My co-founder and I started Allbirds in 2016 to help contribute to the fight against climate change (you can read more about that here: You might be wondering though – can a brand like ours really make a big enough impact? Well, the short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but only if we can get the entire private sector to take sustainability as seriously as its bottom line. So let’s talk about it!

As with other AMAs, I’ll look to the community to select which questions to answer through upvotes. Once they’ve been chosen, I will answer as many of them as I can over our hour-and-a-half together - starting at 11:30AM PST.

Excited to get started. Please check back for more updates as we go!


EDIT: This has been awesome! I have to run soon, so get your questions in the next 5 mins and I'll try to get to them!

EDIT: Really great questions, Reddit. Thanks for having me! Hope to come back again sometime.

Comments: 89 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

HoustonTexasYall29 karma

It's come out lately that recycling in the US is actually broken (contaminated products, offshore recycling become inefficient) - do you have any ideas on how to fix that? It seems like at the end of the day, however "sustainable" the materials you're using, if we don't have a good system in place to reuse/recycle, it's not actually helping.

allbirds29 karma

Very thoughtful insight. We have a saying internally that helps drive design that is, "Plastic from petroleum is stupid." And that includes recycled plastics. Recycled plastic is definitely better than virgin plastics from oil, but it won't solve our problem. We must use renewable materials from nature to solve it. And when agriculture or farming is involved in bringing those materials to life, the farming practices must be regenerative. We are spending a lot of time and money to develop regeneratively farmed components for all our products... if we do that successfully, farmers can sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse warming gases in the soil, and keep them there. Pretty cool. Gives me optimism because it doesn't require any new tools or innovations -- the solution is sitting in front of us now.

Dandelion45116 karma

I’m a size 16. Any plans to make larger sizes in the future?

allbirds16 karma

Great question! We actually made a size 19 for Steven Adams once which was about the size of one of my kids -- he's from New Zealand and plays in the NBA, so we thought it would be fun. The unfortunate answer is that we don't have plans right now to expand our shoe size range further, but we would love to if we can make it work. Please email [email protected] and we can let you know if/when it changes!

Tacochili10410 karma

When is the collaboration with Adidas going to be released?

allbirds16 karma

Oooh. Great one. This is a really exciting partnership and one that is non-traditional -- or put another way, competitors don't usually collaborate in the shoe world. I can't say much, but I'll tell you that there is some very exciting news on this coming in the very near future.

idspispopd08 karma

How do measure the durability of the shoes you make when choosing progressive materials that are not commonly used in your application? Can durability be determined by measuring certain properties of the material alone or do you also have way of simulating wear and tear, or partnering with athletes or other folks who can give you feedback from hard wearing use? How long do you expect your shoes to last?

For example, for non-athletic shoes, leather is sometimes seen as environmentally favorable because of their durability; leather shoes last for 15 years or more which few other shoes can match, get more comfortable with time, and can be resoled - and it would be interesting to know environmental impact of the production, energy inputs, etc when accounting for the lifetime of shoes.

allbirds21 karma

Durability is super important. To ensure we get it right, we take an "all of the above" strategy. When it comes to the top part of shoes -- "uppers" as we call them in the biz -- we perform lab testing at the yarn level, and then the fabric level with cool machines that pull on the fabric for days and measure stretch and rebound. Then, we put them on this amazingly cool machine in our offices that simulates a person running or walking for thousands of miles so we "accelerate" a wear test. And, there's really nothing like real world wear tests with actual runners who put in 100 miles a week in our products.

On leather, it does last a long time, but it's not good for the environment. The way most cattle are raised contributes significantly to global warming, since it is not generally done in a regenerative fashion. And the chrome tanning processes are also harmful for other reasons, and not good for the people who work in the tanneries. This is why we invested in a company called Natural Fiber Welding who have created the world's first 100% nature, plant-based leather, which we call Plant Leather -- it promises to reduce emissions by 98% v. bovine leather, outlast and outperform traditional leather, and require no plastic additives for the finished product. (I'm wearing a prototype RIGHT NOW!).

justscottaustin6 karma

What's your favorite bird and why?

allbirds14 karma

The Lilac-Breasted Roller! It looks incredibly plain when it's sitting on a tree or a wire, and then when it flies off it turns into this beautiful purply/blue/lilac color. So... humble till it spreads its wings and flies!

