Adidas x Allbirds: the partnership putting sustainability first with a super low-carbon trainer

Adidas x Allbirds: the partnership putting sustainability first with a super low-carbon trainer

May 18, 2021

Written by Harriet Davey

Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Hana Kajimura – sustainability lead at Allbirds – and Angela Mantilla – senior manager of footprint analytics at Adidas – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about putting sustainability ahead of competition with the new Futurecraft.Footprint low-carbon running trainer. 

Imagine if instead of fashion brands seeing each other as competitors, they joined forces to share information and insider intel when it comes to creating more sustainable products for all. Well, this is exactly what has happened with the unveiling of the new collaboration between rival footwear powerhouses Adidas and Allbirds. The two brands have shared their knowledge about creating eco-friendly footwear – from materials to supply chain – to form a low-carbon running trainer. 

The Future.Footprint shoe has a carbon footprint of just 2.94kg CO2e per pair and is created with 63% less emissions, without compromising on any of the performance elements. The innovative pair took under 12 months to be designed as both Adidas and Allbirds reimagined materials, manufacturing techniques and even packaging to reach the lowest possible carbon footprint. The all-white trainer – to avoid the energy-wasting dying process – is made from 70% recycled polyester and 30% Tencel – formed from wood pulp. 

So, how do you get the eco-friendly running trainers? 100 pairs will be up for grabs to Adidas Creators Club members this month, then a limited edition 10,000 pairs will be available later on the year. With both brands leading the way when it comes to sustainability in the sportswear sector, the Sustainable Shopper talks to spokespeople from both brands to find out their views on eco-friendly fashion. Hana Kajimura, sustainability lead at Allbirds and Angela Mantilla, senior manager of footprint analytics at Adidas will take it from here…

Hana Kajimura: sustainability lead at Allbirds

Angela Mantilla: senior manager of footprint analytics at Adidas

What is your earliest memory of sustainability?

Hana (Allbirds): I decided to dedicate my career to environmental impact while I was studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and was working on an urban garden alongside a group of grandmothers. I saw how their ability to feed their families and local community was so dependent on natural resources and that they were dwindling too quickly. When I started at Allbirds around three and a half years ago and realised that the fashion industry is so connected to almost every major industry – agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, consumer goods. Because of this, there is a huge opportunity to affect change. 

Angela (Adidas): I’m originally from Colombia, a beautiful country rich in biodiversity and I used to go on holidays to the Caribbean coast with my family to enjoy the nice weather. However, I remember looking at the beaches after a busy weekend full of tourists and being impacted by the amount of garbage – especially plastic – left behind on the beautiful environment. Situations like this made me realise the effect our choices and the way we consume changes the planet.

The Futurecraft.Footprint trainer created by Adidas and Allbirds has a super low carbon footprint compared to other running trainers

For fashion to become truly sustainable it requires cross-industry collaboration; to find new ways to sell and/or share products and ways to reuse and recycle them

Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?   

Hana (Allbirds): The word ‘sustainability’ is used so much that it almost means nothing. I don’t think the expectation should be that brands are perfect in every dimension. What is important, though, is that brands are clear on what sustainability means to them and are transparent about the areas that they can improve. We need everyone making better choices rather than a few people making perfect choices.

I want to see the future of the fashion industry where products act as a solution to climate change and the other global challenges that we are facing. For example, a sweater that is a carbon sink because the wool comes from sheep that are helping to draw down carbon through regenerative agriculture. While this is far from a sure thing, I see a few different ways we can get there and I am committed to chasing them down.

Angela (Adidas): I do believe it is possible to build a truly sustainable fashion industry while people can still express their personality through their outfits. But getting there requires finding new innovative ways for products to be made in a fully responsible way. For fashion to become truly sustainable it requires cross-industry collaboration; to find new ways to sell and/or share products and ways to reuse and recycle them. As consumers, we all have a huge responsibility to help this transition. Not only by being critical of the brands we like but also by treating the products in a more conscious way (washing, drying, repairing) and finding the best destination available when we decide to no longer use them (resell, recycling).

Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?   

Hana (Allbirds): As an industry, our biggest opportunity and contribution to solving the climate crisis is to make sustainability fashionable. We have the power to dictate style and trends and sustainability should be non-negotiable. For too long, we’ve been perpetuating the false choice between a great product and a sustainable product. Brands have a responsibility to provide a great product that is also better for the environment, rather than forcing this choice on their customer.

 Angela (Adidas): Consumers are constantly torn between the choices they have in front of them especially when it comes to sticking to a budget. Conscious material choices, high testing standards with focus on performance and durability normally comes with a higher price tag.

All brands should aim to bring products to life that consumers absolutely love and don’t want to quickly get rid of – iconic products that consumers can identify with and never get bored of wearing. Having a patch or a darn (mend) in your favourite jacket should be normalised as a way of expressing your love for that item and as you’ve prolonged the life of the investment piece.

