Greenwash of the Month: Earth Footwear

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The Earth shoe label promises “100% lead-free” shoes

Let’s talk about shoes.  Waltham, Massachusetts-based Earth, Inc. claims its Earth shoes are “good for the planet” and aggressively advertises the environmental benefits of their “vegan” shoes (with a “designed in the USA” American flag label right next to the plain “made in China” one).

The shoebox is also labeled “100% lead-free.” But CEH found high levels of lead in the Earth shoe we purchased last September. We notified the company that the lead in their shoes violates California law, and asked them to take immediate steps to resolve the problem.

But just last week, CEH bought more Earth shoes, and we found that although they are still labeled “100% lead-free,” the company’s lead problems remain. One Earth shoe we bought in January contains more than 250 times more lead than the limit that over one hundred and twenty shoe and accessory companies agreed to last year.

If you purchased Earth shoes and would like to learn more about CEH’s efforts to force the company to eliminate lead from its allegedly “lead-free” products, contact CEH at ryan@ceh.org.

Earth Footwear seems to be one of the many companies that have jumped on the enticing, eco-friendly, biofuel-powered bandwagon to increase sales and create warm, fuzzy reputations as “green” businesses. After all, what matters isn’t so much the reality of their brand or product, but how the public perceives it.  

That’s also how Earth shoe gets away with dubious claims that its shoes “burn more calories with every step,” and give wearers “better leg and calf toning, tighter thighs, firmer stomach muscles, straighter posture and better breathing” (just think how healthy you’d be if you wore a Power Balance bracelet with your Earth shoe). In 2008, a leading footwear scientist (now there’s a job title I’d like) told the LA Times, “I think it’s a stretch to make those claims.” But as long as consumers can be swayed by the questionable claims, Earth shoe is sticking with them.

This is certainly a lesson in the reality of greenwashing and other dubious marketing claims. Claiming that this product is “Good for You. Good for the Planet” is just sailing under false colors. Last time I checked, I don’t think lead exposure was considered good for you.  Or the planet.

Again, if you purchased Earth shoes and would like to learn more about CEH’s efforts to force the company to eliminate lead from its allegedly “lead-free” products, contact CEH at ryan@ceh.org

Co-Authored by Charles Margulis and Ali Geering-Kline

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Ali manages the website and coordinates the online communications of CEH. She works with the communications and development staff to create messaging strategies and public education content for CEH’s supporters and online audience. A Bay Area native, Ali attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Cultural Studies. This allowed her to live abroad in Argentina, where she studied Latin American history and learned valuable Spanish language skills. Ali is thrilled to be part of an organization that advocates for healthy communities so effectively.