5 Climate Conscious Brands Every Outdoor Enthusiast Should Know
Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Most people who love the outdoors and care about their impact on the environment know about reducing plastics, leaving no trace, and cutting down on energy use, but how many people think about the environmental footprint of clothing on their backs, what they’re camping with, and other products they use when enjoying life in the outdoors?
The apparel industry alone contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Textiles are one of the most polluting industries behind the oil industry, and emissions from the fashion sector are expected to rise 60% by 2050 if the trend continues (UNFCC). If we want to truly change the current trajectory of climate change, we need to think about everything we use, including the sustainability of the companies we buy from.
First and Foremost: Important Reminders
We should treat the apparel industry with as much urgency as we should any other thing when it comes to climate change. What we put on our bodies everyday should matter just as much as the food we eat, the car we choose to buy, or the people we vote for. As nature lovers, we should be leading the way in climate mitigation. I want to also shed light on the fact that buying outdoor apparel, gear, and traveling in general is a privilege and a lot of these companies aren’t cheap. We should recognize privilege and use this awareness to do everything in our power to stop climate change. However, everyone, regardless of income level, should be empowered to think sustainably about their clothing. There are some companies that provide cheaper goods through online thrift stores to both allow lower income groups a greater accessibility to their products, and to further lessen their carbon footprint. One of these that comes to mind is Patagonia’s Worn Wear website where you can buy discontinued, returned, and extra fleeces, jackets, and just about anything else they have on their website. I purchased a fleece for $40 as opposed to $125 through this website and it was as good as new. https://wornwear.patagonia.com
Ultimately, the best thing you can do in regards to your apparel and gear is to repurpose and reuse things. If we truly care about how our planet fares for our generations and generations to come, we need to question ourselves and the clothes and gear we use to enhance our time outside. When reusing and recycling isn’t feasible and you really do need something new, look for companies involved in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, that attempt to reduce their own carbon footprint, that use sustainable materials, processing, and practices, and are transparent with their customers about their sustainability progress.
Always remember that anything you can do to reduce your carbon footprint matters, because every bit we can reduce means less severe implications later on. We don’t need 10 people working perfectly, we need millions of people working imperfectly. Anything you can do to help matters. It is about progress not perfection.
In no particular order, here are five of my favorite outdoor gear companies that care tremendously about reducing their – and by consequence your – carbon footprint and spreading a message of environmental awareness and climate action.
PrAna - Practicing Sustainability
On the sustainability tab of their website, PrAna suggests we should start asking questions about our clothes in the same way we do about the food we eat. They preach “From the farm to the factory to our closets, we all have an opportunity to reduce our impact on the environment.” PrAna partners with dedicated organizations such as Fair Trade, bluesign®, Textile Exchange, Responsible Down Standard, and many more to minimize their carbon footprint and they have separate pages on each one on their website explaining how they change things like water usage, social ethics, and agricultural practices. They also offer suggestions on how to make small but meaningful changes purchasing apparel in your own life. Check out PrAna for ethically and sustainably produced swimwear, yoga gear, and any other activewear you might need as you take on your next adventure. https://www.prana.com/about-us/sustainability.html
REI Co-op - #Getoutside Responsibly
When I first searched “REI sustainability” on google, the first result that came up was a 12 page document titled “REI Product Sustainability Standards”. As bad as it seems, some companies have taken advantage of the climate crisis by greenwashing their audience and claiming they are eco-friendly without actually implementing environmentally sustainable practices in their business. REI is just the opposite - they talk the talk AND walk the walk. They mean everything they say and are fully transparent with their customers about the exact steps they are taking to fulfill these promises. In this document, they underline everything from materials standards, brand partnering expectations, chemical restrictions, animal welfare standards, and land stewardship that they have established to responsibly go forward for a climate stable future. Like PrAna, they include certifications to look for when buying apparel, info on environmentally safe materials, and even a section on how to repair old gear so you can get the longest life out of it. Check out REI if you want to be a part of the positive change when you #Getoutside.
Tentree - Offsetting Carbon Emissions 10 Trees at a Time
Tentree is a relatively new eco-progressive apparel company that has paved the path for many other businesses looking to offset their carbon emissions. They “ Protect the world you play in.” by planting 10 trees for every product purchased. Their clothing is made with the newest environmentally sustainable fabrics and inks like hemp and modal and they include descriptions for each material along with why it is a more sustainable option than most commonly used fabrics in the apparel industry. By purchasing their clothing you are making positive change by helping replant threatened rainforest ecosystems, mangrove forests, and many other forest ecosystems around the world. They encourage community involvement, social change, and transparency by giving customers access to a tree code which they can register their trees with and discover where they are being planted. If you want to get even more involved, they give links to volunteer planting projects they partner with.
VAUDE - Europe’s Most Sustainable Outerwear Company
In the nationwide ranking of sustainability reports, VAUDE achieved 1st place in the category "small and medium-sized enterprises" (SMEs) and was honored for best transparency regarding sustainability. With focuses on improving the efficiency and equity of their supply chain, upcycling, increasing the lifespan of products, reducing the use of microplastics, and much more, VAUDE has set the bar high; which is exactly what businesses need to be doing. Their headquarters are carbon neutral and they have had green electricity since 2009 using solar and even more unique and innovative energy sources like sugar beet gas for heating. With climate reports, sustainability guidelines, and climate agreements available to the public, VAUDE is making clear, trackable progress.
Merrell- Many Paths One Goal
One thing every nature lover needs is a good pair of hiking boots. Merrell has got you and your sustainability standards covered! They have committed to using natural, renewable, and ethically sourced materials and recycle old polyester, rubber, and EVA scraps to make their shoes. Their core values emphasize durability, water conservation, and reducing landfill waste within their manufacturing processes. They have joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition which uses the Higg Index to score materials, products, and overall brand strategies on sustainability and they plan to share these scores with their customers to encourage transparency and continued perseverance towards improved scores. Merrell’s President says it best - “We know we're not going to single-handedly save the planet. But when your
passion and your business is getting people out into nature, trying to
minimize your environmental impact is just what you do.”
*All images were sourced from the brand websites