Cotopaxi – ‘an outdoor gear company with a social mission’

An interesting piece about a new outdoor gear company based in Utah.

The story below comes from Outside Magazine, written by Joe Jackson.

They only sell on-line so you can check their site for details on ordering.

Image Nepal pack, Cotopaxi

Image Nepal pack, Cotopaxi

Q: What Gear Companies Do the Most Good for the Planet?

A:Cotopaxi isn’t the first outdoor company built around philanthropy, but the two-week-old water bottle and backpack manufacturer is the most exciting to watch right now.

Cotopaxi’s founder, Davis Smith, has a vision to change the world through business. And thanks to a brilliant marketing launch, a direct-to-consumer sales model, and gin-clear transparency, it seem like his company just might do it.

It’s the first startup to ever launch as a Benefit Corporation—a business that’s actually required to have a measurable positive impact on society and the environment. The Utah-based company was founded to serve people in need: selling gear is a means to that end.

Smith first noted the connection between business and philanthropy in college when he met his idol, millionaire philanthropist Steven Gibson. According to Gibson, the best thing Smith could do if he wanted to be a successful philanthropist was to become an entrepreneur and develop organizational and management skills. Only then should he return to philanthropy. Ten years and two successful startups later, Smith started Cotopaxi.

There’s a clear narrative showing how your purchase helps when you buy from Cotopaxi. “If you buy the India water bottle, you are actually helping someone in India,” Smith said. A key part of this narrative is transparency. “We’ll give you geographic coordinates to the well that’s being drilled. You’ll be able to see images of the villages being helped—you’ll know that you are giving around six months of clean water to someone in need,” Smith said.

Cotopaxi donates at least ten percent of the proceeds from a product to a specific philanthropic cause. More money is donated when you buy items with a higher profit margin.

To help establish those higher profit margins, Cotopaxi sells all of its products directly to consumers. When the company launched earlier this month, all its products were available for purchase online. “It’s a great model,” says Smith. “It sounds too good to be true, and it kind of is. The only difficult part of that is to build the brand.”

Brand-wise, Cotopaxi is off to a good start. For its launch, it put on Questival, an adventure race-festival hybrid in Salt Lake City that attracted more than 1,400 participants. The hashtag #Questival was attached to more than 12,500 posts during the three-day event.

Will Cotopaxi change the world? It’s still way too early to tell. But I’m confident that Smith and his brand are clearly and traceably aiming to do good. No matter the scope of the ultimate impact, those intentions make a difference. “Sometimes you hear people say, ‘If you’re born in poverty, you’re just going to die in poverty,’” Smith said. “That’s just absolutely not true. We’ve seen that people can make an impact, but we all need to do our part.”

Kathmandu update

indexIn my original assessment (2010) I was less than favourable about Kathmandu on environmental and workplace issues. Partly this was because I had difficulty gaining information from the company and there was nothing available on their website.

A fair bit has happened internally since then, which is detailed in their sustainability reports.

The company is clearly moving forward on both sustainability and workplace issues. Given their significant position in the Australian market in terms of volume and the ubiquitous nature of the brand, this is a significant development. Compared with Europe and North America, a number of other major Australian retail brands provide very little information on workplace and environmental performance of their home brand products and seem to be lagging behind global trends, which see greater support for sustainability initiatives and external reporting on workplace conditions. This makes the developments at Kathmandu a good precedent for the rest of the retail sector here.

The updated assessment can be found here.

Human powered mountaineers

I love these people: Human-Powered Mountaineers use bikes to access the peaks for their adventures (as well as promoting sustainable food production and lifestyles).

dscn0849Human-Powered Mountaineers is a grassroots organisation that was started by Justene Sweet and Christopher Bangs.  Their mission involves climbing mountains completely under their own power all the way from their own doorstep.  To accomplish this they incorporate the use of their bicycles to get them from their homes to the trailheads, and then they start climbing from there. They are based in Bozeman, Montana.

They say:
 Our mission is to inspire people to be passionate about environmental stewardship through bicycle advocacy, and local organic farming. We aim to educate people about creating a positive change in the world  through simple daily actions, while continuing to live life to the absolute fullest of  potentials.

A current project they have this (northern) winter is to climb and ski the highest peak in each of the 7 mountain ranges that surround Bozeman. All 100% human-powered on a 100% plant based diet.

