How to assess the ecological impact or benefits of a product?
The people who have done the most work – that I am aware of – is Patagonia. In attempting to develop a template of questions to consider when choosing a specific item, I have simply tweaked the criteria they use in their ‘Footprint chronicles’, an inspiring piece of work which should be the baseline standard for any company that is seeking to call itself green. Details here.
Of course, smaller and start-up enterprises lack the finances to do this level of work, but some form of baseline reporting on environmental performance should be normal practise for any commercial operation seeking to show that it is starting down the road to ‘sustainability’.
I am currently doing research on backpacks, starting with day packs, and would appreciate any information you may have on specific brands (and / or models, given that some companies are choosing to have a ‘green’ niche item in particular ranges). Please send anything relating to the following criteria, or other things that seem relevant.
You can send information for inclusion in this section to <firstname.lastname@example.org> or, if you prefer, just add a comment to the end of this section.
Sustainability criteria & selecting the ‘best’ packs:
This is the criteria I have been using, filling each section for each company – where I can find it – through the companies website or through direct contact with them. I then also attempt to categorise them in broad terms about how well the company is doing overall. I could have used a star system or any similar model, but have opted for 4 basic categories.
While there almost all companies are somewhere down the path towards ‘sustainability’ some are miles ahead of others. In a fairly crude attempt to categorise them, i have gone with the following labels:
- activist leader – this is a leading edge out door company, seeking to reduce ecological impacts of their product, provide fair working conditions, and support external conservation activity
- leader – seeking to be as sustainable as possible, but with a fair way to go
- getting there – starting to make some moves towards sustainability, but not getting a broad cross section of change
- laggard – barely bothering to move towards sustainability, or just having a few green niche lines rather than attempting systematic change.
- information on resources used – recycled materials, use of renewable materials, etc
- energy consumption
- carbon dioxide emissions
- distance traveled/ place(s) of production
- waste generated
- water consumption
- working conditions
- other environmental claims or benefits
- details on who stocks the item/ where to find it/ where to get further information
Check here for info on companies that make a range of products, including day packs.
At present this includes the following companies:
Berghaus – getting there (**)
Keen – activist leader (****) – they make bags rather than packs
Marmot – un-rated
Mountain Hardware – leader (***)
North Face – leader (***)
Osprey – un rated
Patagonia – activist leader (****)