The Dasher is New Zealand’s allbirds’ first real “running” shoe. Throughout its short history, the company has prided itself in making not just the “world’s most comfortable shoe” but also sustainable shoes. What does that mean necessarily? In an industry that emits nearly 700 metric tons of CO2 annually (https://www.gq.com.au/style/news/the-superstar-the-startup-adidas-allbirds-team-up-for-an-ambitious-collab/news-story/d5570e50ce213ecc9d3e019303e208be), being sustainable seems like quite the task.
For the Dashers, however, the claim for sustainability and “carbon neutrality” starts with their main material; Forest Stewardship Council certified eucalyptus fiber sourced in South Africa. What this means is that the trees used come from responsibly managed forests and tree farms. Specifically, allbirds use trees from farms that rely on rain instead of intricate irrigation systems, and minimize the use of fertilizers which leads to 95% less water usage and according to allbirds also cuts down their carbon emissions in half (https://www.allbirds.com/pages/our-materials-tree). This last claim is a bit trivial seeing as the company did not consider the carbon emissions that come from having to transport these goods from South Africa to their manufacturing plant in Italy. They save these carbon emissions for their company wide emissions. The main reason that they chose to do this is their claim that carbon emissions from transportation vary from customer to customer depending on their geographical location. The flaw I see in this is that regardless of where the customer is, all eucalyptus fibers still have to make their way from South Africa to Italy and in my opinion that should be considered in the emissions that come from manufacturing each pair of shoes. This same thought process can be applied to all the materials that allbirds uses in the Dashers.
For example, the sugarcane they use for the midsole comes from sustainable farms in Brazil that are constantly audited by third parties. This helps allbirds claim that their Ethylene-vinyl acetate (rubber) is in fact “carbon negative” since the biomass sugarcane (https://www.allbirds.com/pages/our-materials-sugar) they use to make it is then re-used to power the processing plant and even fertilize next year’s crop. Once again, however, they fail to account for the carbon emissions that arise from transporting this good.
Yet another example of this can be found in the wool that is used to line the heel of the shoe. The wool hails from sustainable sheep farms in New Zealand which allows them to cut down energy usage for this part of the shoe by nearly 60% (https://www.allbirds.com/pages/our-materials-wool) in comparison to companies that use synthetic materials. The problem, yet again, is that they do not consider shipping carbon emissions.
With all that being said, it is crucial to note that allbirds really does attempt to be sustainable in all the steps of the process of making a shoe, even the small details like shoelaces, eyelets and even packaging. They use recycled plastic bottles to make the laces, bio-nylon for the eyelets, and recycled cardboard for their packaging. In comparison to other athletic shoe companies, they are way ahead of the competition, and the competition has noticed. In fact, Adidas and allbirds recently announced a partnership in hopes of creating the most sustainable and scientific sneaker within the next year, which brings me to the main take away.
If you are in desperate need of a new running shoe now and want something that is comfortable, stylish, and more sustainable than any other shoe then look no further than the Dasher. If you think you can wait a little bit to get new shoes I would wait and see what the allbirds/Adidas partnership brings in the future.
Allbirds made a clear attempt to make the Dashers out of the most sustainable materials possible. These include eucalyptus fiber sourced in South Africa, Sugarcane from Brazil, and Wool from New Zealand. Even small details like eyelets, laces, and packaging come recycled and up-cycled materials.
I find it a bit counterproductive for all birds to have their manufacturing plant in Italy, a country where you need to ship all your material to. When calculating the shoes’ carbon neutrality, they consider all sorts of things like the energy it takes to machine wash them, but they emit the CO2e that come from transporting the materials to their manufacturing plant. They do, however, do everything in their power to limit carbon emissions through out their whole process. Find out more here (https://cdn.allbirds.com/image/upload/v1586808732/Carbon%20Number/Allbirds_Product_Carbon_Footprint_Methodology.pdf).
Recently, it seems like every month a new sustainable shoe company enters the market, but not many enter the athletic market and this is mainly due to the fact that there are already giants in there. Allbirds did not shy away from this challenge and some may even say they came out victorious from entering seeing as they even got one of these giants (Adidas) to acknowledge the fact that they put out a great, sustainable product and even got a partnership out of it.