Fashion, Life & Style

The Best Ethical Sandals & Flip-Flops For Summer

From ethical walking sandals to vegan sandals, to sustainable and plastic-free flip-flops and more, I’ve got all your eco-friendly summer footwear needs covered.

I’ve got an entire guide to ethical shoes and even ethical trainers. And as the sun has been positively shining lately, today let’s focus our attention on ethical sandals and other summer footwear staples, such as flip flops.

Before we dive in, it is important to bear in mind that sustainability is a complex and nuanced subject. There’s no official definition and the term means many different things to many different people. I’m therefore mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to footwear and the materials used in their manufacture. As such, this guide has been designed to be a starting-off point for you to research the most sustainable option for you, rather than a definitive “this is ethical” list.

Guide to Ethical Sandals

Here are the best ethical sandals and flip flops that I’ve been able to track down for you. From sandals made from recycled materials to sandals aiming to be circular, right through to vegan sandals and plastic-free flip flops. Do bear in mind that sandals, like shoes, are notoriously difficult to make ethically. This is due to the numerous components that go into making them. As such options are limited, and you probably won’t find a sandal that ticks 100% of your own particular ethical boxes. Instead, you may have to exercise a degree of compromise.

The price range key for this guide is £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that are purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

Birkenstock

Birkenstock ethical sandals

Price range: £ – ££

I bought a pair of Birkenstocks* WAY back in 2006, and, do you know what? I’m still wearing the exact same pair today. These ethical sandals are almost indestructible. I know, I have worn mine every single summer since. I’ve walked perhaps a thousand miles in them – maybe more – and these beauties are still going. They have just this year started to unravel at the footbed, but after 15 years that’s some pretty good innings. In terms of cost per wear, you simply cannot beat Birkenstocks.

I always think of Birkenstocks as being the opposite of fast fashion, as they always maintain a grasp on who they are by not conforming to specific trends. However, what makes Birkenstocks ethical and sustainable is the main component is super sustainable cork.

In some previous research on cork, I found out that to extract the cork not a single tree is cut down.  Instead, the bark of the cork oak trees is peeled away.  The cork is then carefully extracted manually by highly skilled harvesters. The cork then simply grows back. This system preserves the forest in its pristine entirety and enables perpetual harvesting with no damage to the forest or ecosystem. It’s pretty amazing stuff, really.

Birkenstock makes all of its products in Germany. And for top eco points, Birkenstock offers its own repair service. I’ve also heard good things about The Boot Repair Company, which also repairs Birkenstocks.

Birkenstock offers both vegan and non-vegan leather options, depending on your preferences. Their vegan ranges are entirely free of animal products and are verified by independent testing laboratories. However, something I did note is many sandals in their vegan range are made from Birko-Flor, which appears to be a PVC-based plastic.  PVC is the single most environmentally damaging plastic. This is because PVC is made out of petroleum (a fossil fuel), which contributes to carbon emissions. The manufacturing process of PVC uses a lot of resources, and it releases a lot of toxic chemicals. Leather isn’t without its environmental and ethical problems either. Who said making sustainable choices was easy?

Camper

Camper ethical and circular sandals

Price range: £ – ££

Camper* has slowly been working on increasing its use of recycled materials and eco-friendly fabrics. Recently they’ve introduced circular styles which use closed-loop materials or can be transformed into new products at the end of their life. Their goal is to send no waste to landfill by 2030.

At the moment Camper’s circular range is small, but the good news is that these Wabi vegan sandals are part of their ethical Better Collection range. That means that you can return the sandals back to Camper when they reach the end of their life. They will then be ground down to restart life as a new sole or shoe. This sounds good. However, at present these particular sandals are made of only 20% recycled materials, and the remaining 80% is made of virgin plastic, which is oh, about 80% too much, given that fossil fuels are required to make plastics. I hope Camper can nudge the recycled figure upwards as they expand their Circular range. I’ll keep you updated.

Matt & Nat

Matt and Nat vegan sandals in black

Price range: £ – ££

Matt and Nat’s vegan sandals* are a stylish choice if you want to avoid animal-based fabrics. Matt and Nat are a strictly vegan company and do not use any animal products whatsoever.

However, like many vegan shoe materials, there are trade-offs. Good on You highlights shortcomings when it comes to Matt and Nat. For a start, the company does use PVC plastic in some of their products, which, as we discussed in the section on Birkenstocks, is not good for the environment.

The good news is that these Cyndie sandals are made from 100% recycled Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB). PVB is an innovative material made from 100% recycled resin from windshield glass, making it a better choice than PVC.

