Most major companies produce gear across a range of categories – eg clothing, packs, bags and so on. So all the companies I have details on are included here and then they will also be listed in the relevant product category section (eg water bottles). NB: as yet I have not incorporated all the back pack and bottle info into this category.
This will be developed, as time allows. Last update: November 5, 2011.
This is not intended to be a thorough analysis of all available products – I will seek to highlight good developments or more sustainable options for specific lines of outdoor gear as I become aware of them, and identify places in Australia to source these items, where I can. Where people express differing opinions to mine, I will post their comments in that section.
Obviously, always remember to do your own research. I cannot vouch for every claim made by producers or retailers of goods. Mostly the info I have here is lifted directly from the companies website. Most of this you have to take on face value as in most instances there is no real way of checking the claims – except where there is external accreditation or verification, as is the case with some of the labor conditions outlined here.
There is no financial connection between myself and anything advertised or mentioned here. I would assume that anyone posting items would declare if they have a vested interest in any product they are writing about.
The companies that have been profiled to date: (check right hand index for the direct link)
Aarn Aotearoa – not rated
Arc’teryx – getting there (**)
Berghaus – getting there (**)
Cactus Climbing Equipment – un rated
Cloudveil – un rated
Columbia – getting there (**)
Gondwana clothing – getting there (**)
Icebreaker – un rated
Kathmandu – laggard (*)
Keen – activist leader (****)
Macpac – un rated
Mammut – leader (***)
Marmot – leader (***)
Mont – laggard (*)
Mountain Hardware – leader (***)
Mountainsmith – un rated
North Face – leader (***)
One Planet – getting there (**)
Osprey – un rated
Pacific Outdoor Equipment – un rated
Patagonia – activist leader (****)
Snowgum – un rated
Timberland – leader (***)
Wilderness Wear – leader (***)
How to assess the ecological impact or benefits of a product?
A key question in all of this is what makes one product more ‘sustainable’ than another. In attempting to set some parametres about how to consider this question, I looked around at the work being done by the leaders in the field.
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’.
Below is the criteria I have been using, filling each heading 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.
Please remember I am just a guy with an interest in the topic, not a research department. I have approached many companies and asked for extra info where it is not available on their websites. But I am sure I will be making mistakes.
· 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
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.
While almost all companies are attempting to head 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 the ecological impacts of their product, provide fair working conditions, and support external conservation activity (4 stars)
· leader – seeking to be as sustainable as possible, but with some way to go (3 stars)
· getting there – starting to make some moves towards sustainability, but not getting a broad cross section of change (2 stars)
· laggard – barely bothering to move towards sustainability, or just having a few green niche lines rather than attempting systematic change. (1 star)
· un-rated – where I don’t have enough information to feel confident to make a call.
I am sure this will be the bit that gets me most into trouble. If you feel aggrieved at my rating, then please send me info to show I have my research wrong and I will – as they say – “cheerfully refund” my previous assessment. I am after all, going off what I can find or what information companies send me. I should point out that almost everyone I have approached has been most helpful in sending material through.
Technical aspects of outdoor products
I make no attempt to assess how good a product is in terms of it’s use in the field. There are many independent websites – plus the actual manufacturers sites – that provide this info.
Some sources of technical reviews:
Wild magazine does regular equipment surveys.
Gear Junkie (USA).
THE COMPANIES – see links below
Retailers are included here where they have a ‘home brand’ range.