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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.

1. Flash forward 10 years: What will green gear look and perform like?

Kevin: We believe that “green gear” will not be called green gear, but simply gear. In fact we look forward to the day when the word “green” is dropped from the descriptor of any product or service. There is no reason that products cannot be high performing, aesthetically pleasing, affordable and environmentally optimized. Sustainability will be the next platform for innovation and we believe that we should not compromise on any of these dimensions. Companies are waking up to this fact and the development of common industry tools to measure—like the shared, cross industry, supply chain facing, Eco Index—will accelerate innovation.

Bill: Big Agnes has been pushing itself to produce all of our gear ‘greener”. As we develop specific green gear we open the door to develop regular in-line gear with greener components like our Insulated Air Core pad using Primaloft ECO and for 2011 the majority of our synthetic sleeping bags will be using a 97% recycled fill. A few years ago things like this weren’t available or if they were the price put us into a different price point. The general consumer doesn’t appear to be willing to pay more for eco products, therefore we feel it’s our responsibility to produce in-line green gear. The more we can make broad strokes and make larger impacts the better vs. bringing smaller run, smaller sales potential products to market.

Kim: Kevin Myette’s response above is GoLite’s view entirely. It’s so good, I’ll repeat a line! There is no reason that products cannot be high performing, aesthetically pleasing, affordable and environmentally optimized. Today, those companies that are actively reducing the footprints of their products are the standout brands, but in 10 years those companies that have done little to nothing will be the ones that stand out – in a negative way. Making gear that optimizes all of these dimensions will be the expectation of all companies, not the exception.

It’s no accident that the companies in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index consistently outperform the general market. At GoLite, we see reducing our environmental and social impacts as an enormous opportunity. Seeking new ways of doing business to reduce our impacts is driving overall innovation within the company. Our efforts to increase operational efficiency and to eliminate materials in our products that are manufactured from virgin petroleum are not only reducing our climate impact, they are actually saving the company money and reducing our petroleum exposure risk.

Reducing transportation distances for textiles through vertical integration and shortening distances between factories reduces carbon emissions and saves money. Achieving greater operational efficiencies through things like energy efficient lighting, energy use reduction strategies, alternative transportation efforts, reducing long haul flights, reducing air shipping of product, and many other things reduce carbon emissions and save money.

Staying ahead of the climate-related regulation curve reduces our exposure and legal risk. Being a company that walks its talk on the climate change and sustainability front enables us to attract and retain the best talent and to attract loyal customers who share our values. This leads to enhanced product differentiation, brand equity and market share.

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