Jjreddick1236 karma

I think one of the issues with the 'scalability of sustainability' is that we haven't defined a clear a set of metrics to define and quantify sustainability (and other ESG issues). In contrast, financial (GAAP) metrics are quite clear. Do you think this is an important issue to address and how should we do so?

allbirds9 karma

SO TRUE! The lack of standards means that companies make up their own definitions and it's usually self-serving. That is greenwashing. Sustainability means 10 different things to 10 different people, so it's super important to standardize.

Carbon (equivalent) emissions from humans is the single-most important factor in climate change. Hence, the amount of emissions in a product (or company) is the most important metric to measure climate impact. That's why we made a carbon label to harmonize the approach that companies and consumers think about climate pollution. Giving people a tool to decide if they want a product based on it's impact to the environment -- your question is exactly why we did this.

In public company finance markets where GAAP is used, on the sustainability and environmental side, SASB and TCFD are quickly becoming the most prominent disclosure standards, and they are pretty darn good. So that's encouraging. B-Labs certifies companies like Allbirds as B-Corps, and that's another good trend.

We are going to continue to press boundaries on this topic. We want to help improve standards so that companies cannot greenwash.

cronian6 karma

We are going to continue to press boundaries on this topic. We want to help improve standards so that companies cannot greenwash.

What do you think of the proposed law in California, SB-260, to require corporations with revenues over $1billion to disclose their scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 carbon emissions along with setting science-based targets? Do you support that bill?

allbirds13 karma

Love it. We actually sent a letter to CA Sen. Scott Weiner in support.

silence75 karma

How do you show customers that you're walking the walk and not just talking the talk? There's sooo much greenwashing that its often hard to tell what's real and what isn't.

allbirds7 karma

I wrote about this a bit in this question about our carbon labeling efforts and being a change agent in the shoe industry:

But, you're right. Greenwashing is ubiquitous and a big reason why I joined up with my co-founder and co-CEO Tim to start Allbirds. Establishing standards and harmonizing the approach to defining what is "sustainable" and what is not is the key. Check out our sustainability initiative as well: We are publishing much more detail on this soon, and it (I humbly submit) will be one of the most comprehensive approaches to sustainability of any private company.

LFCHD3 karma

When are more lace colors coming out? Probably my favorite thing to do is switch up colors every now and then! Also, would love to see them sold as a single pack!

allbirds10 karma

I love how the simplicity of the product means that a simple act of changing out the laces can turn it into a whole new shoe. Can help avoid having to buy more shoes! We give away a free pair of laces with every purchase in all of our stores, and each store has unique lace colors. We sell some online too. And if those options don't work, email our customer experience team at: [email protected], and they have a bunch of lace options that we don't sell commercially that they might be able to help you out with.

Frontrunner4533 karma

Do you think that we as consumers can truly purchase our way out of climate holocaust, or will we need to overthrow capitalism as an entire system?

allbirds5 karma

Such an important question. Consumption has been a major factor in causing manmade climate change, and it would be naive to think that buying more stuff is going to be the singular solution. BUT... it can play a really important role. We study the carbon emissions of everything we do, and we put it on the label of our products. And then we try and drive that lower across every dimension (materials, manufacturing, transport, use, and end-of-life). We think that if we can make each product neutral or even negative, that we will start to create a positive impact and be able to help reverse the effects of pollution and climate change ... meaning, we strive to be more like a tree than the prototypical form of a company that extracts and pollutes. But it's hard. Really hard. Every single day inside Allbirds, we work to create carbon NEGATIVE materials, or at least very low carbon-intensive materials, and integrate them into the products so that we drive to zero. But it's possible. Check out this video we did on carbon-negative foam we did in collaboration with a major green chemicals company in Brazil:

And, now that you've wound me up, let's talk about capitalism. Unfettered capitalism is bad, and we've been trending in this direction for too long, but I'm still not convinced we should throw the baby out with the bath water. We strive to practice a different kind of stakeholder-centric model (this piece I co-authored expands more on that But, this is also the system we currently have, I think it's important to keep in mind that we have no time to wait. I don't think it's going out the window anytime soon... so we've tried to think about how to make capitalism work better, and work for everyone, and everything, including the environment and the fight against climate change.

