Everything has a label these days: “Local,” “Organic,” “Made in the USA”, “100% Bamboo.” But what about carbon footprint? Each piece of gear that gets made, worn, and then up-cycled or thrown away, has an effect on our environment – even if it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Rather, the process of how that gear is made has an impact on the land that we adventure on every day and with every new season.
Companies (we’d like to think) don’t have any direct intent to harm our environment, yet with every single item that is produced – whether it’s a ski jacket, hiking pants, a camping stove, or a water bottle – so are carbon emissions. Logically, the gear we use to explore the outdoors shouldn’t also be harming the outdoors.
Until recently, no one was around to hold many of these outdoor companies accountable. That’s changing, however, with Climate Neutral.
Climate Neutral is a non-profit organization that is working to transform the skewed mindset that lowering your carbon footprint is difficult and expensive. The organization, started in 2018 by Peter Dering of Peak Design and Jonathan Cedar of BioLite, uses a simple four-step process – measure, reduce, offset, and label – with an internally developed tool that helps brands measures their carbon footprint, figure out where and how to reduce that footprint, purchase offsets, and then finally, label their gear with a “Climate Neutral Certified” label.
“Our goal is to kickstart a movement of brands stepping up and taking responsibility for their carbon emissions,” Climate Neutral’s CEO Austin Whitman tells ASN. “We believe that one of the best ways to accomplish this is through our label. We want consumers to recognize the label, know what it means, and support Climate Neutral Certified brands.”
That label, which you’ll start seeing in 2020 on packaging, tags, and websites of certified brands, is a key part to getting companies on board. So far, three brands have measured their 2018 carbon emissions, chosen at least two reduction strategies, and offset the rest to become Climate Neutral Certified for their 2018 emissions. There are 52 brands that have committed to measure, reduce, and offset their 2019 emissions, a process that will kickoff in early 2020.
“Brands, especially in the outdoor industry, have been enthusiastic about our mission and going through the certification process,” says Whitman. “If consumers begin to vote with their wallets and choose Climate Neutral Certified brands over the competition, brands will begin to take notice.”
That’s what Carbon Neutral’s next step focuses on, the launch into the consumer domain to spread the word to even more climate-conscious consumers. The Kickstarter, which launches Tuesday Oct. 15, will provide consumers and outdoor enthusiasts alike the opportunity to pledge money to Climate Neutral in order to offset their own carbon footprint that impacts our favorite play spaces and land.
“Consumers want to take climate action, but often don’t know where to start or don’t believe that they themselves can have a meaningful impact,” Whitman explains. “We see this as an entry point for consumers to start rethinking their carbon footprints and begin to reduce them in all areas of their lives. Climate change is a complex and overwhelming problem and Climate Neutral aims to make it easy for consumers to support brands that are doing the right thing.”
One brand that is already on board is Forsake, an outdoor shoe company that has always had sustainability on their mind, but wasn’t sure how to put thought into action.
“The biggest challenges that existed before Climate Neutral were threefold: standardizing and auditing assessments of a company’s true carbon footprint, establishing reduction criteria to help guide brands through strategies to minimize carbon emissions, and providing authentications to the carbon credit marked,” Forsake marketing director Jack Knoll tells ASN.
Forsake has since started to audit their carbon footprint, look for ways to reduce or offset that, and has established a benchmark per shoe for carbon emissions. They’ve also committed to using only Leather Working Group “Gold” suppliers, which use up to 48% less energy in leather production, and are looking to maximize efficiency and minimize emissions when it comes the step of shipping from the warehouse direct to consumers.
“The goal of every outdoor brand is to get people outside more and experiencing the natural land and spaces more than they are right now,” says Knoll. “Attempts to mitigate a brand’s impact on the environment is a necessity to ensure we aren’t being hypocritical in our attempts to celebrate the outdoors.”
With Climate Neutral, Forsake and other brands can make that mitigation much easier and show consumers that they can personally make a difference, either by pledging dollars or simply shopping more consciously. As Whitman says, not one single person, business, government, or non-profit can solve climate change; we are all in this together.
Check out Climate Neutral’s Kickstarter to pledge $5 to help launch the Climate Neutral Certified Label.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!