As a shoe designed for all types of terrain, Chacos have always been marketed towards those that love the outdoors. With such a heavy reliance on nature, it is disappointing to see that a majority of their practices are unsustainable. Each shoe contains petroleum based materials that pollute our planet and no information is made available to the public on where they source these materials from. Chaco has shown some commitment to protecting the environment with their shoe repair program, and I urge them to make more sustainable changes that leave a greener impact.
Chaco prides itself on creating simple and timeless sandals consisting of only eight components. While some aspects of the shoe, like the midsole, use vegan-friendly construction, a majority of the materials used are not sustainable. The upper straps are made of polyester, a fabric derived from petroleum, and the outsoles use a synthetic rubber compound. Both of these materials are non-biodegradable, therefore they will remain in landfills for hundreds of years to come once disposed of. Multiple improvements need to be made to these materials before we can call these shoes sustainable.
Each Chaco sandal is constructed to provide optimal support and comfort for outdoor adventures in and out of the water. Unfortunately, information on this construction is limited, with only some information provided on their manufacturing process. Chaco was acquired by Wolverine World Wide in 2009 which holds all of their manufacturing facilities in Rockford, Michigan, right by headquarters. With such close distance, Wolverine World Wide is able to reduce transportation, which in turn keeps carbon emissions down. The company provides an outline of their code of conduct on their website to disclose their labor practices and business integrity. Additionally, they mention the requirement to meet all local and national environmental protection laws to minimize the adverse effects manufacturing processes have on the community, environment, and natural resources. While this language sounds promising, the lack of specificity in their commitments and minimal certifications indicate that more transparency is needed.
Chaco was founded in 1989 by Mark Paigen, a fly fishing guide who wanted to create an outdoor sandal that allowed his feet to dry. His invention has since expanded into a widely recognizable brand sold at most major shoe retailers. In 2009 the company was bought by Wolverine World Wide which owns a multitude of other shoe brands, including Hush Puppies, Sperry Top-Sider, and Merrell. As mentioned in the previous section, Wolverine World Wide does put forth measures to account for sustainability in its production. However, after quickly looking into the other shoe brands it owns, it is clear that a majority of them have minimal sustainable practices and still have a long way to go before being called eco-friendly. When it comes to their own sustainability initiatives, Chaco notably provides a shoe repair program. The ReChaco program has saved more than 266,000 pairs of sandals and 266 tons of material from landfills. Customers have the opportunity to send in their worn Chacos and give them new life at a lower price. The brand also has multiple partnerships with charitable organizations, such as Camber Outdoors, which works to accelerate and elevate women’s leadership and participation in the outdoors, and The Conservation Alliance, which engages businesses to fund and mobilize groups to protect wild habitats.