From Trash to Treasure: The Rise Of Recycled Flip Flops

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Summer is just around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about all the essential summer accessories, including sandals and flip flops. While these versatile shoes are perfect for a day at the beach or pool, they can also be worn for casual walks or date nights.

But did you know that traditional flip flops contribute to the fast fashion industry, with over 3 billion pairs sold yearly?

The synthetic plastic used to make them can take hundreds of years to decompose, leading to plastic pollution in landfills and oceans.

The manufacturing process also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Eco Flip Flop Brands for Sustainable Style

Recycled flip-flops made from eco-friendly and sustainable materials offer an excellent alternative for environmentally conscious consumers. Before you slide into your new shoes, take a step to the bottom of this post, where we chat about how to recycle your flips and how to shop for them too.

1. Original Cork

A collection of recycled flip flops made from cork. Pin
Image: Original Cork

Original Cork, a brand based in Portugal, uses cork from their homeland to create patented 100% natural vegan flip-flops. These sandals feature cork straps in various colors, a cork footbed, and a rubber cork sole.

As you wear them, the sandals break in and become increasingly flexible and molded to your feet, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor wear.

With their minimalist style, these eco-centric flip-flops are perfect for the warmer seasons and indoor wear during fall and winter. The cork footbed layer offers an incredible natural experience, and the smooth cork thongs add to their appeal.

The mega-flexible sole uses rubber cork, a lightweight material that provides reliable adherence. Additionally, they are unisex and feature impermeable cork that ages without deteriorating, offering a natural touch that combines softness and flexibility to the touch.

The more you wear your cork flip-flops, the more they adapt to your feet, making them healthy and comfortable.

They reduce foot fatigue when walking and are hypoallergenic, as cork does not absorb dust, dirt, mold, or mildew, making them an excellent option for those with allergies. These sandals feature cork straps, a cork footbed, and a rubber cork sole and are 100% vegan. PRICE $69

2. Third Oak

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Third Oak. Pin
Image: Third Oak

Third Oak is a great choice if you're looking for eco-friendly flip flops that are not only stylish but also ethical. Their Scout Flip Flops are minimalist and come in various colors, including metallic-tinted styles.

One of the standout features of Third Oak's flip flops is the bio-based soy material they use called Microplast. This is 45% soy and 55% recycled blended plastic, making it more durable than other natural fiber flip flops. Plus, it's fully recycled via their closed-loop manufacturing process, which means they recycle factory scraps into new flip flops and even accept worn-out ones.

All Third Oak's sandals are made in the USA, ensuring their workers are treated fairly, and their factory meets top-notch ethical standards. PRICE $30

3. Deux Mains

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Deux MainsPin
Image: Deux Mains

Introducing Deux Mains Classic Leather Slide Sandals for Women, crafted in Haiti from sustainably sourced leather and featuring their unique repurposed tire soles. These sandals offer a timeless, chic look that pairs perfectly with your favorite jeans while providing ultimate comfort and peace of mind.

Please note that these sandals run small. If you are a half size, it is recommended to purchase a size up. For more details, refer to their size chart and a fit guide.

The leather slide sandals are made with responsibly sourced leather from a local tannery in Haiti that sources leather purely from the meat industry. They are then finished with a repurposed tire outsole.

Deux Mains prides itself on ethical manufacturing and transparency, with almost 100% of their materials sourced in Haiti. They even manufacture in a 100% solar-powered factory.

Their employees are paid minimum wage on average, plus daily production bonuses, paid maternity AND paternity leave, health and education benefits, and a university matching program.

Three of their Haitian managers are shareholders in the company, and they’ve invested nearly $800,000 in the Haitian economy so far.

At Deux Mains, fairness is their focus, and they stand behind their product's quality. They offer a replacement or repair if any item does not stand the test of time. PRICE $96

4. Indosole

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Indosole.Pin
Image: Indosole

Indosole is a standout ethical flip flop brand specializing in recycled footwear since 2009. Their mission is to create sustainable products that are environmentally friendly without sacrificing style. They use high-quality natural and recycled materials sourced from Indonesia to make their vegan and cruelty-free footwear.

Their custom-made ENVRO fiber straps, made from natural rubber and recycled tires, provide durability and waterproofing, while natural dyes mean no toxic run-off into the environment. Indosole features an extensive range of men’s, women’s, and kid’s flip flops, available in various colors and styles.

Indosole’s founder, Kyle Parsons, established the company to represent a lifestyle of resourceful creation after being inspired by a pair of sandals made from motorbike tires he bought while visiting Bali in 2004. With arch support, a waterproof quality, and a non-slip textured top sheet, Indosole's flip flops and slides are designed for all-terrain use and built to last.

