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Greening Gear: Q & A with Eco-Friendly Outdoor Gear Leaders

Imagine eco-friendly equipment that offers superior performance to today's gear. The future is bright, but how do we get there? A BACKPACKER roundtable discussion.

6. How have you used technology to create greener products?

Kevin: We are very mindful of the chemicals present in our products… for example, we have insisted on improving the environmental footprint of the DWR on our outerwear, moving from a C8 to a C6 technology so that we do not create unwanted toxins as a by product. However, we could not do this if we severely and negatively affected the durability of the DWR on these products—which up to now was a well documented trade off with C6 technology.

We believe that we’ve moved forward with both a C6 that is environmentally preferred, as well as durable enough to meet our performance standards. We did this through working with bluesign, our supplier, and employing rigorous laboratory and field testing for efficacy and durability.

Bill: We’ve seen our customer support our brand as a green-minded company more-so than green specific gear. Once again, we have found it to be our responsibility to incorporate green into our gear without sacrificing price or performance.

Dawson: One of DuPont’s sustainability goals is to decrease dependency on fossil fuels (oil and petrochemicals). Finding alternatives and combining biology with chemistry and material science has led to innovations in products that use renewable resources (those that can be regenerated in 1 year or less) instead of petrochemicals.

In many cases these products also save energy and reduce CO2 emissions over their petrochemical counterpart – and – they can be recycled at the end of their useful life. Sorona® is one of these products that reduces dependency on petrochemicals, reduces energy consumption and reduces CO2 emissions. By producing building block molecules or monomers that serve as both ingredients and intermediate materials, results in a larger reduction in the need for fossil fuels than simply focusing on one single product and making one product ‘green’. Biomaterials and advanced biofuels are two areas of focus.

Utilizing cellulosic material is just one option that is in development. History shows that technology has created new product classifications and that research and development continues at DuPont.

Jill: Two things: Closed-loop recycling, the ability to keep polymers in play is something so important for the future. If we could really take all the polyester that has been produced and recycle it into new polyester products and avoid the oil drilling and refining steps, it would be a huge decrease on environmental impacts.

I would also go back to bluesign for this one. There are a lot of mundane steps to look at in supply chain work but they are critical to the health and safety of all the people in the supply chain and the planet. The more production facilities we can get into robust environmental practices with the impact boundaries clearly defined, then you can develop all the technologies and products you want because you know you are playing within the environmental limits.

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