to which can recycle material to create the most comfortable sole. Our team often visits the factory to make sure that it is being run sufficiently.”
Because Gumbies has distribution centers around the world, they can ship from areas closer to you than their base, which reduces containers and shipping emissions they use.
About Olli Fair Trade Vegan Flip Flops
Olli started as a passion project of sisters Heather and Holly Olli (try saying that three times fast!). Their flip flops are simple, durable, and designed to mold to the feet, which creates a seal between the shoe and the foot, so your flip flops will feel less floppy. In the words of the founders, “it’s freaking comfortable!”
They also make 100% waxed canvas totes and lunch bags perfect for a zero waste picnic at the beach.
Olli Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: The “secret ingredient” to Olli’s vegan flip flops is non-irritating and premium-grade natural rubber. That’s it!
- Supply chain & labor practices: Disgusted by the toxic and pollutive nature of plastic flip flops, and the “exploitative nature of the rubber industry”, Olli sources its natural rubber from Fair Trade Sri Lankan plantations certified by the Fair Rubber Association.
9. SIAM TIP
About Siam Tip Vegan Flip Flops
Based in Bangkok, Thailand, Siam Tip is a small Etsy-based shop that crafts vegan footwear and other accessories for women. We love how unique these shoes are. With an embroidered calf covering, they fall somewhere in between a flip flop and a boot (a boot flop, maybe?). Truly one of a kind, we’ve never seen anything like these colorful Bohemian beauties.
Founder Usathip Phengpern uses her shop to support a handful of fellow local designers and artisans: “I would like to … promote the preservation of local culture which is a valuable treasure of Thailand and support local people.”
Siam Tip’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: These unique flip-flop boots are made of natural rubber soles, decorated with woven jute. They also feature a cotton lining and plant-dyed hand-woven cotton calf covering.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Everything is made by local artists and small family-owned workshops. There are three primary entities involved, all clearly described on her Etsy page.
These suppliers include Longteens (a shop run by older shoemakers with over 20 years of experience), Praveena Weangbunphot (a small group of Hmong women that repurpose items in accessories), and Taki Handmade (the hand-woven cotton supplier run by Thailand’s Karen hill tribe).
10. SOLE REBELS
About Sole Rebels Sustainable Flip Flops
It’s easy to see why Sole Rebels ethical footwear is sold in over 40 countries… they’re unique and ethically on-point. Inspired by traditional Ethiopian “barabasso” and “selate” shoes, Sole Rebels’ colorful ethnic striped flip flops have us doing flips!
What makes this ethical flip flop brand standout? The fact that they’re not from a developed nation outsourcing to developing nations, for one. Ethiopian Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu started the company on her grandmother’s land in Addis Ababa. They still live and produce all their products in the same village.
Sole Rebels’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: First off, not all Sole Rebels flip flops are vegan. Some styles (including the zuckIT rct, nuDEAL rMXD, and class ACT nu) are made with naturally tanned Abyssinian Pure leather. This is sourced from small family farms of free-range animals bred for food, not hide.
Still, their VEGAN b*knd options look so colorful and soft that we can’t imagine needing something else. The Easy RIDIN Comeback flip flops are part of this vegan footwear line, and they’re made from recycled car tire soles covered in handwoven Abyssinian Heritage Organic Cotton.
Other flip flop fabrics used in their non-vegan options include hand-woven KOBA fiber (derived from a self-regenerating plant) and jute. Read more about their sustainable materials.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Fair Trade since founding, they uphold high ethical standards for their handcrafting workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since the founders have a personal connection to this poor village, they want to uplift the community by providing fulfilling jobs and economic opportunities.
They not only provide medical coverage, transportation, and straight wages but pay workers an average of 4x minimum wage & 233% higher than the average industry wage. They call this a “proud wage”.
Keeping production and sourcing in Ethiopia alone ensures supply chain transparency and a lower carbon footprint. The Abyssinian Heritage Organic Cotton production is actually carbon neutral because it’s woven on traditional Eucalyptus looms. Rather than shoe boxes, they ship in organic cotton chinska bags.
- Community & charitable giving: Sole Rebels writes, “We believe in building power for our workers + OUR community”. Employment opportunities aside, they also help with the education of their artisans’ children. With flexible withdrawal options, workers decide how their money is allocated to suit their needs.
