Cactus is a small operation that is based in Christchurch, New Zealand, that prides itself on making functional and aesthetic gear: “Our aim is to design and build durable, useful products. We do this by utilising quality fabrics and components”. It makes its equipment in NZ. While they have a strong focus on design principles and use a range of natural materials in their products, they are not billing themselves as being particularly focused on environmental sustainability. In their publically available information (ie, their website), they take a fairly simple approach to their operation – effectively saying: its good stuff, made locally, and it will last a long time.
They make a wide range of outdoor gear, including packs, clothing, climbing mats, shoulder and laptop bags and other accessories.
I like their honed down approach to equipment and sense of aesthetics – no un-necessary gadgets and bits and pieces, just the stuff relevant to the intended purpose of the item. I’m not sure that the various statements about China (poor conditions, dirty power, etc) really add that much to their claims of being a good company making robust gear. They don’t go into the sustainability criteria in any detail, although note that they are always looking for “more friendly processes and materials”.
- reporting framework: how does the company benchmark what it does/ reports? Does it use one of the international accredited systems
Just a generic reference to NZ having good labour and environmental protection legislation.
- information on resources used – recycled materials, use of renewable materials, etc
They use a wide range of natural materials in their products. No specific information that I could find on use of recycled material, etc. They do state that they are currently researching natural fibre fabrics for clothing and packs.
- energy consumption & carbon dioxide emissions
They have a very generic statement about energy sources: “Here in the South Island of New Zealand we can be positive that our energy supply is fairly benign. Obviously energy production has a continuum in terms of environmental impacts and here in New Zealand we have the Resource Management Act which ensures that any development doesn’t harm the environment”.
This is simplistic, as it misses an obvious and very real discussion about what the source actually is – just because its locally produced does not make it benign.
But making gear that will last (thereby reducing the need to buy something new and hence use a new set of resources) is an underlying principle: “Making a product to endure is of primary importance. We use synthetic materials with a high embodied energy and in order to justify this energy (and your investment), our products are designed with strength as the primary driving parameter. No light weight disposable products here”.
- distance travelled
Given that these products are made in NZ, then shipped directly to you when you order, it could be argued that the carbon footprint for people buying their product is going to be less than for gear coming from the northern hemisphere.
As they say on their website: “For our customers in Australasia at least we are providing a product made locally by local hands to be used locally”.
- waste generated
Another aspect of the design approach that I like is that they seek to ensure there are “no processes which would hinder repair. Better to fix than throw out”. Design to facilitate repair is – as far as I can see – an increasingly rare practise amongst many outdoor companies.
Further information on their design principles here.
- water consumption
- working conditions
“We make stuff in our own and independently owned factories in New Zealand
“Our workers have much legislation protecting their rights, earn an honest wage and have regular holidays and extra entitlements. We also encourage them to take part in discussion about how we do things and what would make our workplace better”.
As with their statement about energy sources, this is a bit dis-ingenious. After all, how many sweat shops are there in Australia, who manage to have workers producing clothing in poor conditions in spite of all the legislation that is on the table? I am not at all suggesting this is the case with Cactus, far from it. But just to make off the cuff statements about an issue as important as wages and working conditions is not all that helpful. Still, I do acknowledge their statement: “We are a VERY small company. But yes we are big enough to employ a few people and we like to think we treat them with respect”.
- other environmental claims or benefits
- details on who stocks the item/ where to find it/ where to get further information
In Australia, Cactus is distributed by
Soulfree Adventures, based in Victoria
ph (03) 5341 2590