How to Go Green: Outdoor Sports

We love our wild, outdoor places. The problem is, we're loving them to death. Flying to visit the distant ones is contributing carbon dioxide to the ever-growing greenhouse gas overload; all the clobber we take with us demands greater extraction of diminishing resources both to manufacturer and to reach us in our homes; and when we arrive at our beloved open-air domains, our combined weight is directly impacting already fragile ecosystems. Take, for instance, the mountains.

"Like the earth's oceans and rainforests, mountains are crucial to life. Mountains are the source of freshwater for half of humanity. They are storehouses of genetic diversity that help feed the world. Yet, mountains are under threat from climate change, overexploitation and environmental degradation. Mountain people are among the world's poorest and hungriest: a disproportionate number of the world's 840 million chronically undernourished people live in mountain areas." Although covering only 3% of the earth's surface, they contain an astonishing 10,000 species of plants, the highest biodiversity per unit area of any ecosystem in the world. They are also critically important to millions of people in the lowlands as sources of fresh water for drinking, agriculture, and hydropower.

So, in this guide we consider outdoor adventure sports such as surfing, sailing, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, backpacking and camping to see how they might be made greener. (For the most part, we'll leave biking for a whole separate guide.)


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Top Green Outdoor Sports Tips



  1. Get out there
    Being in the forest, the desert, the mountains, the rivers, the ocean is more likely to invigorate your green passion and your innate sense of place than being stuck in that manmade artifice, the city, that most of us now know as home. You might call them holidays, vacations, weekends, but in reality it is simply playtime. Just like when we were kids. The sheen on the water, the warmth of the rock, the smell of moss after rain, the taste of dirt. It connects us not only to our childhood, but also to our origins. And the longer we dwell there, the greater our sense of stewardship. So do your part to fight nature deficit disorder and get out there.

  2. Travel wisely
    But how you get there is probably the biggest environmental decision you have to make. For most of us, no other choice will have as much impact on the planet as our mode of travel. If at possible, avoid the plane. Think global, play local. Look for exotic, exciting places nearby. Be creative, like the guys in Montreal, Canada, who go surfing on their local river. Of course if the breaks are local, there are many racks available for toting your board by bicycle. For many jaunts into the wilds, especially in Europe, New Zealand and South America, it is possible to train or bus to a trailhead or 'put-in,' and in many cases this will allow you to complete an A-to-B trip without having to retrace you path. But if you desperately have go by car, there remain plenty of options. Hitch-hike (best if you're with a buddy and don't have a kayak in tow!), carpool with mates (have fun, save both fuel and CO2 emissions), rent a hybrid, or fill the tank with a biofuel blend.

  3. Share and share alike
    You know you're going to have a fantastic time under the open sky, so why not share it. Once in a while, soften the hardcore approach a little--take your friends, family, work colleagues, or fellow students out there with you. Watch 'em swat a few mosquitoes, shake the sand from their wetsuit, or get a sunburned nose, all the while knowing that you are introducing someone anew to the blue sky joys that give you so much pleasure. Chances are, someone did the same for you once. Return the favor by paying it forward. If you're feeling really gallant, volunteer with the Scouts, surf club or for summer camps. It's not only good for the soul and the planet, it now seems to be good for the brain.

  4. Support those who support

    The Surfrider Foundation is famous for its work for the benefit of both surfers and the environment in which they play. For climbers, the Access Group plays a similar role, and there are plenty others, some of whom we note below. Financial and moral support for such bodies ensures that outdoor arenas in which we cavort will get the thoughtful environmental recognition they deserve.


  5. Play hard, land lightly
    There is a tendency when playing outside the boundaries imposed by concrete, glass, and societal norms to think that we can just go for it. And while that's true when shooting through a pressure wave on a whitewater river or pushing yourself to the end of a hundred mile wilderness run, it doesn't mean we can just drop our other responsibilities. As Climbing Magazine put it in a piece about 'eco-bouldering', "Just remember: skankous tape wads, cigarette butts, and energy-bar wrappers do not constitute local flora." And choose fuel stoves over fires from downed timber--those boughs create habitat for local critters and humus for soil replenishment. But improper use of stoves has it own issues. The stove of an illegally camped Czech backpacker set off a wildfire that decimated 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) of Chile's iconic Torres del Paine National Park. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has a comprehensive set of guidelines for minimizing such environmental tragedies.