Dr_Velociraptor_MD3 karma

Why does my toe always pokes a hole through my eucalyptus shoe?

allbirds5 karma

That is NOT cool. I'm sorry to hear that. For certain foot geometries, toenails can bend up. We have reinforced our Tree line for this purpose --- try the Dashers in particular -- but if you are having a problem, don't hesitate to reach out to [email protected], and we have an amazing team of people who fight for customers to have an awesome experience with our company and products.

lumm0r2 karma

Love the shoes, been my default shoe for the last 3 years. Any plans on improving the soles on the standard runners? I found the wore daily quickly. So the pairs I have are no longer in rotation.

However the mizzels have been a good improvement.

allbirds3 karma

Glad you love the shoes. I wear them every day, and of course, they do wear out after a few years, but I think they are better than other shoes -- do you share that opinion? I shared more about our process for testing our products earlier (\_reddit\_im\_joey\_zwillinger\_cofounder\_and\_coceo/gxay70x/), but we're always looking to get feedback and to make improvements as well! You can always hit up our amazing customer support team at [email protected] if you have specific issues or questions.

Also, I'd suggest the Wool Dasher Mizzles as an upgrade on friction and sole durability. They have the extra traction and durability needed for running, but I also wear mine all the time just going about my day. Think they may be perfect for you!

MutinybyMuses2 karma

As a Santa Monica native, I recently switched to Allbirds, and won’t go back to non sustainable footwear. So, thank you.

In the future, do you think governments will incentivize or subsidize sustainable clothing like they do with electric cars?

allbirds4 karma

I wouldn't recommend holding your breath on this one. We started labeling each of our products with its carbon emissions, and encouraged all companies to follow us on that (we even gave away the carbon calculator to the whole industry). If enough people adopt this approach, consumers can make more informed choices on the products they buy (e.g., buy based on style, price, and climate impact!). I suspect consumer awareness and labeling requirements (like calories on food) will come faster than monetary incentives or penalties.

We also authored a new statement on this from the biggest footwear trade association, and they adopted it, in order to encourage the big industries ""upstream"" of us in the value chain to pay for their pollution, and have that cost trickle down to all manufacturers of shoes and apparel. Meaning, if a shoe company uses plastic from petroleum, they should pay for the carbon emissions of that plastic piece when they buy it to make the shoe. Here's the statement:

“As the footwear industry's association, FDRA and its members have a responsibility to make strides for the environment. Our industry contributes upwards of 700 million metric tons (MT) of CO2 equivalent emissions to the best we can estimate, and that is 700 million MT too many. However, it is difficult for industries like ours who source materials from a variety of upstream industry contributors to administer and manage a price on carbon. This is why, as an industry, we support a price on carbon that will equitably and efficiently incentivize lower carbon innovation and progress that our environment demands. This carbon price would be levied upstream into the foundational industries such as energy generation, oil and gas, agriculture, and chemicals. Each of our members will bear the effects of a price on carbon, but it will be borne equally and fairly by our members in such a way that protects competitiveness and does not unnecessarily burden one of our members over another. We are less concerned about the mechanism of pricing carbon, e.g., a carbon tax, dividend, cap and trade, or others, and more focused on being a leading voice to help solve climate change, one of the most important challenges of our times. We state this to plant a flag in the sand as we proceed on how this can be accomplished."

