For nearly 35 years Osprey has made packs for the outdoor market. I have personally have a top-loading multi-day rucksack that has spent 15 years thrashing about in places like the Pyrenees, Patagonia, New Zealand, and South West Tasmania. I bought this much abused pack directly from company founder and head designer Mike Pfotenhauer.
Mike is still at the helm of a company that not only makes comfortable, durable packs, but does so with consideration for environmental and social impacts. Such an attitude to workplace ethics recently scored them a place in Outside Magazine's list of "Best Places to Work." but it has also lead them to move their Colorado headquarters to 100% renewable energy, and launch seven new bags made from almost 90% recycled-content materials and components. The new bags include two daypacks, pictured above. But also run to three shoulder bags and two courier/messenger style bags too (see below). Since releasing the range last year, under the moniker of ReSource packs, the company say they've taken the content analysis one step further. For fall of 2008, each pack in the series will have the exact percentage of recycled materials by content screened onto the pack. For example, the Helix daypack is 78 % recycled materials by content, while the Flip bag is 86%.
In fact, the only bits not made from recycled materials are the foams, piping, hypalon and zippers. Although recycled zips are available, the price is not yet competitive, so we're told. We asked if Osprey plan to move the rest of their rather extensive range of packs over to recycled materials? "If, over time, the materials prove to be a strong as early testing indicates, then Osprey will look to incorporate them into technical lines as well." came the reply.
However, as noted by eco-textile guru, Lynda Grose, just swapping one material for another does not necessarily make for a better business model. Osprey do seem to understand this. (Though we wonder whether they really need six daypacks and seven bags in their recycled line?) For ages ago they moved from California to Colorado so they could be near their workforce of skilled seamstresses, drawn from local Navajo reservations. For many years this enabled Osprey to keep manufacturing in the USA, when all their competitors had moved offshore.
But eventually they too succumbed to the pressures of an ageing workforce and a declining domestic market. After much research Osprey decided to make their packs in Vietnam. But Mike has great pride in making a quality product and that requires working with quality people. So he and his family 'upped sticks' and moved to Ho Chi Min City themselves. Plus they have taken US retailers out to eyeball their facilities there, so they can see for themselves the factory's conditions. (See a video here of such a trip).
Back at the marketing and distribution centre in Colorado, Osprey has done more than just buy 100% renewable energy. They also implemented waterless urinals, recycled carpets, recycled denim insulation and rotating skylights.
Additionally they've been running the Triple R program, whereby customers can donate unused or old packs to to the Mountain Fund, who pass them on to associations like Empowering Women of Nepal, Climb High Foundation, The Alpine Fund, Porter Groups, Big City Mountaineers and poor rural Boy Scout troops in New Mexico and Colorado. In return, customers receive a discount on a new Osprey pack purchase. ::Osprey Packs