Outdoors Sustainability Reports from MEC and REI
"The irony of selling stuff while striving for a sustainable future doesn't escape us. Nor does it paralyze us from aiming to create a more sustainable approach to business." So says Canada's Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in their Acountability Report of the few years ago. Thought we'd covered it ages ago, but seems not. And we were similarly remiss in not letting you know about Recreational Equipment Inc. Co-op's (REI) first stewardship report released a couple of months ago. Both reports are a comprehensive snapshot of where these outdoor equipment co-ops are at, on their journey to being greener enterprises. The MEC one is particularly frank, pointing out the challenges they recognise but have yet to successful in overcoming. Click through to see a list of some of the very significant achievements both these member-based businesses have so far attained.Mountain Equipment Co-op
• Recycling rates are at 83% and saving over $90,000 in 2005.
• A decision in 2004 to procure wind power credits for two of thirteen facilities resulted in a 52% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions over 2003 levels.
• Contributed over $1 million in grants towards the Community Involvement Vision in 2005.
• research revealed that MEC is in the top 25 global buyers of organic cotton
•MEC's first Ethical Sourcing Manager was hired in late 2005 ensuring workers' rights are met in the factories they use.
• Begun to identify materials deemed to be hazardous to the planet or members (such as polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) and are working to eliminate them
from MEC-brand products. (a drybag is now made of a thermoplastic elastomer and PFDs now use cross-linked polyethylene (PE) foam. We noted these here.)
• Forged a new relationship with the University of British Columbia's School of Chemistry to found a fellowship in "Green" Chemistry with a focus on sustainability
• 2005, we severed relations with two factories for violations of the MEC Health and Safety code.
• In 2005, audited 27 factories that manufacture MEC-brand products. Altogether, we detected 218 code infractions - an average of 8 per facility. (Industry average is 17 infractions per facility, based on the Fair Labor Association's independent monitoring results of 954 factories. In 2004, MEC joined the FLA.)
• Instituted policy of donating 5c to local non-profits for every carry bag not taken. By mid-2006 over 50% of customers taking up this option.
• In 2005, collected and recycled over 900kg of customer used batteries
• Organised for total of 3,270 blankets to be produced from unwanted fleece fabric and shipped to victims of Kashmiri 7.6 magnitude earthquake (total estimated value of $94,830)
• Listed 21,000 postings for used gear on their website, OutdoorGearSwap.com
• Introduced 100% compostable and biodegradable BioBags, made from non-GMO corn starch. Production of which created two-thirds less greenhouse gases than the manufacture of standard plastic bags.
• Established Bike and Boat Loan Program allowing eligible full- and part-time staff the opportunity to borrow up to $3,000 (without interest) to buy a new bike or kayak.
• Over 90% of paper sourced contained greater than 30% recycled content, with 85% of overall paper purchases in 2005 containing FSC-certified paper.
Recreational Equipment Inc.
• In 2006, conducted their first greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
• Purchased 11 million kilowatt hours of green power, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership.
• Recruited and inspired nearly 24,000 volunteers who repaired trails, cleaned parks and streams, and planted trees.
• Created a special $1 million grants program to enhance 100 community parks across the country.
• Contributed $4 million to volunteerism, recreation and youth programs.
• 900,000 volunteer hours in 2006 through REI-sponsored projects and programs
•126,864 kids learned Leave No Trace ethics
• "Greener" shopping bags save about 100 tons of virgin wood fiber after post-consumer recycled content increased to 80%.
• Ranked 27th overall on Fortune magazine's "100 Best" list and 1st in work-life balance
• 94% of the dollar value of REI-brand products had 3rd-party factory audits
• 20 stores are now powered by renewable energy
• Two REI stores have LEED-CI certification
• Initial steps to introduce green products included using more sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, hemp and recycled materials.
• Launched a line of socks made with fibers spun from renewable, biodegradable and recyclable corn-based plastic.
• Recycled an estimated 67 percent of the company's retail waste by volume — or 82 percent by weight. (Aspires to be a zero waste company by 2009.)