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Green Gear Report Card
Fully recycled sleeping bags. Employee incentives for biking to work. Wind-powered office space. Outdoor gear makers are taking significant steps to improve transparency and reduce their carbon output. Many are combining greener manufacturing and business practices to reduce impact. Here’s a sampling of what several companies are up to.
Founded in 2004 and based in New York City, Ailin is a fashion-focused women’s apparel and outerwear brand designed for climbers, surfers, skiers, riders, runners, yogis and explorers. Ailin uses eco-friendly fabrics, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. Ailin.com
This skin-care manufacturer uses only natural ingredients and recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging. A just-completed audit estimated All Terrain’s carbon footprint at 89 metric tons annually; it is responding by improving energy efficiency and waste reduction, obtaining renewable energy, and purchasing carbon offsets. In 2008, All Terrain will ask all of its suppliers to analyze and improve their own footprints. Allterrainco.com
Atsko Sport Wash
All Atsko products are made in the USA in strict accordance with applicable labor and environmental laws without producing any hazardous chemical or biological waste. Sport-Wash residue-free detergent has been tested and proven to be readily biodegradable, made from environmentally safe renewable vegetable surfactants. Silicone Water-Guard uses recycled Carbon Dioxide instead of Propane Isobutane as a propellant yielding 1/3 more useable product while giving greater coverage per container. Permanent Water-Guard contains no solvents and is water based meeting stringent European standards for environmentally safe.
Black Diamond has a strong ethic in activism and environmental conservation. Its work includes support for non-profit groups including the Access Fund, the Utah Avalanche Center, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and key roles in both the Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative and the Red Mountain Project. In 2004, Black Diamond became one of the first major manufacturers in Utah to become an EPA Green Power Partner and CEO Peter Metcalf has been recognized for his ongoing and active fight to maintain roadless wilderness to help preserve pristine areas. Bdel.com
Since 2006, Clif has increased its use of organic ingredients by 70%, to about 20 million pounds per year. It’s striving to become a “zero waste” company, using nontoxic inks and recycled paperboard in its packaging, and eliminating shrink-wrap. Employees use biodiesel-fueled vehicles for inter-company shipping and mobile marketing. Clif’s Cool Commute program was the first U.S.-based initiative to reward employees who purchase biodiesel vehicles, ride bikes, carpool, or walk to work. In partnership with American Forests, Cool Commute plants trees to offset commuting miles and purchases wind energy to offset the CO2 generated by manufacturing, distribution, office operations, and business travel. Clifbar.com
DuPont pioneered a way to produce 1, 3 propanediol or PDO from renewable resources, mainly corn sugar. 1, 3 propanediol is a key ingredient in the production of Sorona polymer. Substituting renewable resources in the production of Bio-PDO reduces the use of petrochemicals in the production of Sorona. DuPont Sorona polymer is manufactured in a continuous polymerization process; as a result, processing problems and waste generation are minimized, leading to increased productivity and efficiency and more consistent quality.
On a pound for pound basis, production of Bio-PDO consumes about 40% less energy than product of its petrochemical-based counterpart. On a pound for pound basis, production of Sorona using Bio-PDO consumes 40% less energy than nylon. On a pound for pound basis, production of Sorona results in 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than petrochemical based nylon. Dupont.com
This company’s lights are powered by highly efficient monocrystalline solar panels. It uses environmentally friendly Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargable batteries. 6 hours of full sun provides 20+ hours of brilliant white L.E.D. lighting. Equinox gear is made in Pennsylvania, saving energy through conservative shipping practices and recycling boxes for product shipping as well as combining shipments allowing for reduced fuel consumption. Equinox products incorporate limited packaging allowing for less waste. Hang tags and paper packaging are printed with water soluble soy inks on 100% post consumer recycled paper. Newlite.com
Gregory is working to eliminate all PVC and other harmful materials from its global product line. This year, Gregory eliminated PVC from its Response backpacks. Gregory recently began using high-performance textiles that can be recycled and reused. In February 2008, Gregory relocated to Sacramento, one of the most sustainable cities in the nation. The move reflects Gregory’s values while allowing it to deliver strategically designed products and provide employees the opportunity to commute using light rail, bike or on foot. Gregory’s new, renovated office space was created by LEED-accredited architects and designers with reclaimed wood, recycled carpets, office furniture, cubicles and other structural elements from companies making green and/or recycled content products. The space uses natural light to reduce energy usage. Gregorypacks.com
Based in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Honey Stinger supports the use of alternative energy sources and obtains approximately 51% of the energy for its office space and warehouse from a wind-generated power company. The company’s consumer catalogs and marketing materials are printed using a percentage of recycled, post consumer waste paper products and environmentally conscious inks. Honey Stinger works to protect the environment by reusing or recycling corrugated boxes, paper, cans and bottles, and encouraging bicycle and car pool commuting. Honeystinger.com
Annual environmental audits, waste-minimizing manufacturing processes, and recyclable packaging augment this lightweight-shoe maker’s internal recycling and pro-commuter business practices. Inov-8.com
Kayland is investigating switching to recycled content paper for packaging and/or catalogs, using recycled content outsoles, using environmental materials like PrimaLoft Eco, which contains 50% post-consumer waste without compromising its insulating properties and replacing lining materials with performance properties derived from coconut shells. Kayland.com
Mary Janes Kitchen
Founded by former forest ranger and organic farmer MaryJane Butters, this backpacking food company has 60 organic products. All instant foods all come in an EcoPouch, a container that triples as cooking pot, dish, and campfire fuel. maryjanesfarm.org
This outdoor-maintenance company makes everything from water repellants to boot cleaners, and all are intended to extend the life of outdoor gear. Most McNett formulas are either biodegradable or environmentally benign and we are researching new green technology all the time. McNett uses the highest available post consumer waste content in its bottles and packaging, and soy based inks on labels and blister cards. McNett proudly supports Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Club, and other organizations dedicated to preserving the environment and introducing people to the outdoors.