Indosole's sustainable and ethical practices are top-notch, and they are a certified B-corp. The company maintains high standards throughout its manufacturing processes and supply chains, with yearly audits across various impact areas.

Indosole mostly sources from Indonesia, with their manufacturing done by local artisans, ensuring fair wages and safe working environments.

They organize and support various charitable events to cultivate a community of Good Humans. They have also partnered with Soles 4 Souls to give back to displaced families through a disaster relief program. Prices range from $20 to $70.

5. Brave Soles

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Brave Soles. Pin
Image: Brave Soles

Brave Soles is a Canadian sustainable shoe brand that upcycles discarded tires into stylish sandals for men, women, and kids. The brand was founded by Christal Earle, who was inspired to create Brave Soles after working with a community of garbage dump workers in the Dominican Republic since 2005.

The top part of the shoe is made with ethically sourced leather, and the brand is working towards being 100% upcycled. The part between the tire sole and the leather shoe bottom is made from high-quality foam.

Brave Soles works with artisans across the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, ensuring transparency and fair wages. They also carry bags and accessories from upcycled aircraft seats and furniture cutoffs.

Brave Soles is committed to corporate responsibility and offers carbon-neutral products, investing in projects that promise stronger communities, cleaner skies, and a greener Earth. Price $65+

PS. I own a pair of these. They are amazing! I highly recommend you give this brand a try!

6. Waves

A pair of Waves recycled flip flops on the beach.Pin
Image: Waves

Waves have created the perfect pair of flip flops that are durable, comfortable, and do not harm the environment.

Their flip flops are made from premium-grade natural rubber tapped directly from Sri Lanka's rubber trees. Working with expert rubber tappers and master artisans, they ensure every pair is ethically produced and provide fair wages and opportunities for all employees.

Waves' use of eco-friendly natural rubber instead of toxic plastic materials sets them apart. Natural rubber is lightweight, silky-smooth, and elastic, making it perfect for flip flops. These flip flops mold to the unique curves of your feet, offering targeted support and a combination of comfort and firmness.

Waves flip flops are designed for adventure and are perfect for running on sand, in the ocean, and through the forest. They are built to last many years of exploration, making them an excellent investment for anyone who loves the outdoors. Price $13.99+

7. Okabashi

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Okabashi.Pin
Image: Okabashi

Okabashi is a family-owned shoe company producing high-quality shoes in the United States since 1984. They have different kinds of flip-flops for both men and women, all made with their innovative bio-based soy material and recycled materials from their closed-loop manufacturing process.

This final material is 100% recyclable, allowing customers to return their shoes to be recycled into new shoes at the end of their life.

One of the standout features of Okabashi's flip-flops is their focus on foot therapy and reflexology. They have heel cups that improve stability and arch support to ensure proper alignment of the feet and spine when walking. The footbeds also feature massage beads for better circulation and toe rests for relaxation.

In addition to their innovative materials and focus on foot therapy, Okabashi's flip-flops come with a two-year warranty and are easy to clean as they are machine washable. For $25, they are an affordable and eco-friendly option for anyone looking for comfortable and sustainable flip-flops.

8. Bhava

A woman's feet wearing recycled flip flips from Bahava.Pin
Image: Bhava

Bhava is a shoe brand creating eco-conscious footwear using natural, recycled, and cruelty-free materials. One of their most popular products is the Riviera slide sandal, which features a natural cork-supportive base, a soft velvety upper, and an artisan-crafted wood wedge heel. These eco-friendly sandals are not only stylish but also sustainable.

Bhava is also known for its commitment to empowering women in the footwear industry. The Riviera slide sandal is proudly crafted by India's first 100% female-owned footwear maker, making it a great choice for those who want to support ethical and sustainable business practices.

With a price range of $95 to $125, the Riviera slide sandal is a great investment for those looking for a high-quality and sustainable sandal that can be worn from summer to early fall.

9. Gumbies

Gumbies flip flops on a beach. Pin
Image: Gumbies

Gumbies was founded by Michel Maurer, inspired by the Aboriginal rite of passage called "Walkabout," which he learned about during his youth in Australia.

He later spent time in places like California, where he began to appreciate the importance of simple footwear like the flip-flop. This experience influenced his unique approach to creating sustainable flip-flops using recycled rubber and salvaged cotton and canvas materials.

He combined these materials to create the key "ingredients" of Gumbies flip flops, with the old, worn-out car tires being used for the sole, jute fibers for reinforcement, canvas for the upper, and recycled cotton for the straps and insole.

Gumbies Islander Flip-Flops are the ultimate outdoor footwear, developed with a passion for the environment and the future. The Gumtread™ recycled rubber outsoles provide a flexible, durable grip on any terrain, reinforced by biodegradable jute fibers to ensure longevity.

