Clothing and gear choices often get overlooked when we consider ways to have an eco-friendly lifestyle. The fabric our clothes are made out of and the companies we buy from have significant impacts. With so many options of what to wear and who to buy from it’s difficult to know where to start. With this guide, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make better choices in what you wear on the trail starting with what your clothes are made of.
Different materials have different impacts on the environment during the manufacturing process. So which material is best? The answer unfortunately is not simple. Cotton typically requires large amounts of pesticides and water to manufacture, plus chemicals, energy, and more water to dye the fabric. Synthetic materials like polyester are more ecofriendly than cotton through the dyeing stage but require non renewable resources like oil to produce. Organic cotton has lower impacts on the land since it’s grown without the use of pesticides but still require lots of resources to spin and dye. This webpage by the NRDC includes a detailed chart about common fibers used to produce clothing and their direct environmental impact during production. While some fibers are more eco-friendly, they still have at least some negative effect. A simple way to reduce your impact is to support companies using sustainable methods during production.
Many outdoor companies are transitioning to environmentally friendly processes to produce their clothing and gear as well as donating profits to various programs. Below are just a handful of popular companies and a few ways they are striving towards a better planet. Click on the company to visit their website to learn more.
- Donates part of their profits to grass root environmental organizations.
- Uses as few nonrenewable resources as possible throughout clothing and gear production.
- The service center in Reno, Nevada has earned a gold level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Strives to design products that last so they do not to be replaced as often which reduces waste and use of resources needed to make more of the same product.
- Uses recycled materials as much as possible and focuses on using sustainable material.
- 20 of their stores and facilities are built to LEED standards.
- This “Gear for Good” company provides grants to nonprofits that work towards creating a positive social impact by advancing health, education, and the livelihoods of communities around the world.
- Their B Corp Certification demonstrates the power of business as a force for social, environmental, and economic good.
- Reduce waste by reusing excess fabric to produce many of their products like their Luzon 18L Daypack which results in a fun and colorful one of a kind pack.
- Columbia’s ReThreads program gives old clothing a new life by reusing and recycling the fabrics and items that are still wearable and finds them new homes through the second-hand market.
- Contributes $100,000 annually to the Conservation Alliance and partners with the Grassroots Outdoors Alliance, The Ocean Foundation, American Hiking Association and many other organizations.
- Ensures minimal waste through their packaging and transport processes.
- The co-op gives almost 70% of their profits back to the outdoor community through various programs.
- A founding member of the Sustainability Working Group which launched the industry’s first environmental assessment tool, the Higg Index.
- Recently announced the release of their REI Product Sustainability Standards that outlines expectations of all brands sold at REI which will encourage other outdoor companies to follow REI’s example. Read more here.
These are just a few of the companies doing their part to make the world a better place. As outdoor enthusiasts continue to demand quality products that provide a positive environmental and social impact, more companies will continue to change their standards. As companies continue to evolve it’s important to keep yourself updated. If you want to know what other companies are doing to reduce their impact, simply look on their website or contact them.
One of the best and easiest ways to reduce your impact through your clothing is to buy used items and donate or sell items that you no longer use. Not only does this option significantly reduce waste going into landfills but it’s also budget friendly. I recently found out about two amazing webpages to find discounted gear from two companies that I already love; Patagonia Worn Wear and REI Used Gear Beta. We all know that high quality gear is not cheap. This is a great option for obtaining some of the top brand gear without breaking the bank and being ecofriendly as well. This past December I found a Patagonia nano puff jacket for almost $100 off its original price on the REI Used website. These are items that have been returned for various reasons, but are still in almost new condition. REI even gives you 30 days to return these items if they do not meet your standards.
Another great way to save money and give gear a second life are consignment shops and thrift stores. International Mountain Equipment (IME) in North Conway, NH has a great consignment shop with clothing, backpacks, shoes and much more. Even your local Goodwill store can have some treasures. There are also many Facebook groups where you can both buy and sell second-hand gear such as the USA – Backpacking Gear Flea Market for Women.
Any small action that you can take to reduce your impact on the environment is beneficial, but bigger changes need to happen in order to have a lasting impact. Fortunately, more people are recognizing the threats that the worlds ecosystems face and many large companies are transitioning to sustainable methods. As stewards for the planet, it is our responsibility to stand behind our values and create a positive influence on the world and every living thing that calls it home. In honor of Earth Day a few days ago, I leave you with the words from its’ creator Gaylord Nelson: “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
Last modified: April 26, 2018