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Allbirds Taps Tencel to Make its Sneakers More Sustainable

Move over wool, there’s a new material in town for Allbirds’ signature sneakers—and it’s made from trees.

The trendy shoe brand unveiled a new collection of kicks Thursday, aptly dubbed the Tree line, made of what Allbirds says is its “most sustainable material to-date.”

Wool has so far served Allbirds well—its use of the fiber for footwear sparked a trend of similar styles, and wool’s spike on the heels of entry into this new market sent wool prices up as much as 30 percent last year.

But Allbirds was looking to leave an even lighter footprint on the environment.

Its Eucalyptus tree fiber, made from Tencel Lyocell, is sourced from South African farms, which the company says use less fertilizer and opt for rainfall over irrigation.

“Compared to traditional materials like cotton, it uses 95 percent less water and cuts our carbon footprint in half,” Allbirds notes on its website, adding in a statement Thursday, “By employing a closed loop process, our manufacturing is safer and cleaner than conventional practices.”

From a performance perspective, Allbirds says the collection is designed to create a cooling effect for the wearer by wicking moisture, and the silky mesh construction allows for increased breathability and comfort.

“Through a unique 3D-knitting process, we have been able to target the integration of structure and support into the upper, where feet need it most. And the wool-lined insole and heel cup ensures that soft fit Allbirds has become synonymous with,” the company said in a statement.

The Tree line comes in the signature Allbirds Runner and in a new Skipper style, which the company calls a “modern take on the 1930’s classic boat shoe.” Both styles come in women’s and men’s for $95.

Footwear is a newer market for Tencel fiber producer Lenzing, but the idea is to ramp up in line with greater demand for sustainable materials, which haven’t yet been as present for footwear as apparel.

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“There were so many inquiries from the industry, so we saw a big demand of sustainable materials for footwear from many important players in the industry,” said Lenzing segment manager for footwear Birgit Schnetzlinger.

For now, Allbirds is focused on moving toward a cleaner industry.

“The introduction of our revolutionary Tree collection marks a major moment for Allbirds in our quest for a more comfortable and sustainable future.” Allbirds co-founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger said in a joint statement. “This material doesn’t compromise for comfort or for the environment, and we’re excited to challenge industry norms via material innovation once again.”