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Allbirds Slaps Carbon Tax on Itself to Fight Climate Change

While the U.S. government drags its feet on putting a price on greenhouse-gas emissions, Allbirds is self-imposing a so-called “carbon tax” in a bid to become 100 percent carbon neutral by the end of the year.

The California-based footwear brand, whose wool-clad kicks turned it into a cult favorite, announced last week the creation of the Allbirds Carbon Fund, an instrument for investing in better-for-the-planet initiatives like planting trees, building solar and wind facilities and recapturing methane from landfill and livestock operations.

To help combat climate change, Allbirds will pay to remove from the atmosphere the equivalent of every metric ton of carbon dioxide it produces, “from the sheep on our farms to the lightbulbs in our headquarters,” it wrote on its website. “It’s almost like we’re giving the planet an IOU, then immediately paying it back.”

The Silicon Valley darling even drilled down its impact to a single pair of shoes, which a life-cycle analysis determined costs roughly 10 cents to offset the 10 kilograms of carbon the manufacturing process generates.

Customers will be able to help decide how Allbirds spends that money. “With your help, we’re finding projects that are truly additive (meaning new), permanent and without unintended consequences (i.e. creating more carbon elsewhere, like a game of Whack-a-Mole),” the brand noted. “All of our projects are independently certified to internationally recognized standards.”

But carbon offsets are only a “starting point,” Allbirds added. The brand says it’s working to develop projects in its own supply chain that will directly reduce emissions.

Because the majority of its footprint lies in raw materials, Allbirds says it will continue to source low-carbon materials such as the Tencel it uses in its Tree line of shoes. It will also “maximize” ocean shipping over air shipping, increase its energy efficiency and purchase renewable energy like it already does in its San Francisco headquarters.

To create a footprint “remotely close to zero,” however, it will need to manifest innovations that don’t currently exist. Such was the case with the company’s sugarcane-derived SweetFoam outsole, which it bills as “carbon negative” because it eliminates 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per metric ton of material.

“We’ll be the first to admit that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that there’s much more work to be done,” Allbirds wrote. “Luckily, we’ve got comfortable shoes.”