  6. Buy consciously
    In Europe they use a phase, 'ecological rucksack,' to measure the volume of nature that was disturbed to generate a given product or service. And it seems appropriate here as a reminder that the foam block in a typical surfboard, a kayak hull, or snowboard jacket is usually made of a finite fossil fuel by-product and will be with us for at least another 500 years. Obviously it's important to select outdoor gear for its ability to perform -- your life may depend on it -- but these days there are many products that offer identical function (and flair) with fewer of the environmental flaws. Bamboo snowboards, hemp surfboards, recycled plastic underwear and fleece, organic energy bars, recycled rubber-soled walking boots, organic cotton climbing pants and oodles more. Check below for companies that deliver both high tech and low impact.

  7. Powered by the sun
    With all this talk of gear and equipment it is important to remember that the greenest outdoor pursuits are those undertaken without the aid of gas guzzling engines. Hear the crunch of snow under your backcountry skis or snowshoes rather than the screech and grind of the skidoo's motor. The dip of your paddle into the river, or the flutter of the sail as it is trimmed can bring your soul more peace than the whine that emanates from a seadoo, jetski, or motor boat. More and more snowboarders are discovering the delights of back bowls and leaving energy-consuming, lift-assisted resort boarding behind, as telemark skiers did a generation before them. With an organic diet in your belly, fuelling your human-powered activities, you could almost be considered to be running on solar energy.

  8. Less is more
    Ray Jardine, who turned the climbing world on its ear by inventing 'Friends,' the iconic camming protection device for climbers, later rediscovered the delights of simple backpacking. He went on to inspire an entire cadre of long distance travelers who traverse mountain ranges with a rucksack not much larger than a daypack. In turn, the industry responded with a plethora of featherweight, minimal equipment. But the real point here is that the gear should never become more important than the experience. Do we have more fun now with our multi-thousand dollar mountain bikes than that the all-terrain pioneers did, careening down hills of Marin Country on their ancient cruiser bikes? Less stuff often means more fun, yet with less demand on the world's diminishing resources.

  9. Reuse, repair, rejunvenate
    High-grade outdoor apparel and equipment can readily be obtained secondhand. Freecycle, Ebay and Craiglist are just some of the online places to try. But there are also bricks-and-mortar stores selling pre-loved sports goods, such as the US franchise chain with the wonderful name, 'Play it Again,' what has a wide range of snow sports gear. And don't forget many rental shops sell off their end of season's stock. Buying a secondhand climbing rope or mountain bike helmet, however, is probably not the wisest move. Another way of reducing unnecessary production and distribution environmental woes is to repair the gear you already have. Patch the ding in your surfboard, the rip in your tent, replace the frayed rigging on your Hobie Cat. Either doing it yourself or via a repair service will greatly extend the useful life of your beloved gear. As will a bit of a tender loving care. Wax your skis, rinse your grit-filled climbing ropes, sharpen your snowboard edges, wash your down sleeping bag, clean the jets and fuel lines on your camp stove. It will make your kit seem like new and certainly give it extra seasons or years of faithful service.

  10. Higher and hire
    Of course there will always be times when you want the latest stuff. Work out how often you're really going to use it. It might prove more economically (and certainly more environmentally) sound to rent it. That way you can always ski in the latest gear each season. Do you really need to own a sea kayak if it only sees the waves one week a year? With the advent of online services like Hire Things, chances are you can even hire activity specific equipment. Got stuff gathering dust in garage yourself? Make some pocket money rather than let it sit idle.


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Green Outdoor Sports: By The Numbers



  • 161.6 million: Americans aged 16 and older who participated in an outdoor activity in 2005. Almost 63 percent of these undertook between one and three outdoor activities. The five most popular outdoor sports were, in order, bicycling, fishing, hiking, camping, and trail running.

  • 20.6 million: Americans who paddled canoes (in 2006), 7.3 million paddled kayaks, and 20.2 million went rafting.

  • 244,271: The number of backcountry person nights made into the Grand Canyon in 2003.

  • $3 Billion: The amount of money spent in the specialist outdoor sector of just the 32 members of the industry association, the European Outdoor Group.

