Image credit: Chilote
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A cultural divide is looming, which threatens to tear the fabric of our society apart. It’s about whether you take your shoes off when you walk inside your home.
We understand all sides. If you live in the country, you might want to take your shoes off because they would be muddy and dirty after tramping through the woods. In the suburbs, you most likely drive everywhere and your shoes probably don’t come into contact with many germs. It might even be considered weird if you took your shoes off in someone else’s home. But if you live in a city like New York, with its, erm, questionable street sanitation, you might get into the habit of leaving your shoes by the door and demanding the same of visitors.
Regardless, come winter, nothing is more hygge than the right pair of cozy slippers. Whether you want slippers for hygienic reasons or to warm up your feet, here’s what to keep in mind.
What to Look for in Ethical and Sustainable Slippers
Natural Materials: Tons of cheap slippers are made with synthetics like polyester and acrylic, which shed plastic microfibers into your home’s dust that you then breathe in. Instead, favor brands that utilize wool, shearling or organic cotton. You can read more about wool here. Shearling is simply sheepskin with the wool still on it, so you get the fluffy part on one side and the durable leather on the other.
Non-Mulesed wool: Although wool is a natural and biodegradable material, it has some unethical practices. Mulesing is a technique that strips off the skin around the rear end of Australian-raised lambs, to reduce the risk of fly infestation. You can look out for Textile Exchange’s Responsible Wool Standard, which was designed to be a global standard that protects animal welfare. It influences best practices, ensures traceability, and gives consumers clear information.
Fair and artisan labor: Slippers and house shoes have a long tradition in many societies around the world, so you can choose from many artisan-made styles. A bonus is that artisan-made styles are more easily repairable by your local cobbler, who would look askance at your hole-filled polyester fluffers.
Non-toxic and environmentally friendly manufacturing: You’ll be wearing your slippers frequently around your home, so they need to be free of toxic finishes that might come on cheap slippers. Look for brands that use non-toxic glues, dyes, and finishes, plus source leather and shearling from a responsible tannery. You want your home’s dust and air to be clean and fresh, especially in months where your windows are closed to the elements!
Packaging: Numerous brands offer plastic-free packaging. Double-check that they wrap your item in either reusable, 100% recyclable, or biodegradable packaging.
Knowing all that, here’s a selection of our favorite ethical and sustainable slippers to keep your feet cozy and comfortable while you go about your day in your house.
B Corp-certified Chilote creates slippers out of upcycled salmon skin leather, vegetable-tanned saddle leather, and natural Patagonia sheep’s wool. They are handmade by independent female artisans in Patagonia through a co-op system, so that the artisans can work outside of the typical factory system, and empower their local communities. Each pair comes rolled up in an eco-friendly, reusable shipping tube, no plastic included, with additional wool thread and salmon skin for personalizing or repairing them. It also has a QR code so you can learn more about the artisan group that made them. Available in sizes for the whole family and friends. Read more here!
If you can’t get enough fluff, then these are for you! Ariana Bohling is a Brooklyn-based handmade shoe brand that designs luxe slippers made from ethically-sourced baby alpaca fur by local artisans in underdeveloped communities in the Andes Mountains. Its slippers come in a wide variety of colors and styles for you to choose from.
Kyrgies slow makes its super hygge wool slippers with centuries-old heritage techniques by the best wool felters in the world: women artisans in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who are paid a living wage by the women-run factory. Each pair of Kyrgies is constructed from wet felted wool that keeps your feet at the perfect temperature year-round. It is also odor-resistant, breathable, and durable. The sheep who provide the wool live in open pastures from spring to fall and then move to the yards of Kyrgyz villagers during the winter months. Kyrgies uses all-natural, vegetable-tanned leather for its soles, which means it is tanned without chromium.
Sustainable footwear Allbirds offers two cozy slippers made out of wool. Its Wool Dwellers is made with upcycled scraps from its wool shoes and 40% GRS certified recycled polyester. And its Wool Lounger Fluffs is made from ZQ Merino wool. Allbirds’ packaging is plastic-free and made using 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard. Read our full assessment of Allbirds.
All of the Greats’ slippers are designed in Brooklyn and made by top-rated Italian factories that meet the highest standards of labor and environmental practices. It partners with factories that use less water, electricity, and energy consumption. The Greats team never uses single-use plastics in packaging or retail stores and always uses eco-minded materials like biodegradable leather, recycled nylon, non-toxic dyes.
Nootkas creates cozy and sleek slippers out of either responsibly sourced New Zealand wool or wool raised local to its makers. Its slippers are warm, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant. All production on its slippers happens at Fair Trade-certified facilities which are clean, treat employees well, pay a fair wage, and provide stable employment in remote regions where good jobs can be hard to come by. These facilities are also committed to eco-friendly, sustainable production and utilize solar power for much of their energy needs. All of Nootkas’ products are free of plastics, chemicals, and synthetic fibers that can pollute the environment and irritate your skin.
B-Corp certified Baabuk designs contemporary, cozy, colorful, durable, and responsibly-made slippers from New Zealand wool. Its farmers’ water and soap washing process is environmentally friendly, as the water is recycled, so it doesn’t pollute local rivers. Baabuk chose Nepal as its manufacturing hub for the chance to make a positive impact in a local community.
Founded in 2014, Parachute is an online-only, direct-to-consumer brand that started with bedding and has expanded into many areas of the home, including slippers. All of its products are safely made without any harmful chemicals or synthetics. You can shop for many slipper styles, including ones made out of wool and Oeko-Tex certified cotton.
Manitobah Mukluks is an indigenous-owned company in Canada that makes moccasins, slippers, and winter boots. It combines centuries-old Aboriginal design and modern materials to create high-quality footwear. Its slippers feature the flower beadwork design of the Métis people, as well as a specially designed rubber outsole to keep the wearer comfortable in cold weather.