A Segment of Fast Fashion: Carbon Footprint of Shoes

Fashion is a dynamic force that shapes our lives and carefully ties together personal expressions and societal trends. In the vibrant threads of this constantly changing field, shoes often play a supporting part and go unnoticed in the big story of style. But do we know the fact that currently, shoes are playing a significant role in carbon footprint? A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product. It is typically measured in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Carbon footprints can vary greatly depending on factors such as diet, transportation, energy usage, and product consumption.


According to the book, Global Warming - A Concerning Component of Climate Change, the fashion industry is one of the major sectors contributing 8-10% of carbon emissions. It is estimated that by 2030 its contribution can increase up to 50% of total GHG emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions refer to the quantity of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. These emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect, which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming. Common human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions include burning fossil fuels for energy, deforestation, and industrial processes.

Considering shoe footwear alone from production to disposal, a pair of sports shoes can produce 14 Kg of carbon dioxide which is 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The heavy weightage in production is due to the fact that shoes are made from synthetic materials, rubber, and leather which emit GHG gases during processing and shipping.

We can talk about stats and numbers right now, but is there any important factor that we are overlooking? The behavioral reinforcement! The entire process involves the psychology of how we are driven to do more and more shopping and fast fashion eccentricity.

The psychology behind our shopping habits is closely linked to the tactics used by the fashion industry. This makes us think about how much our shopping habits really cost us. When we're feeling down, a lot of us turn to shopping, which seems like a good way to feel better. With the rise of smartphones, this way of dealing has been moved online, where a simple click can take us to a world of online window shopping. Clothes and shoes, which are often the focus of this shopping trance, provide a short break from the stresses of real life. Even so, this shopping therapy raises a question: How have we unwittingly become part of the big plan behind fast fashion's industry-driven shopping habits? 

 Let's talk about the actual myth and the psychology.

One main reason why we are stuck in this loop is that fast fashion is so cheap and easy to get. Fast fashion brands sell clothes and shoes for convincingly affordable prices because they can take advantage of low production costs in countries with few rules about business. This makes it appealing to customers, even though they aren't very good. When you combine the ease of online shopping with one-day shipping and hassle-free return policies, you make fast fashion even more accessible, letting people satisfy their shopping needs with just a few clicks.

Another part of the myth is that social media has made fast fashion more than just a product; it's become a way of life. Some of the best ways to show yourself are on sites like Instagram and TikTok, and fashion is a big part of this. Influencers and celebrities, who often work with fast fashion brands, show off their clothes to millions of fans, making people want them and feel like they can't get them. The constant cycle of trends, and the ease with which you can buy things shown with just a click, make fast fashion even more appealing, making it an important part of modern identity.

When you look into the psychology of fast fashion, you can find something that makes your brain happy. Since fast fashion is cheap, it sets off the brain's reward system, which releases dopamine and makes the experience of buying it pleasant. This rush of dopamine can make people buy things without thinking, which is a trend that fast fashion brands take advantage of. People are always looking for the next fashion fix because of limited-time sales, new collections coming out all the time, and marketing tactics that appeal to our emotions.

There is a psychological distance between customers and the real-world effects of their choices that keeps the myth of fast fashion alive. 

Why the impact of shoes is ignored usually?

The fact that shoes are often ignored, and only clothing is always in the talk has its validity.

Shoes are considered a supporting product in the fashion industry as they are meant to protect our feet rather than essentials like clothing and accessories. They can be used for comparatively many years preferably than fashion apparel. Another factor that doesn't allow footwear to stand out is that it gets hidden under long dresses and oversized bottoms. 

We can’t ignore the fact that the footwear industry is highly competitive and it's impossible for brands to stand out, and people look for other elements like durability and comfort.

What can be done?

But we can’t ignore the fact that the global problem of shoe footprint is rising day by day. Who is responsible for this?

The problem is made worse by the fact that fast fashion doesn't think about how shoes affect the fashion business as a whole. Because the business is so focused on clothes, shoes are often given less attention, which makes it harder to reduce the carbon footprint of shoes. 

The industry and the consumers need to switch to more eco-friendly materials such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, and recycled rubber, which is critical for improving sustainability in the footwear business. When compared to typical leather and synthetic textiles, these solutions have a lower environmental impact. Because bamboo, hemp, and cork are renewable, they contribute to ethical sourcing. Waste reduction is important too, and it can be accomplished through efficient manufacturing methods, material recycling, and repurposing. Manufacturers should prioritize durability by using high-quality materials, designing for a lifetime, and establishing maintenance programs. 

Lastly, there is yet a way for us to influence the industry towards sustainability through our ability to buy. When shopping for shoes, try to find a firm that uses sustainable energy, makes all of their items from recycled or renewable materials, and doesn't let their products go too fast.  

Written By:

Rupali Kushwaha

Rupali Kushwaha is a content writer who has written about health, sports, education, the environment, and technology. She has a Master of English from IGNOU and an ongoing Master of Business Administration from Jain University. She is looking forward to continue her contributions to the writing community.

Leave A Comment