About Ecoalf Recycled Tire Flip Flops
As Spain’s first fashion brand to become a certified B-Corp, Ecoalf is committed to making apparel, accessories, and PETA-approved vegan footwear using recycled fabric technology. They’ve removed over 500 tons of waste (like ghost nets and plastic bottles) from the ocean. Read more about their vegan ethical sneakers which are just as cool.
They use tire treads for their solid-colored flip-flops to help keep tread-ful rubber waste from rotting in landfills. Why the focus on upcycling? “Because there is no Planet B.”
Ecoalf’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: These are 100% recycled tire flip flops. They are REACH-approved non-toxic and contain an average of 334 grams of upcycled rubber per pair. Catch a glimpse of the fascinating process.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Ecoalf’s eco-friendly flip flops are made by hand in Spain, at a factory that upholds BSCI and SA8000 standards. It’s also certified with dealing in safe, non-toxic fabrics. All of Ecoalf’s suppliers and manufacturers have at least one Bluesign® or OEKO-TEX 100 certification.
They encourage customers to think before they buy. Returns prevent their shipping from being as low impact as possible. Goods are shipped in locally made recycled cardboard boxes with dye-free recycled paper fillers. That small choice alone reduces their carbon footprint by 13%.
- Community & charitable giving: 10% of profits go to their ECOALF Foundation for environmental education outreach, and also to support the foundation’s Upcycling The Oceans project. This program (which they themselves started in 2015) collaborates with fishermen in Spain and Thailand to removes and collects plastic waste from the bottom of the ocean to transform it into high quality yarn.
About FeelGoodz Environmentally Friendly Flip Flops
FeelGoodz makes shoes that feel good and that you can feel good about too. Their ethical slippers and flip flops come in a small variety of earthy and pastel two-tone color schemes.
The men’s and women’s styles can be either: Signature Natural Rubber (for basic flip flops) or Vegan Leather (for more variety in style and strap configuration).
FeelGoodz Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Our favorite FeelGoodz are their Signature Natural Rubber line, made of 100% dual-density natural rubber and non-toxic natural dyes. We recommend avoiding the Tropics shoe because of its virgin polyester strap.
The Vegan Leather sandals feature recycled rubber outsoles and organic cotton straps, but unfortunately, they do not specify what the vegan leather footbed is comprised of. This means it’s probably petroleum-based, so in good eco-conscious, we’d recommend the FeelGoodz.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Feelgoodz all started with a chance encounter with a family-run rubber farm in Thailand. This same rubber farm, where workers are fairly paid, now supplies all of FeelGoodz natural rubber. The organic cotton straps used for the Vegan leather line come from the traditional Cham Pa weaving community of Phan Rang, Vietnam.
13. DEUX MAINS
About Deux Mains Recycled Tire Flip Flops
Deux Mains makes Fair Trade flip flops, sandals, handbags, jewelry, and other accessories. Their aim is to:
“raise the bar on what it means to be an ethical fashion company. Hand in hand, we are empowering the world’s most marginalized communities to become self-sufficient, restoring dignity to families and individuals. We have created a footwear brand that you can be proud to own. Every step you take in deux mains sandals turns poverty into prosperity.”
Aside from their non-vegan sandals, they make the Essential Sandal. It comes with Deux Mains’ 50,000-mile guarantee meaning they really believe in this pair of quality vegan flip flips. When’s the last time you tried to walk that far (flip flips or not)?!
Deux Mains’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: The vegan-friendly Essential Sandal is made of repurposed inner tube for straps, lined with synthetic leather. All the outsoles are made from recycled tires, and to date, Deux Mains has reused 8100 of them.
The rest of their sandals are made with responsibly sourced leather, from a local tannery in Haiti that sources leather purely from the meat industry.
Even though they don’t support the killing of animals specifically for their leather, we recommend avoiding Deux Mains’ leather sandals.
- Supply chain & labor practices: As the director for Fashion Revolution in Haiti, ethical manufacturing and transparency are Deux Mains’ core values. A big part of that is keeping things local and traceable. Almost 100% of materials are sourced in Haiti, including tires that would otherwise be burned (polluting the air and releasing CO2). They even manufacture in a 100% solar-powered factory.
On the ethical side, their 85 employees are paid 184% above minimum wage on average, plus daily production bonuses. Three of their Haitian managers are shareholders in the company, and they’ve invested nearly $800,000 in the Haitian economy so far.
