How do you ratchet up the cool quotient on super-fly retro kicks inspired by 1970s Brazilian volleyball teams? Make them the first fair trade sneakers on the market, obviously. Veja, a pioneering French footwear company, replaces the environmentally dubious components in conventional sneaks with chrome-free leather, tanned with organic compounds; organic cotton free of GMO’s, pesticides, or chemical manure; and latex harvested from local rubber trees.

To facilitate their environmental mission, Veja relies on cooperatives and villages in Brazil and pays them much more than a living wage for their products so that workers can buy their own homes (an uncommon “luxury” in other developing nations). The workers care for the land, Veja cares for the workers, and the consumer gets a transparent supply chain and sustainable shoe. What’s cooler than that?

Story by Nicole Scarmeas. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. This story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008