The newly released range of Allbirds flip flops espouse the use of petrochemicals in a move the Californian company hopes its rivals will copy.
The limited-run Allbirds Sugar Zeffer flip flop are on sale for US$35. They use what the shoemaker claims is the world’s first carbon-neutral green EVA foam on the soles – an environmentally sound alternative to traditional materials, which are usually oil-based.
The company spent three years researching the material, in partnership with Brazilian chemical company Braskem. The foam will make its debut in other Allbirds products, like sneakers, in coming months – and the company openly hopes other shoemakers will start using it as well, to reduce the harmful impact of using petroleum-based products on the environment.
“We agreed from the get-go that we want this to be used broadly,” Zwillinger says. “We want it to be used in our industry; we’re happy to have competitors use it.”
All Birds co-founder Joey Zwillinger says the delay in taking the new material mainstream in its product range is the investment cost: manufacturing equipment to switch over will cost the brand millions of dollars. But he says it is worth it.
While the Allbirds flip flops are a short-term summer range, Zwillinger does not rule out bringing them back.
“If it blows the door out and people absolutely fall in love with it, we always listen to our customers, so this is one of those where we’re certainly going to have our ears to the ground and hear what the reactions like and then move from there. We’ll definitely consider bringing them back.”
The Allbirds flip flops aren’t the first sustainable products produced by the US startup. It first pushed conventional shoe manufacturing boundaries when it launched its first shoe last year, the Wool Runner, made from New Zealand superfine merino wool and castor bean oil. In March of this year it unveiled shores with eucalyptus-tree uppers, along with a range of shoelaces made from the same material.
Shoes made from environmentally friendly and sustainable products seem to be in vogue this year. Earlier this week, Reebok unveiled its new Cotton + Corn sneaker while Hugo Boss recently released shoes made from pineapple fibre which would have otherwise been discarded as waste by Philippine farmers.