Sneaker brands collaborate all the time, but they usually do so with companies outside of the footwear industry. Adidas’ latest joint effort, though, involves sustainable shoe maker Allbirds, and the two hope to create a high performance sneaker while also cutting down on their greenhouse gas emissions. They plan to use Allbirds’ lifecycle assessment tools and Adidas’ carbon footprint analyses to determine how to best reduce carbon dioxide output while maintaining performance standards. Adjustments to the supply chain -- from materials, to factories to shipping -- should help cut down on emissions, as should leveraging more renewable energy sources.
According to Adidas, the carbon footprint of a pair of sneakers made of synthetic materials ranges between 11.3 and 16.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide. (Shoes that use leather have an even bigger footprint.) Allbirds says that it takes about 7.6 kilograms of CO2 to produce a pair of its sneakers, on average. Together, the two companies hope they can create a high performance shoe with just two or three kilograms of emissions, and eventually want to reduce that number to zero.
Adidas has made efforts to create more sustainable products in the past. Last year, it unveiled the Futurecraft Loop, a running shoe that is made from 100 percent recyclable materials, and in 2016, it released an UltraBoost shoe made of plastic waste removed from the ocean. The company’s Yeezy brand is also working on a clog made of algae foam. Adidas has promised to use only recycled materials by 2024.
Allbirds’ entire brand, meanwhile, is based on sustainability. The company uses alternative materials like wool and sugarcane waste, rather than leather or polyurethane in its shoes. Its first running shoe, the Tree Dasher, was released late last month and was praised both for its performance as well as its sustainable design, which uses a sugarcane sole and a eucalyptus fiber upper.
It’s encouraging to see so many sneaker brands work toward a more sustainable future. (Nike recently unveiled its line of Space Hippie sneakers, which are mostly made of scraps from plastic bottles, t-shirts and yarn.) Hopefully Adidas and Allbirds are successful, and other brands can follow their lead.