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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.

2. Like it or not, chemicals are a big part of performance outdoor gear—from DWRs to plastics to wicking and anti-stink treatments.

How much is the outdoor industry at the mercy of the chemical companies, and are they responsive to your requests for greener solutions?

Kevin: Yes, chemicals are part of every product—not just outdoor. We can’t make products without them (water is a technically a chemical). The key is not to convict chemicals per-se, but to have a policy and strategy that ensures a thorough analysis of the risk posed by specific chemicals, set clear expectations on what can and can not be in your products and expect full transparency from your supply chain.

The outdoor industry really can control its destiny around harmful chemicals. We just need to be educated on the risk and clearly articulate our requirements. Again, greener solutions, or “green chemistry” will come about when we gain a more thorough understanding of the risks and create appropriate market pressures.

In the textile world, we see no better strategy for appropriately managing the chemicals in our products than spec’ing materials which meet the bluesign standard, for it is a pro-active, risk analyzed, input based, full process control, method for preventing undesirable chemicals to be used in your products—or in the processes which make your products (how they affect the worker and their communities).

BG: Nicely said Kevin. Even though Big Agnes is a small outdoor company, we do ask and have changed what we use. In a short period of time, we’ve seen positive changes. One example is the proprietary environmentally friendly anodizing process DAC uses on tent poles. Although a small impact environmentally, a big step in the right direction.

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