Close up of the Allbirds x Adidas running trainer

Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?

Hana (Allbirds): I am continuously impressed and inspired by the members of the Allbirds’s Allgood Collective, a global community of individuals that promote the power of collective action as a force for good. More and more I’ve been turning to them as a sounding board in our long term sustainability strategy work. I’m a huge fan of Aditi Mayer who explores the intersection between style, sustainability, and social justice. I also love the fresh perspective and humility that Wilson Oryema brings in working towards a regenerative future.

Angela (Adidas): I need to confess, I’m not a big ‘grammer’, I mainly follow only a few influencers for inspiration on topics around fitness, conscious consumption and nutrition. A few examples for sustainability are Marie Nasemann for her work on sustainable fashion and natural cosmetics and Annelina Waller for yummy plant-based simple recipes. 

The Adidas x Allbirds trainers in action

Every piece of clothing produced must be labeled with its carbon footprint. How can we expect consumers to make better choices for the planet when they have no objective information about the products they buy?

What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?

Hana (Allbirds): Every piece of clothing produced must be labeled with its carbon footprint. How can we expect consumers to make better choices for the planet when they have no objective information about the products they buy? This is one effective way to combat greenwashing – print the objective impact of the product right on the label for all to see.

Carbon footprint labelling should be a minimum requirement in our industry, just like nutrition facts on food. The only reason we understand something like calories is because we know how to interpret them. More prevalent carbon footprint labelling would help to create a broader “carbon consciousness” where people can start to contextualise carbon in their daily lives and ultimately empower them to make informed decisions.

Angela (Adidas): More collaboration between brands to find different ways to make huge strides forward to accelerate the crucial race to combat climate change. We cannot rely only on high-level industry commitments that may take decades to realise. We should also focus our efforts on near-term hands-on collaborations where brands share their information on materials, supply chains and educate one another. 

Hana’s sustainable shopping hacks   

1.Shop vintage. This is one of my favourite pastimes when traveling to a new place and then when someone asks you where you got your skirt from you get to say:  “a vintage shop in Amsterdam.”

2.Look at the label. Brands are required to print the material composition on the garment label. Look for clothing made from mainly natural or sustainably-sourced materials.

3.Put your trust in certifications. For example, B Corp certification signals that companies are taking a stakeholder-based approach to business that looks out for employees, customers, suppliers and the environment.

      Sustainable Shopper edit by Hana:

      • Allbirds trainers

        Allbirds tree dashers

        The Allbirds Tree Dashers are the style that keeps up with me wherever I go. They’re also made from renewable materials that are durable and breathable. 

        Shop Tree Dashers trainers at Allbirds, £120

        BUY NOW

      • Allbird T-shirt

        Allbirds T-shirt

        This T-shirt is my go-to uniform for days of endless Zoom meetings. It’s made in Peru using natural materials that also keep you fresh all day. 

        Shop TrinoXO tee at Allbirds, £45

        BUY NOW

      • Maggie Marilyn dress

        Maggie Marilyn dress

        I’m going to gearing up for all of those weddings that got postponed in 2020 with this Maggie Marilyn dress. It’s created using 100% recycled polyester which also helps with creases. 

        Shop Challenge Accepted dress at Maggie Marilyn, £433

        BUY NOW

      • Baggu backpack

        Baggu backpack

        This handy backpack goes with me everywhere I go. It’s made from recycled materials and designed to last a long time. 

        Shop Baggu small sport backpack at Trouva, £71.99

        BUY NOW

      Angela’s sustainable shopping hacks   

      1. Buy second hand or rent when possible.

      2. Only buy items you absolutely love and you are committed to using for a long time. 

      3. Care for your products: this includes washing with low temperatures and only when it’s needed. Find creative ways to repair your favourite items – the website Fixing Fashion is  a great place to find inspiration.

      Sustainable Shopper edit by Angela:

      • Adidas trainers

        Adidas trainers

        These trainers are a big step toward circularity. The ‘made to be remade’ collection can be returned to Adidas once they’ve worn out to be made into something new. 

        Shop Made to be Remade ultraboost shoes at Adidas, £160

        BUY NOW

      • Adidas jacket

        Adidas jacket

        This versatile jacket for outdoors and city features parley ocean plastic which is created from recycled marine plastic waste.

        Shop Myshelter Parley Rain.Rdy jacket at Adidas, £200

        BUY NOW

      • Fejn ring

        Fejn ring

        In rose gold, silver or gold, each ring is made from recycled metals and they’re a great everyday style to wear on repeat. 

        Shop double ring from Fejn, £33.60

        BUY NOW

      • Jan ‘n June dress

        Jan ‘n June dress

        This strappy maxi dress is made from recycled polyester created from waste plastic bottles. It’s perfect for summer. 

        Shop Leonie Jade dress at Jan ‘n June, £87

        BUY NOW

      Images: courtesy of Adidas, Allbirds and brands featured

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