What does a three-year-old eco-shoe start-up like Allbirds have in common with a 114-year-old bird conservation organization? A lot as it turns out: delight in what we do; the passion to make a difference for our customers/members; brands that do good. One of my favorite things about the Audubon of 2019 (and beyond) is that we’re as likely to see our members in Allbirds as often as we see them in Cabela’s boots or Birkenstocks.
We all live in nature’s birdlands. From our coasts to our forests to our city parks and our backyards, we share the places that are home to the most abundant wildlife on earth. As the world-renowned expert in biodiversity Thomas Lovejoy says, “When you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the problems in the world.” This might seem far-fetched, but if you think about it for a minute it makes perfect sense—people and birds both need trees, wetlands, prairies, and parks, all of them safe places to live; clean (and enough) water; clean air and the food that native plants are best at providing. And many of those things contribute to reducing greenhouse gases and improving our health. If that system is broken for birds—it is or will soon be broken for people.
Like Audubon, taking care of our planet and birds is what drives Allbirds. One of the company founders, Tim Brown, is from New Zealand. It’s an island country so remote that when humans first arrived there were all birds, no mammals. The company website explains that the Allbirds name “is a nod to our belief that we need to adopt a more thoughtful approach to the way we live.”
Co-founder Joey Zwillinger is a Bay Area-based biotech engineer specializing in renewables, and, perhaps not surprisingly, his daughter has been a camper at an Audubon center near Tiburon at Richardson Bay.
When a friend who works at Allbirds first reached out, how could I not be intrigued by a company with birds in the name that was based in San Francisco? I bought my first pair, and I was sold on the quality and the message. I reached out to Tim and Joey, and the partnership between a three-year-old start-up and a 114-year-old household name began.
One way an organization with deep history like Audubon survives is by constantly re-inventing itself. We are nine years in to the next version of ourselves, and while we aren’t your grandparents' Audubon anymore, I think they’d be proud of what we’ve become.
Nearly every day, I meet or learn about new birders, whether those are women’s birding groups or Audubon’s exploding campus chapter network. Suddenly, birding seems cool and still nerdy, and the two seem to work together.
The five birds that are the inspiration for Allbirds’ Earth Day shoe styles were chosen because they are birds that are featured in Audubon’s Birds and Climate Report: Species on the Brink, which shows that half of all birds in the U.S. are at risk of losing the places they call home because of climate change.
The Painted Redstart is found in the Southwest, the Scarlet Tanager migrates long distances, and the Mountain Bluebird is a voracious insect eater (93 percent of its diet), and although they are all very different birds, they may share a similar fate. For all three birds, their summer homes are shrinking and shifting so rapidly due to climate change that they may not be able to adapt fast enough.
The Pygmy Nuthatch is a small bird that tends to gather in fussy flocks, and the Allen’s Hummingbird only lays two eggs per clutch. These two tiny birds are climate threatened because both their summer AND their winter homes are shrinking and shifting dramatically due to rising temperatures and the impact of climate change.
There is a really great article over at the New York Times that describes this connection in more detail—share it with your friends.
And if you grab a pair of these special Allbirds, all the proceeds support Audubon. Show your inner birder. And post a picture with the #weareallbirds so we can all share the bird love.