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  • Imagine for a second that you're a soccer player.

  • And yes I mean soccer, because in this particular case you're living in Wellington, New Zealand.

  • It's 2012, and you've spent the last five years playing professionally for the Wellington

  • Phoenix.

  • You're ready to retire and find something new, but instead of continuing on in the realm

  • of sports, you launch a kickstarter for a shoe idea you've been kicking around: wool

  • sneakers.

  • You manage to raise $119,000 in just five days and go to found one of the fastest growing

  • shoe companies in March of 2016.

  • This atypical path to creating one of the most popular shoes on the market is that of

  • Allbird's co-founder Tim Brown.

  • Alongside his co-CEO Joey Zwillinger, Brown has managed to transform the simple idea of

  • a casual wool sneaker into a company that's valued at 1.4 billion dollars.

  • So, what is the reason for Allbird's tremendous success?

  • What I really want to know is whether Allbirds are popular solely because they are comfy,

  • or whether they're growing rapidly in part because of their environmental practices.

  • Sheep.

  • That's where all this starts.

  • Sheep's wool is the cornerstone of the Allbirds supply chain, and is the epitome of Allbird's

  • successful innovations with sustainable material.

  • In a way, Allbirds's approach to building their shoes is what drives their success.

  • When creating their brand Brown and Zwillinger identified the unnecessary traditions of a

  • stagnant shoe industry, and not only changed their approach to crafting a shoe, but did

  • so in a way that stands by an environmental ethic.

  • They essentially had the courage to imagine a shoe that could be both chic and sustainable.

  • And their use of high-quality materials is a perfect example of this.

  • Allbird's flagship shoe, the wool runner, uses merino wool for the upper, recycled plastic

  • bottles for the laces, and castor bean oil for the soles.

  • The common saying goes that there are more sheep in New Zealand than people, and Allbirds

  • relies on that massive population of fluffy animals to create their shoes.

  • The company only sources their wool from a collection of sheep farmers certified by ZQ,

  • a New Zealand based company that holds its farmers to strict environmental and ethical

  • standards by routinely auditing farms with third party certifier AssureQuality.

  • Ultimately, ZQ supplies Allbirds with sustainable, ethical, and traceable wool for their shoes.

  • And yes, traceable means ZQ has a map of over 400 farms on their website so you can see

  • exactly where each fiber is coming from.

  • In addition to wool, Allbirds is trying to shake up the sneaker industry by creating

  • a shoe made out of TENCEL lyocell, which is essentially eucalyptus tree pulp spun into

  • fibers.

  • Not only is this fiber biodegradable, but the chemicals used for creating the actual

  • Tencel can be recovered time and time again.

  • According to the Austrian based Lenzing Group, which produces the Allbirds tree fiber, they

  • are able to recover and recycle 99% of the chemical solvents used during the Tencel creation

  • process.

  • Lenzing has perfected its eco-minded process to such a degree that they are now Forest

  • Stewardship Council certified and even won the European Award for the Environment from

  • the European Commission in 2002.

  • According to the Allbirds website, the eucalyptus fiber is sourced from fast-growing tree farms

  • based in South Africa that minimize the use of fertilizer and rely on rainfall, which

  • means that 95% less water and half the carbon emissions are needed when compared to a material

  • like cotton.

  • That being said, some have pushed back against Eucalyptus tree plantations in South Africa

  • as invasive species that might harm or crowd out native plants.

  • But on the whole, the Allbird tree shoes are one of the most eco-conscious on the market

  • due to their high resource efficiency and comparably low environmental impact.

  • Despite all of their efforts in procuring the most renewable resources for their shoe,

  • Allbirds does still have a carbon footprint.

  • Granted, the emissions associated with producing an Allbirds shoe is relatively small at 10

  • kg of carbon (according to a self-conducted life-cycle assessment) When compared to the

  • 50kg required for a shoe made by Everlane, a company that prides itself on its environmental

  • ethics, Allbirds production practices seem pretty lo -carbon.

  • Recently, Allbirds has announced that they are going carbon neutral in 2019 by purchasing

  • carbon offsets, which they admit is a temporary patch and claim that they are committed to

  • decarbonizing their supply chain by inventing new carbon-free processes.

  • They use their sugarcane based SweetFoam sandal as an example of this, explaining that every

  • tonne of material they use pulls 2.5 tonnes of CO2 out of the air due to sugarcane's

  • carbon capture properties.

  • So, Allbirds is clearly trying to work many angles to reduce their environmental impact.

  • But are people buying their products because of their sustainable practices or just the

  • comfortable design of the shoe?

  • After looking behind the scenes of Allbirds, I think that question misses the point.

  • The meteoric rise of the Allbirds is the product innovative thinking, especially when it comes

  • to sustainability.

  • Co-founder Tim Brown continues to emphasize that the three pillars of their company are

  • deeply connected.

  • Claiming on their website thatcomfort, good design, and sustainability don't have

  • to be mutually exclusive.”

  • And I think it's this both/and mentality that's driving the Allbirds hype.

  • Allbirds shows us that a path towards more sustainable products requires imagination,

  • flexibility, and creativity in order to truly push the boundaries of what a sustainable

  • shoe can be.

  • Because often, sustainability and environmentalism deal in the business of less or giving up

  • comfort, but Allbirds shows that that doesn't have to be the case.

  • A sustainably sourced shoe can also be a very comfortable shoe.

  • That might seem like a simple statement, but that's a remarkably creative approach to

  • stagnant shoe market.

  • This, then, might be the key to their success and popularity: dreaming up and actually creating

  • an environmental ethic that's central to making a shoe which Time magazine deemed the

  • most comfortable in the world.

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B1 US shoe wool skillshare carbon environmental sustainable

Why are Allbirds so popular?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/13
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