Whilst these specific sandals are made from ethical materials, there are also question marks over Matt and Nat’s ethics. Matt and Nat’s products are made in China, and Good on You highlights a lack of transparency over certain aspects of production. There are no details on the specific measures they undertake to ensure that their labour standards are being upheld. There is also no evidence that Matt and Nat has, or requires suppliers to use, a Code of Conduct. Reading this I would say that Matt and Nat are a vegan shoe company, rather than an ethical shoe company.

Teva

Teva walking sandals in black

Price range: £ – ££

Many years ago I had a pair of Teva walking sandals* which I absolutely adored. They were one of the most comfortable pairs of sandals I had ever worn. After they wore out, I replaced them with my near-indestructible Birkenstocks, and I hadn’t revisited the brand until recently when I started hearing more and more about Teva’s eco-friendly and ethical credentials.

It turns out that Teva has really upped their eco game in recent years, and has made solid progress in terms of reducing their water consumption, reducing waste and packaging, and increasing their use of recycled materials in making their sandals. In fact, in 2020, Teva transitioned all of its sandal straps to traceable verifiable recycled plastic. Since then, they say they’ve diverted 24 million plastic bottles from landfills.

Teva has a wide range of walking sandals, sandals, and flip-flops. Do bear in mind that if you are looking for vegan sandals, then not all Teva shoes are vegan-friendly. However, they do have many vegan styles, so you won’t be short on choice.

Vivobarefoot

Vivobarefoot tan leather sandals

Price range: £££

If minimal soled ethical sandals are more your thing, then Vivobarefoot* has you covered. This certified B-Corp’s ethical sandals are made from premium leather offcuts from their shoe production, making them a zero-waste sandal. Whilst Vivobarefoot does have a vegan range, unfortunately, they don’t offer a vegan sandal option. Yes, like virgin plastic, leather isn’t the most sustainable material. However, Vivobarefoot’s leather is ethically sourced as a byproduct from small-scale Ethiopian farmers. And as you can see, they are committed to using every last scrap.

Aiming for circularity, Vivobarefoot offers a repair service. And for shoes that have reached the end of their life, you can send them back to Vivobarefoot. Here, their skilled team reconditions the old shoes, by carefully repairing seams, patching torn or weak areas, replacing broken eyelets and lace hooks, and more. By keeping shoes out of landfill, it benefits the planet and allows people to shop at lower price points whilst helping to support circular business practices.

Waves Flip Flops

Waves ethical plastic-free flip flops

Price range: £

Looking for plastic-free and vegan flip-flops? Step forward Waves ethical flip flops*. Yup, the holy grail of footwear materials – a plastic-free vegan product – is possible! You see, many flip flops are made from petroleum-based rubber and plastics. However, Waves flip flops are made from 100% natural rubber that’s FSC certified.

Any off-cuts from the manufacturing process get granulated. These rubber granules are then used to create flip flops. This system cuts down on the total amount of rubber that producers need to grow, thereby reducing water, land, and energy usage. You can also send back your worn-out Waves, and again, these will be recycled. You’ll also get 10% off your next order, by way of thanks for keeping your old flip flops out of landfill.

Which Ethical Sandals Should I Buy?

I find footwear to be the most tricky aspect of an ethical wardrobe. Therefore, when it comes to ethical sandals it’s no easy matter. Any new shoe or sandal will take a toll on the earth. What to choose depends on whether you value plastic-free products, or whether you value vegan and cruelty-free products more. If it’s too tricky to choose, then ask if flip-flops could fulfill your footwear needs. Or, for the ultimate eco-friendly and ethical option – ask yourself do you actually need to buy a new pair of sandals? Could your existing pair of sandals be repaired? I always find this the best starting point before buying something new.

Food & Drink, Summer

How To Make Lemon Balm Tea – Two Ways

Want to know how to make deliciously refreshing lemon balm tea? You’re in luck – it’s one of my favourite beverages! Here’s how to make it with fresh leaves, and how to make lemon balm tea from dried leaves. Enjoy!

Lemon balm grows in abundance in my garden. I absolutely adore the smell of lemon balm and it’s not just me. Bees blooming well love lemon balm. When the plant’s tiny white flowers bloom in August and September, you’ll find scores upon scores of bees on it collecting precious pollen. As such, I have planted a couple of pots of it over the years. Pro-tip: plant it in pots otherwise it will spread. I tell myself I’m doing it for the bees, but mostly it’s simply for the fact that I adore lemon balm tea. It’s a refreshing, caffeine-free tea, and one that I reach for in the day or evening when I need a non-caffeinated pick me up.

