What is the environmental impact of our outdoor gear?

Outdoor clothing and equipment brands have become increasingly fashionable amongst the younger generation. Walk down any street now and you’ll see North Face waterproofs jackets, Rab down jackets and Berghaus.

Walk into high street fashion chains that are more commonly associated with streetwear like Size and Urban Outfitters and you’ll see North Face and Patagonia.

Outdoor gear is cool, practical and many nature lovers and hikers enjoy investing into their outdoor gear for the love of sports and nature. However unfortunately there is a hidden cost that we pay with the outdoor gear we buy...

So what is the problem?

Greenpeace recently stated that hazardous chemicals were “widely present” in a range of outdoor gear it tested, from clothing and footwear to backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.

The typical rain jacket is coated with a layer of perfluorinated carbons, or PFCs. The chemistry is complex; the carbon-fluorine bonds of PFCs are some of the strongest bonds currently known. This strength prevents the chemical from easily breaking down both in the environment and within the human body. Eight-carbon chain PFCs (long chain, C8) have been the industry standard for years. They also bioaccumulate, meaning that their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs when you ingest them. In response to building scientific consensus, outdoor gear manufacturers have committed to replacing C8 PFCs with short-chain C6 PFCs, which are thought to be less persistent environmentally.

All that cool comes at a cost...

What makes PFAS so effective is also what makes them so harmful to human health. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals,” which means they do not biodegrade, instead they just accumulate in the environment and our bodies. Fish die off, cows get tumors and many more harmful effects are happening without us even noticing.

In conclusion : While we think we are enjoying nature and being outside doing outdoor activities being healthy and connected with our environment, we actually pollute the surroundings with our outdoor gear and the chemicals that we wear on our body.

So what's being done?

Gear manufacturers gathered together under the umbrella of the Outdoor Industry Association in 2006 to better address the environmental characteristics of their products. The OIA Sustainability Working Group was put together to create sustainability and corporate social responsibility mandates that are slowly but surely changing how our outdoor products are being produced. One result of their efforts was the creation and widespread adoption of the Higg Index, a standardised way to translate a product's sustainability characteristics into a measurable performance standard. According to the OIA, the Higg Index is "an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain." Using this tool helps companies lessen their impact on the environment and quantify their social impacts as well.

So what can you do?

It all starts by educating ourselves. Reading about which brands are working toward sustainability goals is a start. Look for your favorite brand's corporate stance on environmental issues. Brands likePatagonia have dedicated websites for this very issue. Columbia and The North Face, too, have taken a stand. Reaching out to companies through their contact pages to ask questions and make your concerns heard lets them know their customers are interested in these issues. Rather than buying ten different brands and items, invest in long term sustainable pieces from brands and pay caution to greenwashing.

How does Kleiderly help to reduce the problem?

We at Kleiderly always try to stay up to date with the latest Fashion innovation, materials and ways we can spread awareness about those problems on our platforms.

We love to know more and share this knowledge with our audience and our material is one of the ways we are helping to reduce the environmental footprints of the fashion industry.

Sources:

https://phys.org/news/2016-01-toxic-chemicals-outdoor-gear-greenpeace.html

http://detox-outdoor.org/en/about-pfc/

http://apparelcoalition.org/the-higg-index/

https://www.gq.com/story/outdoor-gear-pfas-study?utm_source=Vogue+Business&utm_campaign=c0ef30f1c9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_01_18_03_48&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5d1e7914df-c0ef30f1c9-58193528

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/25/toxic-chemicals-found-in-most-outdoor-gear

https://www.outdoorproject.com/articles/challenge-ethical-outdoor-consumer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaK3koLyChE&t=207s

https://www.kleiderly.com/our-blog/greenwashing-explained

https://www.kleiderly.com/material

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