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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.

10. Are there steps that an end user can take to reduce the environmental impact of his/her gear?

Kevin: Certainly… first and foremost, buy carefully! Make sure you need what that product has to offer you and that it is best suited to the task. The product with the lowest impact is; no product at all.

Secondly, buy products that won’t wear out prematurely—and just as importantly—you won’t get bored of its aesthetic. Arguably more outdoor products are “mothballed” (hopefully not landfilled) due to the fact that the user gets bored with it or its look rather than it reaching its natural end of life.

Thirdly, learn how to and do take care of it. You can extend the life of products by appropriately cleaning and maintaining them. Seek the advice of a mentor and/or your reliable outdoor store employee as they can be invaluable for learning how to extend the life of your gear.

Lastly, when it is truly time for you and your gear to part ways, make sure it goes into a reliable re-use stream—unless it is completely trashed, then if at all possible recycle and/or disassemble it into recyclable components.

Bill: Buy durable gear and care for it. Research the brand and see if their environmental impact is clearly a company-wide focus. Where does their power come from (wind, solar…?) and what organizations do they support.

Dawson: Yes, first ask yourself if you really need it or simply want the newest color, newest ‘bell or whistle’ that comes with it.

With that said, consumers/end users can improve their knowledge on the care, responsible use and disposal of the gear they use. All of these aspects come into play – and often have a more significant impact on the environment – than the production of the product. Responsible use of not only the product, but the manner in which it’s used is critical to conserve and protect the land, streams and mountains in and on which we ‘play’.

Simple things can and are being done to educate folks on proper and environmentally smart care and use of products – airing out sleeping bags or using liners so only the liner needs to be cleaned; cold water washing and air drying;, care of coatings and gear to increase the useful life of the product. Each step is one step closer.

Jill: Buy stuff that will last a long time so they buy less stuff overall. The resources that go into making a new product and the waste generated is immense so the less everyone buys the better. Also, when you buy less stuff, you can buy better quality stuff because you won’t be replacing it in two years so in the long run money is probably saved. And time is definitely saved! Less time on-line and in stores!

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