Adidas and Allbirds unveil lowest carbon footprint trainer
‘Futurecraft.Footprint’, the first design in Adidas and Allbirds’ pioneering partnership, is an elemental performance shoe with a carbon emissions footprint of just 2.94kg
When brands today consider designing environmentally-friendly fashion, they must evaluate the impact of every element in the manufacture of a product, from raw fibre to factory floor. When German sportswear behemoth Adidas and San Francisco-based sustainable footwear pioneer Allbirds conceived the first design in their pioneering brand partnership – a technical performance shoe with a carbon footprint of a mere 2.94kg – they did just that.
‘The concept of a carbon calculation added this extra layer of things to consider into the process of creating performance products,’ says Florence Rohart, senior footwear designer at Adidas Future. ‘It reversed our creative process; we really had to think about how to build the products from the yarn up.’
Since Allbirds launched in 2016, the brand – renowned for its signature streamlined merino wool trainers, equally desired by Silicon Valley CEOs and off-duty celebrities – has used carbon calculations as a quantifiable metric to monitor its environmental footprint. Each of its products, from trainers to apparel, is labelled with a customer-friendly figure, representing the CO2 emitted in its creation.
‘Right now, customers really have nothing to go on, besides fancy marketing taglines, and we want to give them some objective data,’ says Hana Kajimura, sustainability lead at Allbirds. ‘We’re implementing a kind of carbon consciousness, where we can start to contextualise the carbon footprints of the things that we buy, and ultimately make better decisions for the planet.’
It’s estimated that the average running shoe has a carbon footprint of 13.6kg. To significantly reduce this figure, Adidas and Allbirds’ teams collaborated remotely, across time zones, for 12 months, and analysed every element of a performance shoe’s production, considering materials, weight, manufacturing and packaging.
‘Through doing lots of trial and error with prototyping, we landed on this art of reduction,’ says Rohart of the elemental nature of the ‘Futurecraft.Footprint’. It has an upper designed with 70 per cent recycled polyester and 30 per cent natural Tencel (a material made from wood pulp), and a mid-sole crafted from Allbirds’ sugarcane-based SweetFoam. ‘Reinforcements became embroideries,’ Rohart adds. ‘We limited material wastage by being more mindful about how we created the shoe’s pattern.’
As separate brands, Adidas and Allbirds are both making signficant strides in the race against climate change. In 2019, Adidas launched its first fully recyclable sneaker, the ‘Futurecraft Loop’, made from 100 per cent thermoplastic polyurethane. In March this year it also relaunched its signature ‘Stan Smith’, with an upper crafted from Primegreen, a recycled material that does not contain virgin plastic. And in April, the same shoe design was reimagined using mycelium, a mushroom-derived alternative to leather created by biotechnology lab Bolt Threads.
In recent months, Allbirds has announced investment in Natural Fiber Welding Inc, a US company that has created a plant-based leather alternative, and launched an open-source version of its carbon-footprint calculator at FreeTheFootprint.com, to allow other labels to utilise its technology.
‘This coming together has allowed us to imagine that the seemingly insurmountable and urgent challenge of slowing the impact of man-made climate change is perhaps more possible than ever before,’ Allbirds co-founder and CEO Tim Brown told Wallpaper* back in May 2020. ‘Our hope is that the future is more about collaboration than it is competition, and our special partnership with Adidas is an example for others to follow’. §