  • $5 Billion: The money spent in the wider outdoor market, which includes 'own brand' and lifestyle products.

  • 50 percent: The percentage of all adults in Britain who participate in walking, rambling, orienteering, climbing and similar outdoor activities each year, with 25% participating on a regular basis. Walking is the single most popular activity enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. Substantial numbers also participate in cycling, canoeing, mountaineering and trekking overseas.

  • 6 million: The number of activity holidays taken annually in the U.K., generating £1.1 billion in tourism spending.


Sources: Outdoor Industry Association, National Survey of Recreation and Environment, U.S. National Park Service, European Outdoor Group
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Green Outdoor Sports: Getting Techie


Rack off
So that you can leave that CO2-spewing car at home more often, you could buy yourself a surfboard rack for your bike. You might select one like these from Carver or Wheele. But you could also make your own, as these instructions from RodnTube indicate.

Second life for a lifeline
Either the CMI Rope Washer or the PMI Bokat Rope Washer will aid in keeping your climbing rope clean, thus greatly extending its useful life. Or find a quiet corner of the garage and build your own. Knick Knack has instructions on just how you might accomplish this.
Taking care of business
And after you have mastered the art of cutting and fitting bits of poly pipe, you'll be ready to tackle the task on making your very own poop tube for wilderness trips or big wall climbing. Full instructions can be found here.

All fired up
An alcohol fuel stove leaves tree timber in place for soil renewal and habitat. It also can run on plant-based alcohol leaving those petrochemical fuels for other essential uses. Mo-Go-Gear makes their FireFly stove from old beer cans and .22 magnum shells. However if you are feeling dexterous, you may want to try and build one on your own. Links to both the commercial and the DIY option can be found here.

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Where to Get Green Outdoor Sports Gear


Ailin
Aquair
Aquaskipper
Arbor
Artisan Gear
Blurr
Brunton
Carver
Chaco
Chocolate Fish
Fletcher Chouinard Designs
Clear Blue Hawaii
Clif Bar
CMI
Earth Friendly Kayaks
Earthpak
Eastern Active Technology
EcolIps
EcoSurfStore
Etnies
Finisterre
Floatplan
Freeloader
GoLite
Guillemot Kayaks
HaveBlue
Hillbilly Waxworks
Hobie Mirage
Howies
Daniel Hess
Hydra
Ibex
Icebreaker
Indigo
Klattermusen
Keen
Lafuma
LaraBar
MaryJanesFarm Outpost
Matisse and Jack's
Matunasco
Metolius
Millet
Millets
Mion
Mo-Go-Gear
Mont Bell
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Natural Emphasis
Nau
Nike
Nutiva
Ocean Green
Osprey
Pacific Outdoor Equipment
Paddy Pallin
Patagonia
Planet Earth
Play it Again
PMI
prAna
Prijon
Recreational Equipment Co-op
Red Flag Design
ReSails
Richmoor
Rip Curl
Salewa
ScotteVest
Sierra Designs
Smartwool
Solar Spark
Solar Style
Soldius
Solio
Tarma
Teko
Terrapax
Timberland
vauDe
Venture
Voltaic
Water Girl
Wave Hound
Wet Woman Surf Wax
Wheele
ZooZoo2
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Green Outdoor Sports: From the Archives


Dig deeper into these articles on outdoor sports from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.
Climbing
The dense Etaproof organic cotton fabric in the Klattermusen Einride jacket "signifies the beginning of a new post-laminate era in outdoor design" and provides optimum ventilation and keeps the wearer dry from the outside for up to 4 hours. In less inclement weather, you might be more tempted by the yoga inspired prAna threads, also offered in organic cotton. They also buy wind-farm credits to power their operations. Whatever you choose, consider topping off your ensemble with a Salewa Helium helmet that is also certified for use as a cycling and canoeing skid lid. The Metolius Eco Ball is a chalk ball that ensures that the white stuff is only where you want it: on your fingers. And if you want to show off your enthusiasm for your upwardly mobile pursuit Tarma has climbing inspired jewlery made from recycled stainless steel. Speaking of recycling, when your much-loved lifeline needs to be retired (well before seven years of use!) you might look up Millet's rope recycling program that turns old ropes into new products.