- Community & charitable giving: Deux Mains works hand-in-hand (or foot-in-shoe, rather) with REBUILD, an organization founded in response to the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake.
This non-profit helps the country rebuild economically by training workers to use scrap tires for sandal-making. These original designs eventually morphed into Deux Mains as a whole brand. Today, REBUILD provides paid training opportunities which can then develop into full-blown careers as makers for Deux Mains.
They also work to create a community of individual impact partners by offering kits for charity parties and fashion shows.
14. PLANET FLOPS
About Planet Flops Ethical Flip Flops
Based in Beverly Hills, CA, natural rubber Planet Flops will put the vibrancy in your summer vibes. From basic flat flops to thong wedges, there’s a color and style for everyone.
Plus, since the company was founded by podiatrist Dr. Sylvie (who also founded Dr. Shoe), you can rest knowing these flip flops are designed to cultivate comfortable, healthy feet.
Planet Flops Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Planet Flops are made of Brazilian natural rubber, which is fully recyclable, but unfortunately not compostable due to the glues added to hold the flip flops together.
- Supply chain & labor practices: These flip flops are made in Brazil – we’re reaching out for further details on this. Because they aren’t compostable, they do offer an in-house recycling service. In return, you’ll receive a 10% discount on your replacements.
- Community & charitable giving: With the “Buy One, Get One Tree” program, for every pair of Planet Flops sold, they plant one tree through Trees for the Future.
About Subs Recycled Flip Flops
Subs is a New Zealand based company, and even though hobbits may not need footwear to travel to Mordor and back, the rest of us sure do! Featuring a basic design, these unisex recycled flip flops are a good summer go-to.
Being slim and waterproof, they double as great shower shoes for travelers. You may not be carrying something as heavy as the One Ring to rule them all, but these flip flops along with Subs’ recycled PET sure will simplify the packing process.
Subs’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Subs use 100% recycled material for their flip flops. For the soles, that’s recycled PVC plastic waste collected from commercial and industrial sources then processed into PCU. Subs’ straps are made from 50% recycled PVC, extruded into rPVC pellets, and heat injection molded into straps.
They’ve used 372,537 pounds of marine debris from the ocean to date. about one-third of which is recyclable plastics, which is then sent to processors for recycling.
Most plastic recovered from beaches is PET, which is suitable for use in our range of bags, and tee shirts that we will be making soon from 50% RPET (recycled PET) and 50% recycled nylon from discarded fishing nets. The supply of PVC on beaches is very limited which is why we have a number of other stable sources for it, such as from hospital PVC gloves and electrical wiring waste to name a few.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Subs flip flops are made in Taiwan under ethical supervision that holds them to New Zealand standards. They told us directly, “It’s all above board, with ethical practices, no child labour, [and] fair wages” and that they regularly visit the factory and take footage of the practices.
Subs isn’t yet in the financial position to hire third party auditors or pay for any certifications at this time.
- Green Business Practices: Again, Subs doesn’t yet have the money to pay for a recycled content certification, but they do use primarily recycled content sourced from beach cleanups and a PVC processor that mostly makes hospital gloves and electric wiring.
The mold injection factory that makes the straps even uses its own factory offcuts as well.
- Community & charitable giving: They don’t just fund beach cleanup partnerships but organize their own beach cleaning teams. For each pair of Subs’ flip-flops sold, they remove about two pounds of plastic debris from the ocean.
16. LANDFILL DZINE
About Landfill Dzine Recycled Flip Flops
Josh and Heather Carpenter founded Landfill Dzine. In operating an agricultural-specific recycling center, they realized that a lot of the products they were seeing day after day could not only be REcycled but UPcycled. They were struck by the three million pounds of layflat irrigation hoses that can’t normally be recycled.
Today, they still work in recycling, but now make used materials into bags, belts, shoes, and more for men, women, and children. They also make home decor out of glass liquor bottles.
This husband and wife power couple is “saving the Planet one Dzine at a Time”™. Their products don’t seem to be as widely available as they once were, and general shop social media activity has kind of stalled out. We’re not sure what’s going on, but the flip flops are still available on their website.
Landfill Dzine’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: The upper straps are made from layflat irrigation hoses with an upcycled cotton blend lining where the straps touch the foot. The actual foot platform material ranges from recycled yoga mats to rubber. Each design is different, but they all have recycled PVC soles.