A basket full of freshly picked lemon balm, ready for making tea with

In summer you can make fresh lemon balm tea, or you can dry the leaves for a beverage you can enjoy all year round. I’ll show you how to make fresh tea in summer. And while we’re here, I’ll also show you how to dry lemon balm leaves to preserve them for later. And then, because I’m good like that, I’ll show you how to make lemon balm tea from the dried leaves. I promise it’s a taste of summer even in the darkest depths of winter.

First Off, What Lemon Balm?

Lemon balm is an edible herbal plant known by the botanical name Melissa officinalis. The plant is also frequently called common balm and balm mint. This is because it’s closely related to the mint family. Lemon balm is often confused with lemon verbena, but these are two very separate plants from two very different parts of the world. Lemon balm is native to Europe and North Africa, whilst Lemon verbena is native to South America. You can, however, make tea from lemon verbena – it is perfectly edible – so if you have lemon verbena to hand then all is not lost!

Lemon balm has a long history of culinary use. And in many regions, lemon balm has long been used as a natural herbal remedy. Some possible health benefits of lemon balm tea include reducing stress and anxiety levels, help with insomnia, the provision of indigestion and nausea relief, and more.

Whether herbal remedies are your thing or not, lemon balm also makes a pretty tasty and refreshing cup of tea. So let’s get down to the tea-drinking business!

How to Make Fresh Lemon Balm Tea

A cup and tea infuser, with fresh lemon balm leaves

The quickest, no-fuss way is to make your tea fresh. Here’s how to make one cup of tea:

  1. After picking your fresh lemon balm leaves, give them a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and using a tea towel, gently pat dry the leaves.
  2. Add two to three teaspoons of fresh lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser, and then place in your teacup or mug. I prefer to tear up the leaves before adding them to the tea infuser, as it helps release the lovely lemon balm flavour.
  3. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  4. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the lemon balm leaves to steep for around 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

Do note that it’s best to use lemon balm for tea before the plant starts to flower. This is because the flavours are at their optimum peak. The plants tend to flower in August, but depending on the weather, the flowers may arrive in July.

How to Make Lemon Balm Tea from Dried Leaves

A jar containing dried lemon balm leaves next to a tea strainer

If you have dried leaves to hand then follow this tea-making guide instead. If you’re looking to dry your fresh leaves then do skip to the next section.

This makes one cup:

  1. Add one heaped teaspoon of crumbled, dried lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser.
  2. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the dried leaves to steep for around 5 minutes.
  4. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

How to Dry Lemon Balm Leaves

lemon balm on an oven dish ready to be dried in the oven

If you have a glut of lemon balm, like me, then you are going to want to dry at least some of it to tide you through the autumn and winter. There are two separate methods – in the oven, and hanging them up to dry. Let me talk you through both.

How to Dry Leaves In The Oven

Here’s the full step-by-step guide to drying lemon balm leaves in the oven:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 80°C / 176°F
  2. For the best flavour, harvest the lemon balm leaves just before the plant begins to blossom. Depending on where you are, this could be from July to August. As it’s a favourite plant of the bees, do ensure that you leave plenty for our fuzzy friends to gather pollen from.
  3. Next, cut the lemon balm stalk, just above the second row of leaves. Pruning like this encourages the lemon balm plant to produce new shoots, and maintains a source of pollen for the bees.
  4. Once you’ve gathered what you need, give the stalks a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and gently pat dry with a clean, dry tea towel.
  5. Once dried, lay out the stems on a baking tray and heat in the oven for around 1 to 1.5 hours. Keep a close eye on your leaves to ensure they don’t burn.
  6. You can tell the leaves are fully dried when the leaves become very crisp and brittle. If you are in any doubt, give the leaves a little more time in the oven, as leaves that are not fully dried out will develop mould.
  7. When the lemon balms are sufficiently dry remove them from the oven and remove the leaves from the stalks. For best results, I find running my fingers down the stem helps remove all the leaves.
  8. Finally, place the lemon balm leaves in a clean and dry airtight jar, ready for future tea drinking times. Compost the leftover stalks.

Air Drying

If you don’t want to dry the leaves in the oven, you can dry bundles together. Simply gather several stems of lemon balm together, and tie them up around the stem with a piece of string. Then hang your bunches of lemon balm up in a cool dry spot in your house. Once dried, in approximately 2-3 weeks, follow steps 7 and 8 to store your lemon balm tea.

Storage

Your dried lemon balm will keep for around 6 months or so. For optimum freshness, store your jar in a cool dark place. If you do see any signs of mould on the dried leaves then you’ll know the leaves did not dry properly, and they should be discarded.

Enjoy!

PS: If you have mint growing in your garden, then you can also make mint tea. Here’s how to dry mint leaves for tea.