Allbirds invests in Illinois plant-based leather start-up

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In San Francisco, popular sustainability-focused shoe brand Allbirds has invested $2 million in Natural Fiber Welding to advance development of plant-based leather alternatives. 

Founded by Luke Haverhals, Illinois-based Natural Fiber Welding’s first product is Mirum, a leather alternative made from minerals and natural plant-sourced materials such as cork and coconut coir fiber.  “Humanity’s dependence on plastic and other petroleum-based products has created a scarcity mind-set that is unsustainable both for everyone’s quality of life and the future of this planet. A new era, one of abundance, will come from the creation of technologies based on sustainable and regenerative methods,” says Haverhals. 

Joey Zwillinger, cofounder and co-DEO of Allbirds, says the company is careful to invest in viable solutions. “Our view is that sustainable solutions are only effective if they can reach a mass scale, and many of the experimental alternative “leathers” we surveyed required scientific miracles, and many were too expensive to use commercially at large scale,” he adds.