BalconyTable2 karma

Can you recommend funds or investors who are really into supporting the sustainable fashion sphere? Do you think that customers who think sustainability first are first-world and super marginalised still or is it actually a much bigger trend?

allbirds3 karma

It's a bigger trend. The best investors I've interacted with realize that consumers are headed towards a place where values, and specifically, values around environmentalism, are part of the decision process when people buy stuff. And, so while the investors themselves aren't necessarily environmentalists, they have realized that the two aren't in tension as they once thought was the case.

Some of the investors that we have worked with and found to hold this progressive view range from small seed investors like Lerer Hippeau, to large mutual funds like T Rowe Price, Fidelity, Franklin Templeton and Baillie Gifford. These are big places made up of lots of people and different views, so it's hard to paint broad brush strokes. But I'll say, this trend is accelerating rapidly, and it gives me a lot of optimism that we're all headed down the right path ... how fast and is it fast enough is the question we should ask.

conversehightops2 karma

Thanks for doing this, Joey! Although I only have one pair of Allbirds, they're definitely my favorite and I always get compliments on them. I'm looking forward to expanding my closet more!!

Your company has had sort of this interesting story arc where it was initially seen as a "Silicon Valley/tech bro sneaker" or a shoe made for people in places like SF. Which is fascinating because the perception of your company has since evolved into being a bit more universal (the dasher relays are sick!) with multiple product offerings for any type of person. How do you think that initial public perception impacted your company's recognition or product roadmap? Were there any strategies to get out of that phase or capitalize on it? How do you envision the story of Allbirds in the next few years - where do you want the company to go?

allbirds7 karma

Thank you for the compliments. Appreciate it.

It's interesting - right from the start, our biggest markets were New York and LA, but I think the fact that we were founded in San Francisco played a big role in that narrative. We also were included in a lot of trend stories about offices getting more informal, which was painted as a specifically tech phenomenon, but, as we've quickly seen, extends to lots of different industries.

On your question about whether this narrative has informed our product strategy, the answer is no. We have just kept designing cool stuff, and innovating on amazing natural materials, and as you say, the group of people who love our products has, very fortunately, continued to expand. Our fastest growing market is now Tokyo! And we are doing great in lots of cities around the US and Europe too. What we've seen is that our customer is a value-driven group that you can't put into a traditional "demographic box." It's exciting to see such a diverse group of people gravitate to our vision.

repwin11 karma

Hey just want to say I love the shoes. My feet always feel better when I take off my work boots at the end of the day and put on my Allbirds. Also, is there any plans to make a proper hiking boot? I would love to find a comfortable pair with some color.

allbirds5 karma

Thank you! I always tell skeptics to wear our shoes for three days in a row and then put on your old shoes ... the absence of comfort when you go to a non-Allbirds shoes is profound!

Stay tuned on shoes for the trails. I hike an incredible amount, particularly during the pandemic, and sometimes people at Allbirds listen to me, so yes, stay tuned :)

itsamodelthreeeee1 karma

what is the secret to getting the white all birds to be very white? I've used bleach and gotten sneaker cleaner and it's never quite as vibrant. that said, love the shoes, wish you would carry them in store at Nordstrom!

allbirds3 karma

The people at Nordstrom are awesome. But, we sell direct to you because we want to invest the money that a shoe company normally gives to departments stores back into more expensive and better materials so you get more value for the money you give us.

And to the question on keeping your shoes white.... oh boy, the perennial question in the shoe biz. I think bleach and sneaker cleaner is a very solid start. I use regular dishsoap a lot if grease or oil is the culprit, and I soak them in warm water for a while after that. Airdry by the way. Don't use an automatic dryer please :)

designkilla821 karma

Help us understand your ethos/approach/strategy to mass adoption of sustainable practices/mindsets through popular culture, do you think it relates to Tesla’s approach?

allbirds3 karma

Sometimes I worry that with the popularity of "sustainability" as a term, companies that are solely profit-motivated use the confusion to their advantage and greenwash their way into the hearts of customers. The question I answered here on "scalability of sustainability" has more of my thoughts:

We do look at Tesla as a company we admire and learn from. Like us, they have decided that people do not want to choose between performance and environmental impact. And they shouldn't have to. This is at the core of Allbirds's approach to design, and I think the same is true for Tesla. No compromise. Awesome performance, limited impact.

randy_man_club1 karma

Do you only wear allbirds? If not what’s your favorite non-allbirds pair of shoes

allbirds8 karma

Honestly, yes. Barefoot or Allbirds unless (a) cycling; or (b) attending a funeral or wedding.