Skiing/Snowboarding
We reported that in Europe the downhill ski championship were cancelled due to no snow. And then mentioned how this is impacting the tourism economy. The ski industry, seeing the global warming writing on the wall, is responding to do their bit for climate change reduction. There is the Keep Winter Cool program, the SkiGreen Mini-Tag, and specific resorts have their own initiatives like supporting wind energy, as does Aspen, which is also converting their piston-bullies to biodiesel, among many other endeavors. Vail even promised to give a free single-day ski pass to employees and visitors who sign up for wind power. In Australia, the Falls Creek resort bought renewable energy credits and declared itself a plastic bag free zone. Its neighbor, Mt. Hotham, is spending $8 million AUD to develop a scheme to use recycled water for snow making. And let's not forget the To Cross the Moon' (2XTM) snow kiting expedition (snowboarding with a parafoil) which set out to promote the environmental advantages of wind power, but ironically concluded after just 12 days and 248 miles (400 km) due to a lack of snow! If you are lucky enough to find some snow, you might enjoy it on an Arbor or Indigo bamboo crafted snowboard, lubricated with the Hillbilly Waxworks' Ethica Enviro-Wax. All the while wearing a Scott solar jacket, that is juicing up your iPod or phone. Or for something tangential to the mainstream you could also try the fossil fuel free delights of windskiing, or backcountry telemarking (for women.

Surfing
Bamboo and organic cotton Ts from Wave Hound are just one of many collections in the surf industry which have paddled out to meet the swell of companies taking a green line. Let's not forget Etnies, Howies, Water Girl, Planet Earth, and ZooZoo2. Of course there are times when the weather suggests you need more than a pair of boardies and a tee. Then you can turn to eco-aware Finisterre for their wet weather gear, or to Patagonia for their new limestone, recycled polyester and wool wetsuits. But at some point you're going to have to actually get on the board, so ponder on one from Bamboo Surfboards Australia, a blank of plant-derived Biofoam, or OceanGreen's balsa and hemp number, on which you might be found rubbing Wet Women Surf Wax, which apparently works equally as well for guys too. Such goodies can be bought via the Eco Surf Store and the sport as a whole can be supported by taking an interest in events organized by folks like the venerable not-for-profit Surfrider Foundation, or even business-driven programs such as the Quiksilver Initiative and Rip Curl Planet, which supports environmental sports organizations and ensures that products bearing the Rip Curl Planet label have at least a 55% blend of eco fabrics.

Paddling
Back in the early days of TreeHugger, we mentioned Walden Kayaks who were making rotomoulded plastic sea and river kayaks from a recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE) content. But they had financial woes and closed their hatches. So we discovered Hydra Canoes, who at least made some of their boats with recycled content. We kept looking and found Clear Blue Hawaii's folding kayak which seemed great because it dispensed with very inefficient roof racks. But when we noticed it was made with vinyl we went cold. Though they redeemed themselves with their solar charging packs (a daypack, drybag and deck panel). We were impressed with Prijon's Thermoplast boats, which they reckon are the most durable in the world. But the Walden Kayaks saga didn't die. Meyers Boat took over the name, whilst Earth Friendly Kayaks continue to sell their old models. And then we noticed the exquisite craft-it-yourself Guillemot timber kayaks. In any of these you would, of course, be wearing your PVC-free personal flotation device from Mountain Equipment Co-op, who in a benevolent gesture, offered to share their alternative polyethylene foam breakthrough with the rest of the industry. For some variety in your human-powered aquatic adventures you could always try Hobie's Mirage Drive, which can be configured as a yacht, kayak or pedal boat. But then maybe the idiosyncratic Aquaskipper is more your scene.

Sailing
Sailing is one of the oldest emission-free means of long distance travel we have, so it is pleasing to see that even this old sea dog still have a few tricks up its sleeve. Such as the prototype Origami folding yacht by Matteo Signorini, or the wind-turbine powered catamaran. And there is the HaveBlue oxygen and hydrogen fuel cell engine for 'trailer sailors,' but one of our all time faves is the round-the-world contender fashioned from recycled aluminum, with sails of recycled PET bottles. The Aquair 100 is a towed turbine that generates sufficient power to run an autopilot, maintain navigation equipment or support a fridge, while recharging service batteries; reducing both fuel use and pollution. Microcruising is way to reduce your footprint to a minimal amount and go explore the world, under sail. Don't have time to buy or build your own watery cruiser? Fear not. Float Plan is a website offering travelers opportunities to find passage as crew members aboard yachts and sail boats. Or dream about undertaking a vacation with Old Earth Expeditions onboard a Umiak, (the modern hybrid of 2,000-year-old old Inuit skin boat). Road access transport is via a biodiesel van with meal being mostly of locally sourced organic food. For those who can only dream of a life aquatic there is still a green yet salty connection. Luggage and totes made from salvaged marine fabrics such as sails. Put the spyglass onto ReSails, Sea Bags, Red Flag and Tanker.