The soft cotton canvas toe posts and strap linings offer instant comfort from the first wear, while the contoured design supports a natural foot shape.

But that's not all - with every purchase of the Islander flip-flop, you're supporting their partnership with VERDN to plant one mangrove tree in Africa. This protects the environment and provides jobs and income for local communities.

Why make the switch to recycled flip flops?

Flip flops made from traditional plastic materials majorly contribute to plastic pollution worldwide. The petroleum-derived plastics used in their production strip the earth of virgin resources and emit greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Making and distributing these flip flops also requires significant water and energy.

In addition to the environmental impact during production, traditional flip flops contain toxic chemicals such as dyes and flame retardants that pose a risk to workers and the environment. When these flip flops end their use, they often end up in landfills or waterways, leaching toxins and breaking down into harmful microplastics that can harm marine life and even humans.

Leather, while a natural fiber, also significantly impacts the environment. The tanning process involves using dangerous chemicals and heavy metals that can poison the earth and harm workers.

The production of leather also contributes to deforestation and animal cruelty, as it comes from the hides of the 1 billion animals killed yearly. The meat industry is known to produce a significant amount of methane gas and is often the source of the leather used in the fashion industry.

How do we choose these brands?

With all of our sustainable fashion posts, we consider three main criteria:

Fabrics and Materials

Regarding sustainable fashion, the ideal materials are those that can biodegrade naturally, such as organic cotton, hemp, jute, bamboo fabric, and linen. These natural fibers have a minimal environmental impact and can easily decompose at the end of their life cycle through composting.

Recycled materials, even synthetic, are also a great option as they use existing waste, reducing the need for new resources. Upcycled clothing and shoes made from repurposed synthetic fabrics are a great example of this. They take discarded textiles that would otherwise end up in landfills and turn them into new, useful products.

There are several eco-friendly fabric options available for sustainable flip flops. Natural rubber, derived from tapping the latex of trees, is a durable, biodegradable, and renewably sourced material.

Recycled rubber is another great option, using the 1.5 billion tires thrown away annually. Instead of ending up in landfills or being burned.

Hemp and jute are low-impact crops that can be woven into tough fibers for fabric covering or used as the body of the flip flop itself. Cork fabric is also an excellent renewable material, as it is harvested by shaving bark from cork trees rather than cutting them down. This process encourages trees to consume more CO2 while regrowing the bark.

Finally, Bloom Foam is a new innovative material that recycles harmful algae growth from natural waterways and mixes it with EVA foam to create a sustainable, eco-friendly foam-like material.

Ethical Sourcing

Regarding ethical fashion, it's crucial to consider materials' production and manufacturing processes. You should be aware of the origin of the fabrics and who produced them. Are they being produced in sweatshops or under fair conditions? It's important to support brands that prioritize workers' rights and fair pay, and to be mindful of the environmental impact of the production process.

Corporate Responsibility

Corporate responsibility refers to a company's commitment to acting ethically and responsibly towards the environment, society, and its stakeholders. It involves taking responsibility for their business operations' impact and minimizing any negative impact.

Companies can demonstrate corporate responsibility by going above and beyond what is legally required of them. For example, a company may offset its carbon emissions or obtain certifications like B-corp, indicating they have met rigorous environmental and social standards.

However, it's important to note that companies should be transparent about their actions and not make false claims about their environmental or social practices. True corporate responsibility involves not just doing the right thing but also being honest and transparent about what you are doing and wh

What can you do with your old flip flops?

If you have old flip flops that are still in good condition, you can donate them to a local charity or thrift store. If they are no longer wearable, you can repurpose them into something new, such as a doormat or artwork. You can also check with your local recycling center to see if they accept flip flops for recycling. Some companies also have recycling programs where you can send in your old flip flops to be recycled into new products.

Terracycle is a global company that recycles hard-to-recycle waste, including flip flops. They offer flip flop recycle boxes in various sizes that you can purchase and fill up with old flip flops. Once full, you can ship the box back to Terracycle for recycling.

Earth 911 is a recycling directory that can help you find local recycling facilities that accept flip flops.

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit organization that accepts gently used shoes, including flip flops, and distributes them to people in need around the world. They also have a recycling program for old and unusable shoes, ensuring they are properly disposed of and do not contribute to landfill waste.

A final word on eco-friendly flip flops

Flipping to eco-friendly flip flops is a step towards a sustainable and stylish summer. But why stop there? Pair your new sandals with zero-waste sunscreen to protect yourself and the oceans, wrap yourself up in a sustainable beach towel after a refreshing swim, and slip on a pair of ethical sunglasses to shield your eyes while looking cool.

With these eco-friendly choices, you can enjoy the sunshine guilt-free, knowing you're doing your part for the planet. Happy summer!


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