ScatLabs1 karma

Hi Joey, thanks for time. Really hope you can answer some questions.

First off, Great work on reporting the carbon footprint of your shoes, I really think this will be very important movi g forward. I really think nations need to start putting tarrofs on high energy products in order to push product producers toward lower/zero carbon products.

I am also working on a Startup in the footwear space where we are upcycling wastestreams into low impact sneakers, and to use them as a vehicle for communicating and promoting circular economy activities.

But as someone who has also studied LCA I find it a little deceptive that you do not inude the transportation costs associated with the products. Sending wool grown in NZ to Italy for treatment before sending to China for manufacturing would surely increase the carbon footprint of the products.

Also, I am concerned about the real impact of producing wool. Several texts suggest it taken 10,000 litres of water to produce one kg of wool. As consumers I think it is important to consider ALL environment tal impacts, not just the ones bra d's hand pick to communicate.

And while I really admire your mission toward producing materials with a negative carbon footprint, is in not worth upcycling material streams we already have instead of creating something new?

I hope you can address these questions.

All the best,


allbirds5 karma

Hey Ben. Congrats on starting a business -- it's hard to do, and takes courage, and I admire everyone who tries.

On LCA, we DO INCLUDE TRANSPORTATION in our overall carbon accounting but decided to omit it on individual products because our products are sold globally and the transportation emissions vary widely depending on where you live. For example, a customer in Tennessee, right next to our sock factory in North Carolina will have a low transport emissions impact relative to a customer in London who gets a sock from the same factory. But, that said, we have decided that this was a mistake that I personally feel responsible for, and we are going to start incorporating this in our product scores soon. That said, deception was not at all what we were seeking. Check out this fun video on the topic: Lastly on this, the material transportation you reference, e.g., moving wool around, is included in the materials portion of the LCA, not in the transportation portion. Transportation is limited to the routes between our factory and warehouse and where customers eventually buy the product.

Finally, on water -- rest assured, we seek to minimize water use in everything we do, and we rely on amazing partners like the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure our water use is great, and similarly with Oeko-Tex and Bluesign, that treatment of water is done sensibly. You may not hear us talk about it as much as carbon (because we think consumer education around carbon emissions is one of the primary areas where we can make an impact as a brand), but it's definitely something we take very seriously and optimize for.

Selaw111 karma

Which birds?

allbirds4 karma

All of them! ;) But here's a fun fact: we actually landed on the name Allbirds because when New Zealand was first discovered by humans, there were no mammals... it was all birds!

benedictino1 karma

When are you going public?

allbirds8 karma

Don't know yet. But we really do aspire to be a big company that is makes a meaningful and profoundly positive difference on how we address climate change. So, it's likely that to achieve this, we'll have to be a public company at some point, and we are excited at the prospect of doing so, and challenging the conventions of what it means to be a purpose-led brand that thrives not just financially, but for all stakeholders, including the planet!

Genius-Imbecile1 karma

What's your favorite kind of taco?

allbirds4 karma


Just_Another_Solaire1 karma

Hey Joey- my name is also Joey.

How’s it going?

allbirds4 karma

Baby kangaroo! I'm great. This is fun, and people's questions are really thoughtful, and it's giving me a spurt of happiness that people are positive, fun, and curious. Although, my wrists are getting a little tired from rapid typing.

No_Independence2279-1 karma

Any plans to incorporate blockchain technology? Or any partnerships with crypto projects?

allbirds11 karma

No plans, but I'm pretty interested in the idea. I love the decentralized currency approach. Downside is that some of the blockchain still relies on "data mining," which is very energy intensive, and emits a lot of carbon pollution in the process from the energy required to "mine" the digital coins. Need to learn more before we jump in on that train...