Editor's pick product sustainability

Allbirds makes sustainable shoe material open source

AllBirds, B-Corp, Flip-Flop, Sustainability, Footwear

Allbirds has announced the launch of a new sustainable material that will replace the acetate alternative traditionally used in shoe soles. The direct-to-consumer brand is also planning on making this technology, titled SweetFoam, freely available to other companies.

“Our goal was to innovate and show the industry that this could be done,” said Jad Finck, the brand’s VP of sustainability and innovation to Fast Company. “But if this is actually going to take hold and have an impact, it is critical for this to scale beyond ourselves.”

Shoe soles have been commonly known to be harmful to the environment as one of its raw materials, a foam known as EVA, is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable and polluting material. The company’s solution to this problem was to replace the petroleum for sugarcane, a plant-based and renewable material.

This marks an important achievement in the industry, as the material is the first ever carbon-neutral green alternative to EVA foam. By collaborating with Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem, the company has produced its first SweetFoam shoe range, a line of flip flops called Sugar Zeffers.

At a price point of $35, the range further emphasizes how the sustainable material does not have a significant impact on pricing, or ultimately design, which the company hopes will help convince others in the industry to follow suit.

The motivation for Allbirds to develop this technology can be easily traced back to its company values. As a B-Corp certified company, the brand has been continuously improving the sustainability credentials of its product range, such as ensuring ethical sourcing and renewable energy sources for its popular wool slippers.

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