In today’s clime, outerwear brands know that consumers want more. It isn’t enough to just make a functional product or fashionable cloth, customers care about their purchases—and their impact. Yes, “fast fashion” is still here, but even bigger fashion brands are enacting campaigns to show they about climate change and the bigger-picture consequences of producing hard goods on a global scale.
One area where impact especially matters is the outdoor gear market. The math is simple: Manufacturers need to protect the areas where customers play, so they can keep selling the products customers use there. From plastic-free commitments, recycling programs, used clothing and regenerative organic certification—these are some of our favorite sustainable outdoor gear brands that are taking climate action seriously.
You can’t do a story on brands that “walk the walk” without mentioning Patagonia and Patagonia Provisions. Their mission is to “Save Our Home Planet” making some bold moves in, “learning to be an anarchist company.” This direction means moving toward 100 percent renewable and recycled raw materials (Patagonia just announced a new material, NetPlus, made from 100 percent traceable recycled fishing nets), pioneering the Regenerative Organic Certified agriculture movement, continuing a focus on quality and repairability, funding environmental nonprofits, plus starting the largest repair center in the U.S. (and encouraging the industry to sell used gear as its does through its used clothing program, Worn Wear). But also, not to be overlooked the brand works to ensure that its products are made under safe, fair working conditions.
For starters, Cotopaxi was founded to “do good.” This B Corp based out of Salt Lake City has been focused on solving poverty. Cotopaxi has various grants that support this purposeful cause, from refugee integration and training services, to campaigns helping eradicate malaria. Cotopaxi sees that one of the main causes of economic inequality is climate change. To make its mission two-fold, the brand is committing to make 100 percent of its product line from responsible, recycled or repurposed materials by 2022—an attainable goal, considering its currently at 90 percent.
Another brand that was born out of sustainability and a dream of simplifying the supply chain is Raleigh Denim (which we consider an outdoor brand because of its manufacturing philosophy, and how rad its jeans work for exploring outside). The small but mighty brand achieved cult status by its durable product and “farm to table,” or rather, “cotton to jean”-style process. Founded in 2008, the brand initiated the first North Carolina crop of organic cotton just 47 miles away from its factory in Raleigh, where its always paid ethical wages along with repairing customers’ pieces. Its ideology of quality over quantity lends itself naturally to sustainable practices.
The French brand Picture was founded on the ethos of sustainability by three childhood friends who loved mountain and ocean sports. One of the 2008 co-founders was a Green architect, which allowed the brand to establish a baseline, from the start, that every product would be made with a minimum of 50 percent recycled, organic, or bio-based materials. The clothing crafters have been known for bringing to market cutting-edge eco-friendly technologies like their most recent (and very cool) BIO-sourced polyester made from sugarcane waste.
As the first ski brand to be B Corp-certified, Utah’s WNDR Skis has not only proven that old petroleum-based products aren’t necessary to build skis, but that it can do so in a 100 percent renewable-energy production facility. With its introduction of AlgalTech, a biotechnology made from micro-algae and developed in-house, WNDR is acting as a pioneering force in the hard-goods market, one that we hope will not be so lonely in coming years.
Fishing and outdoor brand Orvis understands that its customers need preserved spaces in order to use Orvis products—that is why it’s been donating 5 percent of pre-tax profits every year to protecting nature, supporting communities, and advancing canine health and well-being through its matching grant program. This nature-protecting program has helped to raise (and donated) more than $20 million over the past 25 years. More recently, Orvis teamed up with Trout Unlimited, Save Bristol Bay and the Everglades Foundation to foster long-term protections of two of the most pristine and important wildlife-rich areas in the U.S.
It has been said that wool is “nature’s tech” fabric and considered to be a renewable resource. Icebreaker understands that, and in its 25-year history has gone from incorporating tech fabrics, like poly blends to enhance its clothing, to dismantling processes and re-incorporating natural tech fabrics like TENCEL, making its products 100 percent natural without performance sacrifice. Icebreaker has made the commitment to 100 percent plastic-free in 2023.
The Swiss mountain equipment and apparel brand Mammut, has, in the past, been known for innovation with its avalanche transceivers and climbing hard goods. However, now Mammut is building a new reputation, in caring. It started with its commitment to be PFC-free by 2023 and now it has implemented the WE CARE program that stands for Clean production, animal welfare, reduced footprint and ethical production.
Arc’teryx might not have had a foothold in sustainability in the past, but it’s trying to change that. The uncompromising Canadian outdoor apparel brand is addressing waste head-on with its Used Gear program that pays 20 percent of the original price back on a gift card. This year, Arc’teryx has introduced GORE-TEX jackets made from scrap material, the Beta SV Rebird and the Rush Rebird. But on a larger scale, Arc’teryx has pledged $1 million toward outdoor accessibility and nature conservancy with the introduction of its Outer Peace initiative. Outer Peace supports partners working to protect nature and to remove barriers by addressing structural inequalities in the outdoors. Not to be left out are Arc’teryx’s Academies—the Climbing, Alpine and Backcountry—which all support mountain sports athletes looking to sharpen their skills and comprehension, which helps promote more respect to the environment.
Other Notable Outdoor Industry Brand Efforts
With some of the drastic steps toward sustainability taken by outdoor industry leaders, the pressure is now on any brand in 2021 that does not have some sort of sustainability program in place, or at least plans to integrate renewable energy for production. Because so many brands are now stepping up to the plate, it’s impossible to highlight all—though a handful of other notables quickly come to mind. We love what Rab has been doing this past year by joining Fair Wear Foundation and its use of five recycled tech fabrics, including recycled GORE-TEX and recycled Pertex. Big Agnes earns a nod for its solution-dyed tents and sugarcane-based foam sleeping pads.
We are hyped on French ski brand Black Crows’ new 2021-’22 apparel collection using the promising new eco-friendly waterproof fabric Xpore. Giro is launching the Renew series in 2022, plus we’re always interested in ‘walking-the-walk’ innovations from premium Australian cycling brand MAAP Sustainability. Primaloft’s new P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions) will cut down carbon emissions by 48 percent. We love that GORE-TEX is now 100 percent OEKO-TEX certified to the Standard 100 and that is has committed to be carbon-neutral by 2050. GORE’s Protect, Prolong and Perform mentality takes a hard look at long-term sustainability and its commitment to develop lasting solutions. We’re also excited about new outdoor apparel brand Artilect from Boulder, CO that has sustainability in its foundation.
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