Our house is on fire and climate change is the spark

Joey Zwillinger
Published in
3 min readOct 2, 2020


Glass Fire in Napa, CA

Like in many other areas of the world, climate change is increasing the frequency of hot, dry days here in California. Not only that, but our warming planet is leading to record high winds and earlier springtime snowmelt. The combined effect of increased development near wooded, sub-optimal forest management, and these impacts of climate change is longer, more destructive fire seasons. This is the new normal. And, unless we take drastic action, it’s only going to get worse from here.

Our “house” is on fire and climate change is the spark.

In my lifetime, California’s burned area has increased by 5x. Six of the 20 largest wildfires recorded in California’s history have happened in 2020 — and October and November will be just as fire-prone.

If you need more convincing, I was born and raised in Northern California. I’ve spent the majority of my life here, and am now raising my three kids in a town near where I grew up. When I was a child, we never had “smoke days” where school was cancelled. We never woke up to eerie dark orange skies because wildfire smoke had blotted out the sun. Now, days off of school due to noxious, smokey air is budgeted into district plans, just like how flex snow days in colder regions are added in June. That is crazy. And absolutely avoidable.

Enough is enough. We cannot wait to make pledges for 2030 or 2050 — we must act now.

Businesses like Allbirds have an important role to play, and we must continue to push the envelope. Those of us who make physical goods carry an outsized responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for our environmental impact, and to reduce the amount of pollution and waste we leave behind. At Allbirds, we have taken some necessary steps to begin addressing climate change. We count–down to the gram–the emissions associated with our manufacturing, distribution, use, and end-of-life. We’ve also begun to label all of our products with their carbon footprints to add transparency and accountability to our efforts. And we put real, financial value behind emissions reductions goals — both by paying for 100% the pollution we create through carbon offsets, and by incentivizing bonuses to our leadership team based on achieving these reduction targets. These initiatives make it real. We don’t broker in platitudes, and we acknowledge we’re far from perfect.

But we can’t affect meaningful, global change while we’re still working in a system that rewards a race to the bottom.

While Allbirds will do everything in our power to take significant steps to address the climate crisis in 2021 and beyond, we need others to join us. We all will need to collaborate with competitors, just like we’ve done with adidas. We’ll need to share innovations, like how we’ve offered our carbon negative green EVA, SweetFoam™, to the industry. We’ll need to advocate for policy, because we can’t fight an issue of this magnitude without coordinated federal and global action. And perhaps most importantly, we need an international price on carbon. Yesterday.

Despite all the challenges ahead, I am still optimistic that we’ll be able to create a world–and a California–where our kids and grandkids can thrive. We’re living with the unfortunate consequences of decades of not heeding scientists’ warnings, but we still have a chance to avoid the worst of what could follow.

I hope you join us in making 2021 the year of change.