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footwear

Ethical 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 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, this 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: £

Are you 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. Of course, this then brings other quandaries. What is better for the environment? Flip-flops that may require regular replacing or a sandal that may have a much longer lifespan?

There’s a lot to think about. However, don’t forget the ultimate eco-friendly and ethical option. Simply ask yourself do you actually need to buy a new pair of sandals? Could your existing pair of sandals be repaired? Could you find what you need secondhand? I always find this the best starting point before buying something new.

Ethical Fashion, Life & Style

The Best Ethical Slippers for Cosy Toes

Looking for a pair of eco-friendly or ethical slippers? Good news then, I’ve rounded up my favourites for you!

With all this staying at home, ethical slippers are on my mind.

This winter it certainly feels like staying comfortable and cosy has never been as important as it has now. I was updating my guide to ethical pyjamas and loungewear and my guide to ethical socks and thought why stop here. I, therefore, carried out some research and found some of the best eco-friendly and ethical slippers for both women and men available in the UK right now.

What I’ve found is that much like the ethical clothing market, the ethical slippers market is small. To make things harder, this already small market has been hit by Brexit. Many ethical slipper choices are made in the EU and shipped to the UK. However, because of Brexit, many EU-based retailers have stopped shipping to the UK.

For those EU-based retailers that are still shipping to the UK, import duties must now be paid on purchases from the EU coming into the UK. This means that when you order from the EU you are hit with these hidden charges. As such, for this guide, I’ve focused on what’s accessible within the UK. It therefore might be small, but I’ve managed to cover all bases I hope!

What Makes for a Pair of Ethical Slippers?

I’m mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to clothing and footwear. As such, this guide has been designed to be a starting-off point for you to research the most sustainable option for you.

Some of the slippers I’ve recommended are vegan-friendly. For these, I’ve sourced those made using recycled plastic bottles, rather than virgin plastic. And for those looking for plastic-free slippers, I’ve sourced ethical slippers made considerately using wool, suede, and/or sheepskin. Where sheepskin has been used, I’ve focused on those upcycling byproducts from other industries.

Guide to Ethical Slippers

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. This doesn’t affect the price you pay for items or your consumer rights, such as your right to return items.  It just means that I get a very tiny percentage of the sale price if you buy anything via the link.  This helps cover the running costs of the blog.

Egos Copenhagen

fairtrade slippers uk

Egos wool slippers (£39 – available in the UK from Wild Swans) are ethically made by hand in Nepal by skilled craftswomen. In fact, Egos have been certified by The World Fair Trade Organization.

Each pair takes time and skill to make. As such, each employee can only make 2 pairs of shoes a day. It’s definitely a case of quality over quantity.

The raw wool is dyed with environmentally friendly colors, before being molded into the slipper shape. Another inner layer of felt is then added, for extra comfort. Finally, the outer suede sole is stitched on these incredibly cosy slippers.

Gumbies

Gumbies sustainable slippers

Each pair of Gumbies ethical unisex vegan slippers (£35) are made from recycled plastic derived from post-consumer plastic bottles. In fact, 8 bottles are used to make each pair. What’s more, the soles are even made from recycled rubber.

Rather than stop there, the insoles are made from beans. Yes, beans, you read that correctly! The soft foam Gumbies uses for their insoles are made from 100% Castor Bean, a naturally derived material.

Mercredy’s Ethical Slippers

ethical slippers uk

Mercredy’s eco-friendly slippers* (£34.95) are handcrafted in Spain using recycled plastic bottles. They use plastic bottles collected from the ocean to create the heavy-duty felt fabric for the slippers. In fact, each slipper is made from at least 2 recycled bottles.

This fabric, which is used in both the upper and lining for the slippers is certified 100% recycled by the Global Recycle Standard. What’s more, the sole is made from natural rubber, which is sustainably sourced.

My verdict? Mercredy makes for a great pair of vegan slippers.

Onaie

Onaie’s beautiful felt slippers* (£31.49) are made and finished in the Polish Highlands using age-old techniques. Onaie says “we take the ethical manufacture of footwear very seriously. We know our craftswomen, we know their business practices and we work side by side with our suppliers to ensure ongoing ethical, social and environmental compliance.” 

These beautiful slippers would make such a lovely ethical gift idea for someone special, or as a treat to yourself.

The Small Home

guide to eco-friendly and sustainable slippers

The Small Home sells beautiful handmade embroidered slippers. Each unique pair is made from the softest shearling sheepskin, using off-cuts from Rolls Royce car interiors to ensure the highest grade skins and to minimise waste.

The Small Home says “The natural materials we use to make our sheepskin slippers are designed to last and offer a sustainable and ethical alternative to fast fashion. Our hand-stitched sheepskin slippers are an everyday luxury suited to slow, mindful living.”

Allbirds Dweller Slippers

Allbirds dweller

Allbirds super fluffy ethical Dweller slippers* (£65), are made from upcycled scraps from the making of Allbirds wool shoes, and a blend of recycled polyester. Even the sole is made from FSC certified natural rubber for a truly sustainable slipper. Allbirds is also a certified B-Corp, which means that they have been independently verified to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance and public transparency, allowing you to shop with confidence.

What Else Can I Do?

The single most eco-friendly choice of slippers are the ones you already have. If your existing pair have started to wear out, why not look at how you can repair them?

Learning some basic techniques to repair holes and tears is a great first step. Another useful tool for fixing slippers, depending on what they are made of, is Sugru. I’m obsessed with it!

Beyond your own ethical choices, you can also help to engender change on the High St. One way you can do this is to ask High St brands who make their clothes (see Fashion Revolution for their great resources).  This will help press for transparency and sustainability on the High Street. 

Even if you can’t afford to shop for ethical slippers, you can also support the brands that align with your values.  Even if you can’t afford to purchase ethical alternatives, you can also like, comment on, and share their social media posts to help boost their exposure.