Camping
Who needs a petroleum based tent when you can make you own winter shelter with just a shovel and snow? It's called a Quinzee. If you are considering a tent purchase, then Sierra Designs has caught the green bug and are powering their office and warehouse via 100% wind energy certificates, their tent poles have a reduced use of phosphoric and nitric acid in the anodizing process. Millets One Earth outdoor gear line, in the UK, is said to include an organic cotton tent. For a sounder and saner spot of kip you might investigate the Eco Thermo Pad, made from undyed bamboo fibre, filled with bamboo-based foam, and sealed with a recycled aluminum valve. And old sleeping bags need never die because manufacturers like Mont Bell can take them back for recycling turning them into cushions and mats. They are already using cutting room waste to make stuffed toys. If you need to take electronic gadgets into the wild blue yonder, one way to avoid churning through disposable batteries is to employ one of the many efficient solar chargers available. Early to this scene was the Solio, (see our review here). Later came the Soldius and a flood of others such as the Freeloader, flexible Brunton, the weeny Micro Solar, or Solar Style. With all these, there is probably no need for the Solar Tent, but some might like the luxury of the Eco-Camp Kit, with its solar shower, water-powered alarm clock and wind-up/solar Freeplay radio combo. For the camper who has everything, a little greening might be obtained via the Solar Spark and the hand-powered night vision monoculars. If the haughtiness of such folk gets on the nose, encourage them to read our Q&A on wilderness body cleaning.

Hillwalking, tramping, backpacking, trekking, bushwalking, etc
The energy generating pack developed by biologist Lawrence Rome can produce 7 watts of electricity by taking advantage of vertical motion via body movements while hiking. Voltaic also uses their packs to produce energy, though they harness solar panels for that trick. But not all outdoor products are as technologically imbued. Others simply use materials that have less of an impact in their extraction and disposal such as sturdy, yet biodegradable hemp. Like the daypacks from Terrapax and Artisan, or the multiday rucksack (and other eco apparel) from French company, Lafuma. A revolutionary (and humorous) take on this move to more natural materials has been from Eastern Active Technology, whose many outdoor products used components like GummiSkin and CarboFoam. Then there are Osprey's Resource series of packs and courier bags which have a recycled content of about 80-85% by weight. Before that, came Earthpaks, which use recycled PET drink bottle fabric. Keen constructs its new Hybrid Transport bags from the manufacturing waste from their footwear which they ship in an Eco Carton. Other producers with a green ethic in the sandal end of the business include Mion and Chaco. While on footwear, it is worth noting that Timberland's Green Index rates how environmentally and social sensitive their boots and shoes are. They, like Patagonia, who launched a new greener collection of footwear, designed with assistance from Merrell, both use the 30% recycled outsole known as EcoStep by Vibram. Nike, much pilloried over conditions for their offshore workers, responded to the chastisement with their Nike Considered line, which included a few light hiking models.

Publications
The media that report on outdoor sports have also embraced the slow but steady switch to a more sustainable outlook. The seminal outdoor magazine, Outside, ran a piece on eco-investing and followed up with a complete Green Issue. Snowboarder Mag threw its support behind a campaign to promote veggie oil as an alternative fuel source. Venerable Climbing Magazine and new upstart Urban Climber both committed to using a100% recycled stock, the lead for which was provided by The Surfers Path magazine, and later embraced by Surfer. But Drift took a different line and produced a paper-free digital-only surf magazine. Outdoor Retailer is trade publication for the industry who although not changing its paper stock has promoted a broader campaign of environmental change by showcasing those greener businesses via its Green Steps initiative, which is particularly visible at its tradeshows.

