Everything we own has some kind of carbon footprint, but literally thinking about the carbon footprint of our footwear feels rather fitting. What could be more literal than reducing the footprint of your actual footprint? But when it comes to creating a shoe with the lowest footprint of all, you need scale and expertise. Often the larger companies have scale, but lack the specialist expertise needed to create the most innovative and ethical products – with eyes on all parts of the process. Sometimes, you need to pair up and share goals and strengths. Enter global behemoth, Adidas and young challenger, Allbirds – an unlikely partnership, but one that has come up with the goods.
The Futurecraft.Footprint is a new running shoe that has a complete carbon footprint of under 3kg – about the same amount as driving an average sized car for 7 miles. Staggeringly low – and something that has never been achieved (at scale) before. For comparison, an MIT study reported most running shoes have a carbon footprint of between 12.5 – 13.6kg.
We are seeing a lot of brand collaborations cropping up, and whilst some can appear more of a greenwashing exercise, it does appear that the Adidas / Allbirds linkup has more depth. This is not a ‘slap a different label on’ product, it took a year of material development, supply chain sharing and transparency that rivals such as these would never usually agree to sharing. What is also encouraging is how it was developed – over a year (about half the usual time for product development) and over Zoom. Speed and efficiency – the way we learnt to work during the pandemic and surely the way forward post-pandemic.
So what makes the Futurecraft.Footprint have such a low carbon footprint? Firstly – weight. They only weigh 154g, so material use is kept to a minimum. Then each stage has been broken down, simplified and optimised through a Life Cycle Assessment exercise – including an End-Of-Life carbon footprint value of 0.37kg (you can read the full report from Allbirds here)
And that 2.94kg carbon footprint? Proudly printed on the side of the shoe – nothing new for Allbirds, who include this on all their shoes, but something groundbreaking from Adidas who do not usually disclose this information… Will this make Adidas change their ways? We’ll have to see. But this kind of collaboration is very encouraging. Sustainable and circular design needs to be accessible to all – keeping to solid ethical design foundations, but using the framework of the big brands could accelerate it brilliantly.