Perhaps technical climbing gear will be one of the last frontiers of ‘sustainable’ production in the outdoor industry. While hardware can last for years – and tends to be based on alloys, which tend to be incredibly energy intensive – the area where there is high turnoff (that is, waste) is in the realm of ropes and slings, because of their limited life once they take a few falls.
The good news is that a number of companies are making huge leaps forward in terms of more sustainable production – especially with regards to ropes. Quite a lot of climbing equipment is still made in Europe, meaning working conditions are potentially easier to dictate. Although a growing number of climbing and alpine countries are focusing on, and talking about, developments in terms of lower ecological impacts of their products, there is only limited information available about the working conditions in production factories.
The following are some welcome developments in the realms of lower impact climbing gear.
About the company
Edelrid is a long established (it has been around for more than 146 years!) and well known climbing gear company. According to Edelrid, “the basic principles for the responsible production of innovative, high performance products, like climbing ropes, are quality and safety”.
It is the first rope company world wide to successfully certify its ropes under the stringent bluesign standard. This standard requires that all input streams – from raw materials, to chemical components, to water and energy resources – are analysed through a comprehensive ‘Input Stream Management’ process. Every component of the rope is assessed, from the yarn through to the treatment process, and receives a rating based on its eco toxicological impact. The aim is to eliminate potentially harmful substances before production even begins. The company says “we have worked on this with a lot of enthusiasm and passion and can say with a good conscience that our ropes are clean”.
Further information can be found about the bluesign system can be found here.
In recent times Elderid has won both the Outdoor Industry award in July 2009 in the category “products with high ecological and sustainable significance” and the ECO Responsibility Award at the Winter ISPO 2010.
The Kite rope
The Kite is one of the bluesign rated ropes they now produce. According to the company it is “the ultimate rope for climbing at the upper limit of today’s climbing grades. Minimal weight, small diameter, and optimum handling describe this specialist rope. The Pro Shield finish on the Kite repels moisture, dust and dirt, while the Thermo Shield treatment gives the rope the unique EDELRID handling properties of durability and suppleness. Not suitable for working routes or top rope climbing”.
Further information on their ropes can be found here.
Millet Triaxiale ropes
While Millet has pioneered the development of recycling facilities for old ropes in Europe, that is still a fair way off here in Australia.
But they have now also developed one of the ‘world’s first ecologically friendly’ rope, which might be a partial solution to the problem of having to get rid of an old rope.
It is being hailed as being produced in an ecologically sustainable manner, using reduced energy (66% compared with traditional rope manufacturing process), and fewer chemicals. Millett claim that the reinforced sheath and Triaxiale technology improves the lifespan of a rope by up to 25%.
Sadly its not available here – as far as I know. But maybe if we start asking at our favourite stores, it may start to appear.
Further information here.