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$100 for rain boots, really?

Although I appreciate the artistic value of a small white rectangle ingeniously bordered by red, and while the font that spells Hunter is admittedly sophisticated, it’s difficult to believe so many university students are willing to pay more than $100 for rain boots.

Yet the deluge of Hunter rain boots I’ve seen on campus tells me I must be missing something. I can only assume the Hunter brand makes some sort of fashion statement, since students wear them on days with approximately zero per cent chance of precipitation. And I thought rain boots were intended to keep my feet dry.

With Ottawa’s average annual precipitation of 940 millimetres and variably sucky and slushy weather for months of the year, I’ll admit that rain boots are a practical investment. But before you rush out to join the Hunter hordes, consider the economic and environmental costs of the brand you choose to purchase.

Checking to see where rain boots are manufactured is the first step toward informed consumption. Buying Canadian goods contributes to the local economy and cuts down on transportation related costs and fuel consumption. If a product is made in Canada, there is a greater chance the manufacturer uses clean, renewable power sources, such as hydro generated power, rather than fossil fuels. These companies are also more likely to be environmentally friendly because our country has stricter environmental regulations than many others.

Since we’re talking about rain boots, we have to tackle the dreaded and damned material of which they are made: synthetic rubber. How we produce and dispose of such materials can have damaging effects on the climate and the environment, particularly on water and air pollution. Then again, the use of synthetic plastics also makes rain boots 100 per cent recyclable.

Some companies take the duty to recycle seriously. The City of Montreal and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association recognized Kamik, another manufacturer of rain boots, for its green initiatives. One of those initiatives involves recycling more than 600,000 pounds of scraps and rejects and turning them into black rain boots or outsoles. That’s enough material to make 175,000 pairs of boots, or practically enough rain boots to outfit University of Ottawa students three times over.

Inevitably, rain boots will start leaking long before they start degrading, but sending them to a recycling facility or buying from a company that accepts and recycles old boots will help keep our landfills rain boot free. Even I will admit that a recycled Hunter rain boot is, if not stylish, then at least savvy.