All of Montrail’s catalogs and sales material are printed on post-consumer recycled paper with soy based ink, and it is in the process of removing all paper products from shoeboxes. Over the next year this shoemaker will eliminate approximately 34,000 pounds of waste from shoeboxes. Montrail is a proud member of the Conservation Alliance, a non-profit organization of outdoor businesses whose mission is to support grassroots citizen-action groups and their efforts to protect wild and natural areas. Montrail.com
Of the Earth
Founded in 1992 OTE is a leading developer and supplier of environmentally sustainable fabrics and clothing. The company supplies organic fiber, organic yarn, organic textiles and organic apparel .New certified organic fabrics continue to be introduced 2005 (hemp, linen, ramie, bamboo, soy, silk, wool, merino, cashmere and yak). Oftheearth.com
Pittards is one of the first tanneries in the world to achieve ISO 14,000 certification to the International Environmental Management standard in the year 2000. Pitards.com
The company heats with local scrap wood, burned in an excess air, extreme high heat burner to boiler, for clean non-polluting chimney output. This place is likely the best insulated of all businesses or homes. In 1994 it switched to thin silicone sealed fabric for all of its tents eliminating the bad solvents used in urethane coatings, increasing durability and strength of tents, and decreasing tent weight. It uses large diameter thin wall ultra high strength aluminum alloy that reduces amount of aluminum used, (and the electrical energy to make it. “Fuzzy Stuff” VB fabric is made with heat bonding instead of solvent based adhesive bonding, thus eliminating release of solvents to the air. Warmlite.com
Sun BD Corporation
The Tulsi-Hybrid Solar Cooking Oven combines FREE solar energy cooking with the backup reliability of conventional electric power. The oven: eliminates the consumption of expensive propane fuels; uses pollution free solar energy; is easy to use, portable, and sets up in seconds; is especially designed to enhance any solar cooking chef, environmentally conscious persons, campers and others who want enjoy the latest in outdoor solar cooking ovens.
It Ain’t Easy Being Green
Big Agnes’s Bill Gamber on the challenges of creating eco-friendly gear.
For some gear makers, living green is more than a PR effort. Take Bill Gamber, president of Big Agnes. For years, he and his wife lived in a 500-square-foot, solar cabin off the grid outside Steamboat Springs. That ‘walk-the-talk’ attitude permeates Big Agnes culture. This year they debuted the highest recycled-content sleeping bags and pads on the market. And the effort doesn’t stop there.
“We look at every aspect of our business- travel, office, warehouse, and shipping-anywhere we’re having a negative environmental impact, to see how we can do it better,” Gamber explains. BA has always purchased wind power from utilities, and by the time you read this, they’ll be finished converting their offices to 100% solar, and starting on the warehouse.
Gamber’s biggest challenge in making recycled sleeping bags and tents was simply that suppliers didn’t make light enough fabrics and fills. “Our 99% recycled bags are warm, solidly performing synthetics,” he says, “but when we tried to make ultralight models, down-leak proof RC (recycled content) fabrics still weren’t available. The technology exists, but suppliers just haven’t had the demand. Now that’s changing fast.”
For insulation, Big Agnes turned to Climashield Green last year, but it lacked the performance the company expects, and it was only 40% to 60% recycled. Gamber said, “Look, we need a performance product with at least 80% recycled content.” Climashield delivered with a new 100% recycled, higher-performance version of Climashield Green.Gamber believes recycled materials are currently the way to sustainability, rather than organically grown materials. “About 99% of all plastic ever manufactured is still in its original form,” he says. “A crazy percentage of plastic bottles aren’t recycled, so let’s create a demand for that. Right now, growing bamboo or hemp to replace all this existing material isn’t the best answer, considering the land use and fertilizers.”
Similarly, Gamber sees down bags as greener than synthetics. “Down is a byproduct of food production. They don’t raise geese for down,” he explains. “There’s plenty of down availability given the size of the food market in Eastern Europe and China.”
“But it’s never simple,” says Gamber. “We buy our higher-fill-power down from Hungary. It gets shipped to the U.S., washed and processed here, then sent to China, put into a sleeping bag, then shipped back to the U.S. So the product can be as green as you want, but if you’re shipping stuff all over the world, that’s not so green. It’s one of our big concerns, and we’re not sure how we can improve that–at least not yet.”