It was the Outdoor Retailer industry trade show last month, and even amidst troubling economic times we're pleased to observe that quite a few companies were still pursuing some form of sustainability agenda. We highlight below a few we've been able to glean details about, such as Timberland, Patagonia, Sierra Designs and the like. Timberland
Outdoor Retailer's own blog interviewed Betsy Blaisdell, Timberland'smanager of environmental stewardship, pictured below, who is a lead member of the Outdoor Industry's Eco Working Group as they try to create an industry-wide eco-metric. OR ask the question: Is it truly possible to create a single green metric? Betsy replies:
"You can come up with a score, but it's a composite of several metrics. There's no one thing that measures the "greenness" of a product. In fact, the more you get into metrics, the more you realize how nuanced the conversation is. It's not very black and white. There are environmental tradeoffs no matter what materials and manufacturing processes you use."
In what might be a bit of a market leader, Big Agnes will soon have three-season backpacking tent with a tent floor and fly of 100% recycled and dye-free polyester rip-stop, but it will also sport recycled polyester mesh, recycled plastic clips and zippers. Impressive.
With a strong heritage in the climbing scene have developed their Greenicci collection of apparel made from organic or recycled fabrics by introducing a new fabric that spans both those disciplines. Their fall 2009 line will include Evo-Tek, a knitted jersey made from 55% organic cotton and 45% recycled polyester. [While using two great materials, such blends do present afterlife issues, as they can not be easily composted, nor recycled, containing competing elements.]
This British based company have long made reproofing agents to keep existing gear in useful service. At the show they unveiled an updated Waterproofing Wax for Leather that's entirely water based, free of solvents yet "The performance is absolutely off the charts," or so the company rep is quoted as saying.
The Salt Tribune reports that when REI dropped Lexan plastic water bottles over concerns about Bisphenol A, they had thousands of bottles they needed to do something with. Stanley recycled them into the exterior of bottle which employed a BPA-free mouthpiece. Trade show participants were able to swap old polycarbonate bottles for the new recycled ones.
We are now getting use to seeing green fabric in our gear, but what about the materials you don't see, like insulation fillings? Italian fabricator Thermore have long had a recycled insulation in their line, though mostly for the apparel. At the show they exhibited an polyester insulation product for sleeping bags. Available in three weights it is made from 70% recycled PET bottles.
This European producer of polyester fibres also makes a performance wicking fibre - Thermocool Eco, using Dupont's corn-derived Sorona. Building on that work, they are now offering that material, combined with Tencel, which is the fibre created from the cellulose in Eucalyptus trees. This may be an attempt to muscle in on the territory staked out by Naturework's Ingeo, a polylactic acid (PLA) fibre made from corn.
Another Dupont trademarked moisture movement textile is Coolmax, which is now available as EcoMade, a filament fiber, made from 97% post-consumer recycled bottles. The fibre can be selected by designers for performance sportswear outerwear and socks. Brands such as DeFeet and Injinji have taken the latter route.
We noticed that Patagonia will have a new lightweight insulation sweater in time for next winter made of fully recyclable materials. Patagonia also displayed a duffel bag said to made from 100% recycled polyester, and sporting welded seams and waterproof zips so it can stay waterproof sown to two metres. Still on luggage Sherpani Solstice is a new line made of 67 % recycled materials. And Kelty have an upcoming messenger bag from 60% recycled polyester fabric, 100% recycled polyester webbing, and vegetable-tanned leather.
Sierra Design will have a down jacket with a water repellent outer shell made from 100% recycled poly. Sigg, who saw a 400% in crease in sales after the BPA scare have released new wide mouth bottles and stainless steel options. There were socks made with wind powered from Teko, Sunglasses with 30% recycled content frames from Zeal and organic merino woll beanies from Bula.
And heaps more besides (see the full wrap up at Outdoor Retailer, but we think those examples indicate that the greening of the outdoor industry is still occurring. Alas, in these days on thinning wallets, it remains up to savvy customers to choose such products over competitors, for companies to feel comfortable in having gone this eco route.