Skiers and snowboarders are inherently connected to the environment, but their gear and habits can live in conflict with environmental ideals. While living and recreating will always have a give and take with environmentalism, one way skiers and snowboarders can reduce their impact is by purchasing gear from companies that produce with sustainability at the forefront.
Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s vice president of global sportswear, summed up this sentiment well, saying “We know the world doesn’t really more clothes, but if we can make clothes with recycled materials that lasts a lifetime and is equal in quality to what we make with virgin materials, we can contribute to solving the waste problem.”
We’ll cover a couple of brands, including Patagonia that give consumers an environmental option.
Patagonia’s very mission statement, which they rewrote in 2018 to be even more direct, is simple and to the point:
“We’re in business to save our home planet.”
What started as a climbing gear company founded by Yvon Chouinard in the 1970s has grown into arguably the most powerful and influential outdoor brand in the industry. From this statement to the sourcing of materials and the repair-focused Wornwear program, Patagonia set the standard in the outdoor industry.
Patagonia was the first company to make their fleece from recycled plastics, and now nearly 70% of all fabrics come from recycled materials. While fleece and layers are great, skiers and snowboarders need gear that will hold up to the elements. Now, even some of Patagonia’s most advanced fabrics, featured in their ski and snowboard jackets and pants, are built with recycled materials.
Aside from their actual products, the brand has also been vocal in the political sphere. Patagonia filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration after the President announced plans to shrink three National Monuments. The brand has also endorsed candidates running for senate who are champions of public lands, and they recently took out full-page ads in major newspapers urging tech companies to prioritize social responsibility over sales.
Patagonia’s plans going forward are even more ambitious than their current efforts, too. They have pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy at all stores, distribution centers, and offices by late 2020.The plan is to make the entire company and its supply chain carbon neutral—possibly even carbon positive, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit—by 2025.
“Disruption and leading innovation on the mountain has always been part of our DNA,” Burton’s co-CEO Donna Carpenter has said. With that spirit, Burton officially launched their global sustainability department in 2012 and has continued to increase their sustainability efforts since. They’ve pushed their factories to run on renewable energy, partnered with the non-profit organization Protect Our Winters on a co-lab outerwear kit, and over 90 percent of Burton outerwear is now bluesign® approved – the highest environmental standards for textile production.
Burton’s next round of goals are particularly ambitious. By the end of 2020, they plan to use Durable Water Repellents (used in jackets and snowboard pants) that are entirely free of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), have all packaging be recyclable or compostable, reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent and divert 75 percent of their waste at their U.S. headquarters. Additionally, they aim to make their marquee snowboarding contest, the Burton U.S. Open zero waste (the event has been carbon neutral since 2017).
From the beginning, Picture Organic has been focused on sustainability. Founded in 2008, by a group of childhood friends in their hometown of Clermont-Ferrand, France, Picture Organic, has always used entirely organic, recycled, or responsibly-sourced materials. Their goal has always been to create new, technical fabrics from plant-based sources to reduce the reliance on petroleum-built materials.
Among their creations are boardshorts made from recycled plastic bottles, ski helmets made from corn-based polymer and a liner from discarded automobile dashboards, and a neoprene-free wetsuit. All of these, and their other designs, come from their solar-powered French headquarters and factories that run on renewable energy. They’ve switched to bio-sourced and compostable polybags in their packaging and they ship products via the least impactful modes of transportation possible.
“Making products with recycled polyester and recycled down these days is not enough”
Nowadays, Picture Organic is tackling even bigger world goals. “The first few years, it was mostly about products, sourcing organic, bio-sourced, recycled, reused materials, and knowing every step and impact of the product life cycle,” says Florian Palluel, sustainability and transparency manager at Picture Organic Clothing. “Lately, it’s all about a global company commitment: wiping out reliance on fossil fuels. We believe that moving away from fossil fuels is one of the most effective ways to fight climate change.”
That goal goes company wide, from every step of the process. “Making products with recycled polyester and recycled down these days is not enough,” says Palluel. “It is a drop in the ocean. What’s the point if that product was manufactured in a facility run by electricity from coal, packaged with a polybag that ends in the ocean, and finally, the finished products reaches stores by plane?”
The best part about these forward thinking, and acting, outdoor brands is that there is zero compromise in quality, performance and functionality for consumers. By opting to buy from them, above other less eco-focussed brands, we get the best of the best on the mountain whilst reducing our impact on the planet.