UPDATED. See response from Arc'teryx in comments below.
In traipsing around outdoor clothing and equipment websites the past few months it's been heartwarming to see so many companies striving to reduce their impact on the environment which ultimately is their customer's playground. So it was a bit of jolt to find the following statement, from Canada's premier and highly creative outdoor gear dynamo, Arc'teryx
Arc'teryx believes in integrity and responsibility. Due to the present state of textile technology and our unwillingness to sacrifice technical performance, the majority of Arc'teryx products are made with materials derived from non-renewable resources. We have not yet found acceptable renewable alternatives that don't substantially affect our product's performance or durability.
The company has pioneered such innovative material and production techniques that the international outdoor marketplace quickly made them industry standards. But it seems Arc'teryx aren't keen in adopting the greener fabric and component breakthroughs that their competitors have embraced.
Their environment policy reads, in part, as the antithesis of what others like Patagonia, Nau, Marmot, Mountainsmith, etc, are doing. The Arc'teryx view is that:
Recycling synthetic materials can actually consume more resources than using virgin materials. Once collected, recyclable outdoor materials are shipped internationally (consuming fossil fuels) to a facility that consumes considerable energy and resources to refine the used fiber to the point where it is 'nearly' virgin. We have been hesitant to use recycled materials as our testing has shown that they are not as strong as virgin fibers and they do not meet the durability standards for our products. Recycled synthetic materials wear out quicker and must be replaced more often, leading to greater overall consumption. Currently, we feel that recycled synthetic materials are better suited to non-critical products such as plastic bottles and containers rather than advanced outerwear designed for use in severe alpine environments.
Now while there is some truth in the assertion that polyester (the commonly recycled fibre) may not be as durable, or as abrasion resistant, as nylon (the common choice for shell garments), there is little excuse in other material choices. For example, fleece and non-woven insulations are normally made from polyester anyway.
And recycled nylon is now available for packs, not to mention that the behemoth of durability, Cordura, now lends its name to a recycled version.
Yet, as Arc'teryx see it:
We continue to search for eco-friendly materials that will meet or exceed our performance standards and look forward to the day when we can shift our production to more sustainable materials.
But are Arc'teryx continuing to search in all the wrong places? Because one of their key suppliers, Polartec (the ex-Malden Mills) state very clearly that the recycled fabrics they offer today are, "not the scratchy stuff of yore. These fabrics are highly technical and make no sacrifice in performance."
Seems to be a disconnect there somewhere. Either the maker or the supplier is telling porkies.
Maybe it's simply that Arc'teryx like to take the road less traveled with their product. And that's why they are ignoring the tidal wave of outdoor companies finding that recycled material products are both functional and profitable.
Now, we'd be the first to admit that recycling is not the be-all, and end-all, of environmental stewardship. But the outdoor product manufacturers listed below, have demonstrated that recycled materials, and even components, can become very much part of their product's story
And lastly it does come across as odd that a company,which goes to all the effort of writing a Environmental Statement, would still sell t-shirts grown with fossil fuel based pesticides, fertilizers and the like. Especially when organic cotton is now widely available, knitted into some superb t-shirt weight cloth.
We welcome the day when this leader in product design and manufacture is also out the front of the pack showing just what can be achieved with more environmentally benign materials.
Disclosure: In the very distant past this writer once established the first Australian distribution of Arc'teryx product, so has great respect for their design genius.