Posted July 1st, 2007
By Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson
Every once in a while, when you can’t find what you need at the local gear swap, your favorite thrift store or in your best friend’s attic, you might have to break down and buy something new. Although acquisition of new “stuff” is inherently not so eco-friendly, more and more manufacturers are taking big steps to minimize the impact of our material consumption on the environment. From solar power to charred bamboo, much of the outdoor industry is trying its best to walk the talk about not only enjoying the places we all love, but doing something to help protect them, too. Here is some gear you can feel good about spending your hard-earned money on, because the companies that make these products are also making an effort to tread lightly on the environment.
Ahnu Men’s and Women’s Tamalpais, $90
The fledgling Colorado-based Ahnu is playing a lead role in the footwear industry by producing some of the most environmentally and socially responsible shoes on the market. Their shoes are produced in one of just 31 factories that have SA8000 accreditation – the gold standard for social responsibility – and their packaging and paper needs are thoughtfully minimized. The Tamalpais shoe is lightweight and versatile, well suited for light hikes, easy trail runs or pedaling a bike around town. It’s a comfortable, breathable, fast-drying shoe that features a non-marking sole and a single-pull lace system. Ahnu’s multi-sport and sandal-like Tilden is also worth checking out. It features recycled polyester and charred bamboo.
Ibex Shak Full Zip, $145
We are lucky here in Vermont to have a company like Ibex that is bucking the trend toward oil-based, synthetic fabrics for outdoor apparel. They are finding new ways to use wool to produce attractive, super-comfortable, high-performance outdoor clothing. Ibex gets all of its wool from family farms in New Zealand that are part of a Merino wool co-op. The Shak Full Zip can be used as a light jacket or as a warm mid layer. Its densely knit wool weave is a good wind barricade.
Patagonia – Eco Rain Shell, $190
Patagonia remains a world leader when it comes to environmental and social responsibility at the corporate level. The Eco Rain Shell is Patagonia’s new 2-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket that draws entirely on recycled polyester for both its outer fabric and mesh liner. It’s a mid-length shell featuring a zip-off hood; a soft, skin-friendly microfleece windflap over the chin; a drawcord hem; and ample pocketing. Patagonia’s long-term goal is to produce their entire line from recycled material. In 2005, they launched a Common Threads Garment Recycling Program, through which customers can return all Capilene base layers, Patagonia fleece, and Polartec fleece from other manufacturers for recycling. Head to Patagonia’s website for more info and an inspiring video about the program.
Solio Portable Hybrid Solar Charger, $99
Instead of charging your cell phone, iPod, digital camera and other portable device batteries with costly and unnecessary electricity, tap into the sun. Solio uses three mini solar panels to soak up and store the sun’s energy in a built in lithium-ion battery. The entire charger can be easily carried on long paddling and hiking trips, or suction-cupped right to your window at home so that you always have some energy stored up. When connected to your existing charging device, the Solio lithium-ion battery will release its stored solar energy to charge your device reliably and efficiently. The Solio is designed to achieve a net energy benefit over its lifetime, and to achieve this goal, Solio has taken many important steps to minimize and offset the energy it uses while getting raw materials and during manufacturing. Find out more at Solio.com.
LaraBar Jocolat, $2/bar
If you like chocolate, need a little on-the-go energy, and want to do good things with your money, Jocolat is calling you. This delicious little bar features Fair Trade certified and organic chocolate, plus 100 percent organic and GMO-free fruit and nuts. Each bar contains up to six simple nutritious ingredients without added sugars, and Jocolat is free of dairy, soy and gluten. Flavors include Chocolate Orange, Chocolate Coffee, Chocolate Mint and Chocolate.
Sundance Solar Shower (5 Gallon), $15
If you haven’t tried a solar shower, you are missing out – and consuming a lot more oil, gas or electricity in the summertime than necessary. Doubling as a portable and relatively durable water bag for camping, the solar shower is merely a water bag with a flexible shower hose and spigot that heats up very nicely when left out in the sun for approximately three hours. Hang it up somewhere practical and be ready to enjoy your very own outdoor shower. We often dip in the creek to rinse off after a long run or ride, and then use the solar shower for a good wash up. And just imagine – a hot shower while camping!
Teko Socks, $10-15
Teko has joined the growing contingent of clothing and outdoor gear manufacturers that bring environmental responsibility to new levels. They start by using only the most eco-friendly materials they can find, produced right here in the USA, and then create some of the most comfortable socks on the market, including Tasmanian EcoMerino wool, organic Supima cotton, EcoPoly recycled polyester fabric, and Ingeo, the world’s first factory-made fiber put together from 100 percent renewable resources. Then, after taking great steps to reduce the energy demanded by their office, manufacturing and packaging sectors, they purchase wind credits to ensure that 100 percent of the
energy they do consume gets put back into the grid in the form of clean, renewable energy. Your feet and your green-conscious self will be delighted.
Timberland Greenscapes Mountain Sneaker (Men’s), $85
Timberland is also taking important steps to meet the growing demand for eco-conscious footwear and apparel. Featuring fast-growing hemp, organically tanned full-grain leather, and shoelaces made from recycled plastic pellets, you can feel really good about slipping into the Greenscapes Mountain Sneaker. Even the shoe’s outsoles are made from recycled outsole cuttings, thanks to Vibram’s EcoStep program. A washable footbed features a wool covering for moisture wicking and barefoot-like comfort. Thanks to the shoe’s hand-sewn “stitch out” construction, they are built without adhesives or harsh chemicals.