Now normally, we’re not very big fans of PVC. As noted in our article on non-toxic yoga mats, it’s one of the most carcinogenic and environmentally damaging types of plastic, because there’s no way to recycle it safely… until now! Plus, we like that the PVC is outsole only, so it’ll never come into direct contact with your skin.
- Supply chain & labor practices: “From The Fields of California to your Feet!” These recycled flip flops are made from agricultural waste sourced from California farms, and 100% made there. Josh and Heather make everything with their own four hands.
About SOLE Supportive Sustainable Flip Flops
Looking for a flip flop that can keep up with the most bustling summer days? SOLE may have what you’re looking for. These flip flops are designed to mold to your feet after a few days of wear, providing unmatched arch support and customized comfort.
These sandals have been medically proven to help those with foot injuries and other ailments resulting from flat feet (like back pain and even lower body arthritis). You can choose between different levels of firmness to suit your specific foot needs. Even the strap is padded and water-friendly!
SOLE’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: The secret behind SOLE’s ultra-supportive designs is either Bloom Algae Foam or recycled wine corks (of which they’ve now recycled over 100 million). While those components could be composted, the EVA midsole is not biodegradable, nor are any straps made with recycled PU. Though, these look durable and will hopefully last for years.
Please note that not every style is vegan friendly. A few have genuine leather (chrome-free, but still) straps, so read the product description to avoid these models.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Designed in Vancouver, Canada and manufactured in China, they don’t mention specifics about their factory. Maybe they’ll consider adding a bit more info to their website in the future for greater transparency. We reached out and received a summary of their Company Code of Conduct which assured that all entities adhere to ethical standards. They wrote to us:
“[…] In all other stages of sourcing and manufacturing we choose to work with partners we consider to have high levels of environmental and social integrity. We firmly believe that our company has a responsibility to the communities in which we operate and the planet we call home, and this responsibility informs all decisions and partnerships in our manufacturing and supply chain.”
There are no third party audits which can verify these claims.
Corks are sourced through their own environmental offshoot, ReCORK. Now North America’s largest wine cork collection and recycling program, ReCORK is a carbon negative company and helps SOLE keeps their carbon footprint lower, too (in addition to purchasing carbon offsets).
- Community & charitable giving: SOLE is a member of 1% for the Planet, so at least 1% of their profits are allocated to environmental initiatives. They also spearhead Brands for Better, a non-profit which works to unite local brands to make a positive difference to for both human and environmental causes in their community.
On top of this they are involved in multiple other organizations which aim to uplift vulnerable people and care for the planet. Read more about that on their blog.
WHY BUY ECO FRIENDLY FLIP FLOPS
Remember how we said that we buy 3 billion flip flops every year? That’s probably great for shoe companies, but what happens when they wear out? Which they inevitably will, given the cheap plastic foam construction of most.
These billions of discarded flip flops either go to landfills (where they won’t break down but will emit heaps of GHGs) or the ocean. They’re washing up on beaches around the world, like Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the East African coastline (where about 90 tons have ended up).
Flip flop polyurethane has become one of the largest waterway pollutants, accounting for a whopping 30% in places like the Indian Ocean. All this plastic will never biodegrade, but it will break into microplastics that will get eaten by fish, birds, and us.
Possibly even worse than plastic flip flops are leather ones. Leather is one of fashion’s most unsustainable and unethical materials. Even though it’s a natural fiber, leather takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, and the tanning process is laden with around 250 dangerous chemicals and heavy metals. Even when it does finally break down, it poisons the earth. Tannery workers, too, face the devastating health effects of daily exposure to chemicals like cyanide.
Then there are the obvious issues with sourcing leather. It generally comes from the 1 billion animals killed purely for their hides every year. It’s also sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, which produces some of the largest concentrations of methane gas.
To say leather is a lose-lose situation is an understatement.
Recycle Your Old Flip Flops
Prevent your flip flops from joining the masses of plastic islands in the ocean. Recycle them!
We’ve already mentioned Terracycle, but here are some other options:
- Earth 911: Helps you find a nearby recycling site (or mail-back program) for specific types of items like flip flops.
- PLUSfoam: Flip flops from over 20 popular brands are made from a type of recyclable foam called PLUSfoam. If your flip flops have this logo, you can mail them back to PLUSfoam’s mail-back program.
- Soles4Souls: If they aren’t broken, send old flip flops to this Tennessee non-profit, which connects them with people in need. They’ve partnered with Zappos and DSW to have drop-off sites around the US to avoid mailing them in.