Retailers
REI (Recreational Equipment Co-op) have been progressively introducing greener endeavors through a vast number of retail stores. Here we note that their Portland store achieved the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard accreditation, making them the first in the US to do so. A couple of years later, their first retail store in Pittsburg attained a silver rating. REI's Canadian counterpart, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), has been similarly diligent (and one might even suspect a little more proactive) for not only do they have green roofs on their buildings, as we observed here and here, but they made the decision to move all their cotton garments to organic. Plus they have a stringent fair labor policy for goods sourced offshore. Paddy Pallin is Australia's oldest outdoor retailer, and was one of the first to make fleece from recycled plastic drink bottles. Their main eco-action these days is giving customers the choice of refusing a carry bag, and donating its cost to environment groups. We noted them here for their support of Porter Progress through a boot trade-in. Such has been the green uptake in such outdoor retail stores that a MBA in Sustainable Business was using them as a case study.

Get organized
The Action Sports Environmental Coalition (ASEC) utilizes its collective assets to broaden the horizons of conscious consumption--paving the way for skateboarders, surfers, snowboarders, BMX bikers, and those passionately involved in the sports to achieve lasting sustainable benefits for individuals and community institutions. The Surfrider Foundation was formed over twenty years ago by a handful of dedicated waxheads looking to protect the playground that bleached their hair and tanned their torsos. At last count there were over 40,000 US members, with strong international branch growth, as well. In Europe they have a spin-off group filling the winter slot--the Summit Foundation, with much the same goals as Surfrider, except protection of the mountains is more on their mind. In Canada they have Clean Air Champions an organization working to improve air quality and environmental and personal health. They have athletes in outdoor sports such as canoeing, cycling, hang gliding, kayaking, orienteering, paragliding, sailing, skiing and snowboarding. If you compete in the outdoors you might also consider a look at Organic Athlete, which has cyclists, mountain runners, mountain bikers, pro surfers, etc on their team promoting "health and ecological stewardship among athletes of all ages and abilities..."

Eat, drink, & be merry
We started waxing lyrical about Clif Bars when we noticed they had a minimum 70% organic content made in bakeries run on wind power credits. We later went on to interview their CEO and make mention of their organic Shot Blok energy gels and their support of Alison Gannett and her Save Our Snow (S.O.S.) Winter Roadtrip, using a vegetable oil-powered, environmentally friendly RV to tour North American ski resorts educating patrons on global warming. Natural Emphasis has an energy bar, the Fuel, made with organic ingredients and full of protein rich hemp seeds. Another energy bar suitable for outdoor adventures in the Larabar, again with organic ingredients and recipes that avoids the energy involved in cooking. They are, in effect, 'raw.' Later we discovered Matisse and Jack's Trailblaze Energy Bar Mix, a make-it-at-home recipe kit, using the likes of organic rolled oats and organic flaxseeds and non-GMO soy. Plus their bulk packaging is a bio-degradable, non-bleached glassine bag which they plan to print with soy ink. For your lips, a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/05/eco_lips.php">EcolIps is a greener lip salve containing organic ingredients. Plus, the founder recently promoted organic food and clothing via his team's Organic Endurathon. And it wouldn't be TreeHugger without a couple of green but irreverent products, now would it? We've had the hand cranked coffee grinder and the Camper's Dream Ice Cream Maker!

