Kiwi shoe company, Allbirds, has found a sweeter way to make shoes.
It’s launching a new line of jandals engineered to leave a lighter footprint on the planet.
Allbirds are known for their eco-friendly footwear, made from wool and trees, but the challenge has always been to find a sustainable solution for the soles, which have historically been made out of petroleum-based foam.
Three years on, they’ve found the answer.
“Effectively we’ve taken the petrol out and put the sugarcane in and found a carbon negative solution to the raw material that makes up the foam,” says Allbirds co-founder and former All White, Tim Brown.
Tim Brown first had the idea of shoes made more simply in Wellington in 2009.
He founded Allbirds in 2015 with entrepreneur and engineer Joey Zwallinger, launching with their wool runner, before adding a eucalyptus tree fibre shoe to their collection. Sweetfoam, made from sugarcane, is their third big material innovation. It’s the world’s first carbon negative polymer, meaning it takes more carbon out of the atmosphere than it produces.
Allbirds co-founder and sustainable chemicals expert, Joey Zwallinger, says even before they founded the company they had always talked about sheep, trees and sugar.
“Being able to bring these three hero items to life, it’s something that’s rewarding, it’s really special, I think it’s important for our company and it’s really important for the planet,” says Mr Zwallinger.
“Instead of just keeping on pumping up petroleum out of the ground and making foam or other products out of it, what we thought was ok, use sugarcane which then captures that CO2 out of the atmosphere and translates that CO2, with the help of sunlight and a little rain into something that’s a useable source of carbon which is sugar. Then, with our partner in Brazil, we’ve taken that sugar and translated that into a foam used for shoes.”
Allbirds is a small brand within a massive footwear industry that makes 25-billion pairs of shoes a year, so to have a meaningful impact they’re sharing the innovation with the entire industry in the hope of starting a larger movement.
“The goal is to create these materials and make them available to other people to use and hopefully together we can make products that are more sustainable and better for the environment,” says Mr Brown.
“I think there’s a new generation of consumer that’s starting to demand to know where the thing that they wear come from, what they’re made out of and I really do believe we’re on the edge of a revolution in sustainable manufacturing,” says Mr Brown.
Allbirds are showcasing their innovation with the launch of a jandal, which will retail at $60, then plan to roll out Sweetfoam soles on all of their shoes.