HOW WE FOUND THE BEST SUSTAINABLE FLIP FLOPS
So other than looking to make sure they’re trying not to add to this plastic mess, how did we decide on the most sustainable flip flop brands?
Our sustainable and ethical fashion criteria, of course! It’s the core of all our fashion-related articles. We detail the problems with traditional fashion and have many solutions to it.
If you don’t have the time to have a read because you’re off to the beach (of course), here are our main considerations:
- Materials: Ideally, we look for natural materials that can biodegrade (specifically via composting) at the end of their lives. Natural fibers are things like organic cotton, hemp, jute, and linen. Recycled materials (even if they are synthetic) are a close second because they make use of waste that already exists. The latter is the most common for flip flops, and we’ll touch on more specifics below.
- Supply chain & labor practices: This encompasses many things relating to corporate responsibility, both socially and environmentally. It’s pretty much non-negotiable that companies should treat and pay their workers fairly, and we love to see brands with B-Corp, Fair Trade, and other certifications. Environmentally, manufacturing and shipping methods matter almost as much as material, so we look for brands that offset carbon, use non-mechanized methods of production (handmade for life!), and ship in minimal, responsible packaging.
- Charitable endeavors: It’s so great to see companies that give back to the communities they sell to. You may notice this category was missing on many brands here; we noticed, too, but attribute it to the fact that many of these companies are rather small and single-product focused. Since flip flops can’t really be priced astronomically, we understand this might leave these smaller companies with limited means to be proactive with their charitable work. All the better for companies that are!
Fabrics for Environmentally Friendly Flip Flops
Some of the main fabrics for sustainable and vegan flip flops include:
- Natural rubber: Durable, biodegradable, non-toxic, and renewably sourced by harmlessly tapping the natural latex of trees! Need we say more?
- Recycled rubber: Not biodegradable like natural rubber, but recycled rubber flip flops make much better use of the 1.5 billion tires thrown away every year. Otherwise, these tires get burned (releasing all kinds of toxic chemicals into the air) or are left to rot in landfills. In tropical countries, they’re a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.
- Hemp/jute: Efficiently grown, low-impact crops that can be woven into tough fibers for shoes. Hemp is used more as a fabric covering while jute is a hard grass that can be thatch-woven into the body of the flip flop itself.
- Cork: Excellent because it’s renewably harvested by shaving bark from cork trees rather than cutting them down. This encourages the trees to consume more CO2 while regrowing the bark in the nine years between harvesting.
Along with its cooling and odor-resistant properties, cork is also an efficient sandal replacement cushion for EVA foam.
- Bloom Foam: A new fabric innovation that recycles harmful algae growth from natural waterways into a powder that can be mixed with some EVA into a foam-like material.
Now, there’s a myth we quickly need to dispel regarding one buzzword in the environmentally friendly flip flop realm: flip flops made from recycled yoga mats.
We’d heard of these before launching into our research and were excited to learn more (especially given that we’ve also covered non-toxic yoga mats). Imagine our disappointment when we discovered the most notable “recycled” yoga mat flip flops brand was just a load of greenwashing.
We’re not afraid to point the finger in the name of informed consumerism, so here it is: Sanuk. They’re a popular sandal and flip flop company that people review as being made from recycled yoga mats. However, on Sanuk’s website, it’s only noted that the footbeds are “made outta real yoga mats”. Real, not recycled. In fact, there was no mention of recycled anything on Sanuk’s website at all.
When we inquired directly whether or not the flip flops were actually made from recycled yoga mats, or merely virgin yoga mat material, we were told, “We do not have that information at this time.” This was after being given vagaries about what yoga mats were made of in general….
Whether Sanuk started the rumor or just hasn’t bothered to correct it is unclear but either way, we were really off-put by the lack of transparency and effort in answering our question.
To ensure accuracy across our list, we will also email each brand that did make the list to confirm the policies we’ve written here.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ECO FRIENDLY FLIP FLOP BRANDS
We try our best to vet brands (knowing they may not be totally perfect), so we only include the best.
If you love any of these eco friendly and ethical flip flops (or one that you didn’t find here), we want to know! All you have to do is flop down to the comments.
And help us spread the summer love for these sustainably minded flip flop companies that are doing good by sharing this with your friends.
The world loves flip flops, so let’s do our part to ensure we’re all choosing the ones that are actually good for the planet.