Apparel
Some time in the distant past, the German vauDe launched its Ecolog line of apparel which was made entirely of polyester, right down to the care label and zippers, so it could be recycled without any contaminants. Their pioneering efforts, maybe a tad ahead of their time, have inspired many others to follow suit with clothes that have an eye for sustainability as well as performance. The newest of these is Nau, who use materials like recycled polyester and corn starch to infuse a whole-company approach to environmentally and socially responsible apparel. We interviewed the Nau team to get the low down on their approach. See here and here. One of our earliest green outdoor posts was a nod in the direction of Icebreaker, who craft a collection of functional clothes from renewable New Zealand merino wool, considerd by many to perform as well as its fossil fuel competitors. An alternative would be Ibex, who also do a sharp line in merino, or for that matter, Smartwool. Long term supplier of technical fabric to the outdoor industry, Toray, of Japan recently announced it was producing waterproof/breathable shell materials that were "free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other solvents". They also alluded to the imminent arrival of Recyclon, a recycled nylon 6 fibr. Another stalwart of the industry, Malden Mills also joined the swing of things, re-introducing recycled polyester for its famed fleeces, but also making it fine enough for bodywear. A brave entry into the very crowded outdoor apparel market was Teko Socks, who make high performance socks from sustainable wool, recycled polyester, Ingeo (corn starch) and organic cotton. They are also seeking certification with the internationally recognized Oekotex label, which dictates that apparel will be free of dyes that form carcinogens or allergies, as well as being free of pesticides. Any discussion of outdoor sports and the environment would not be complete without devoting space to Patagonia, who have lead the pack producing green gear (and initiatives) for a wide swath of the market--from surfing on through to mountaineering. We look at their launch of Common Threads (recycling old underwear to make new threads), then its update, their continued roll out of recycled content apparel (here and here) and their embrace of new wool. When founder Yvon Chouinard won the inaugural award of OutDoor Celebrity of The Year for his "visionary business strategy and high degree of environmental awareness," over some of the many sustainable strategies he had enacted through his company, we looked back over the company's eco-history. That's not to say there aren't others out there doing great work. There is Canada's Ailin, for example, whom we caught up with here and here. This company's intent is to "offer the most technically-advanced and eco-sensitive clothing on the market" for accomplished outdoors sports women. If you have trouble linking through from our stories try this link. Also hailing from Canada is Blurr, which makes a line of clothes for climbing and training, some of which have organic cotton content.

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Further Reading on Green Outdoor Sports


Get smart with the info from these other worthwhile resources.
Ski Area Citizens Association publishes an annual eco-report on U.S. ski areas.

SkiGreen is a renewable energy offset program for skiers and boarders.

Sustainable Slopes is the environmental program of the US National Ski Areas Association.

The Access Fund continues to walk the fine balance act of ensuring access to climbing regions while working closely with land managers to see that their environmental and culture concerns are addressed.

'Putting back' is the role of the Conservation Alliance, whose mission is to engage outdoor businesses to help protect and conserve threatened wild places for their habitat and recreation values.

The European Outdoor Group's new Association for Conservation is a Swiss-based consortium of outdoor companies with the objective of raising €150,000 Euro to be awarded to projects that preserve and protect the natural environment.

Even older than the Surfrider Foundation, Surfers Against Sewage has been campaigning on environmental issues for British surfers for decades.

Venture Snowboards are made with sustainably harvested timber and can come wrapped in fabric topsheets of organic cotton or hemp.

Daniel Hess fashions his unusual surfboards for longevity via a timber frame of reclaimed and sustainably harvested wood joined with Cork, EPS foam, while using about 50% less fibreglass than a conventional board.

Matunasco produce a surf wax which contains mostly organic ingredients.

Fletcher Chouinard Designs crafts surfboards made from extruded polystyrene foam so it has fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than polyurethane foam, and are strengthened with stringers of cedar and spruce laminated with a water-based glue.

The International Mountain Explorers Connection, IMEC, was founded over a decade ago to promote responsible and sustainable connections between travelers and the people of developing mountain regions of the world.

GoLite Planet is the initiative of GoLite, a lightweight outdoor gear brand inspired by the Ray Way.

The Melting Mountains Awareness Program was developed over concerns that climate change will have a substantial impact on our recreational opportunities and mountain lifestyle.

The Alpine Conservation Partnership is a joint venture of the American Alpine Club (AAC) and The Mountain Institute (TMI).

Rock Chalk is magnesium carbonate climbing chalk colored with natural pigments to match the hue of local crags to avoid the unsightly look of white gym chalk all over a natural rock face.

The Global Sports Alliance (GSA) is a global network (based in Japan, and endorsed by the United Nations) of environmentally aware sports enthusiasts.

Sustainable Travel International (STI) offers an Annual Green Gear & Gift Guide (PDF).

GreenSurf is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding our ocean ecosystem.

Mountain Riders is a seven-year-old organization based in France that brings together snowboarders, skiers, hikers "and basically anyone who loves the mountains and wants to promote the respectful enjoyment of this free, pure and glorious landscape."

G-ForSE is a database of environmental action in sports.

Sydney Rockclimbing Club provides a Code of Conduct (PDF) for respectful use of crags.

Tags: Camping | Sports | Walking

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