This project is raising money for our grassroots networks; BIKE TO FARM, and School Slide Show Series.

They attempted all 7 peaks and summited on two.

As they say in the wrap-up,
winter human-powered ski mountaineering IS REALLY FREAKING HARD!!!!!!!

Check the site for some excellent videos of their attempts on the peaks.

Patagonia wins ‘Environmental Product of the Year’ award

The following comes directly from Patagonia.

Image: Patagonia

Image: Patagonia

When we started making wetsuits in 2006, our aim was simple: Build the best possible suits in the least damaging way.

The most environmentally harmful aspect of a wetsuit is neoprene, a synthetic, petroleum-derived material with a highly toxic manufacturing process. After a few years of exploring alternatives, we started working with Yulex Corporation, an American company making plant-based biorubbers.

Using guayule, a small shrub native to the Southwest, we were able to co-develop a natural rubber alternative that performed as well – or better – than traditional neoprene. Grown without pesticides, the guayule plants are harvested and mulched, and a high-quality natural rubber is extracted through a water-based separation process.

In the Summer of 2013, we released this product to the entire wetsuit industry. Our competitors’ support has been critical and is greatly appreciated.

Last night the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association presented Patagonia with the Environmental Product of the Year award for our Men’s Yulex® R2® Front-Zip Full Suit, the culmination of five years of development. A big thanks goes out to everyone involved.

For more information on our Yulex wetsuit visit: and

the Backyard Project – low carbon adventures

backyard project

In a world where a big part of living the ‘dream’ is to have the ability to travel wherever you want wherever you want, a decision to stay at home and enjoy your own back yard becomes a radical action.

Skiers/ boarders can be as bad as anyone else in the rich world. And there is no doubt that the rest of the world offers mountains that we can only dream of. But the fact is that constant holiday travel by large numbers of people across the world is not sustainable.

Overseas travel is great, but so is the decision to stay at home, to really appreciate the challenges and opportunities that your backyard offers.

In this film featuring athlete Justin Lamoureux, who is sponsored by Arc’teryx, he sets out to ride all 30 mountains he can see from his backyard.

As he says:

“Our backyards are often overlooked for farther and more exotic adventures”.

Full points for walking (and paddling) the talk with a low carbon adventure. He lives in Squamish, British Columbia, which is surrounded by mountains, rising from sea level to 9,000 feet. This film follows his mission to try to ride them all in a single winter.

The first instalment is available here.

‘Worn Wear’. Don’t buy new stuff – love the stuff you already have

Image: Worn Wear website

Image: Worn Wear website

This 27 minute film comes from Patagonia.

Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family’s maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, Vermont; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Released as an antidote to the USA Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.

You can read people’s stories about their favourite gear here.

Check here for an earlier post on the Worn Wear campaign.


The Equipment Library

on the Razorback, VIC

on the Razorback, VIC

This is a great idea: an outdoor gear hire service primarily aimed at parents of school children, but also hiring to adults and families. For people who don’t do lots of overnight walking, it can save on purchases, and also offers a ‘try before you buy’ approach to outdoor adventures.

The blurb below comes from the Library. For further information, check here.

The Equipment Library, based in inner-Melbourne, provides parents of Melbourne school children, hikers and trekkers a range of camp hire equipment, such as sleeping bags, rain wear and camping accessories.

We offer you a range of products and services that allows you, your family or friends venture into the outdoors with the confidence that they have the right equipment for the environment.

We have worked closely with a number of Australian and International outdoor suppliers to secure some of the best technical products for hire or purchase. This means piece of mind for you, comfort and reliability whilst in the field.

Drawing upon ten years experience in outdoor adventure activities; principally rafting and schools camps; and seven years travel and adventure retail management The Equipment Library can offer you the service and support  to outfit your family for all school camp, hiking or trekking activities.

We offer a range of delivery options to suit all budgets. Free delivery within 10km of our office, direct to door next day courier services and even a shop at home service.

We will come to your home, at a prearranged time that suits you. We will fit and size all the equipment you require at no additional charge. We offer this service to the following suburbs:Northcote, North Fitzroy, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Clifton Hill, Alphington, Brunswick, Thornbury, Preston, Ivanhoe, Kew and Balwyn.