By Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson
As it becomes increasingly clear how fragile the connection between our natural environment and the health of our society really is, outdoor brands are investing more than ever in creating positive change by adopting manufacturing, distribution and resource recycling practices that reduce the environmental impact of our outdoor pursuits. From GoLite’s determination to become the greenest outdoor brand in the industry to Vermont Peanut Butter’s dedicated use of organically grown peanuts, many brands are finally going beyond offering a few “green” products and thinking big. While there is still much work to do, the following products are examples of how the outdoor industry is making progress.
Prices listed are the manufacturer’s suggested retail price; actual prices may vary by location.
GoLite is not merely trying to reduce its environmental impact as a manufacturer of outdoor gear. It aims to go beyond eliminating 100 percent of its environmental footprint and to produce a net-positive impact on our environment and society. These are lofty goals, but if there’s one brand that can pull it off, it’s GoLite. Its commitment to making products that allow you to do “more with less” has not only unleashed some of the lightest high-performance backpacks, shelters, and sleeping bags on the market, but it’s driving the company to develop backpacks like the Quest. A fully featured, 70-liter backpack—capable of going anywhere, in any season—the Quest is one of the first packs on the market to use a high-percentage (50 percent-plus) recycled fabric in its construction. By incorporating high percentages of recycled nylon and polyester in its products, GoLite is dramatically reducing the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing.
$175; Eastern Mountain Sports (Manchester, South Burlington, Rutland); Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington
La Sportiva FC ECO 3.0 GTX Hiking Boot
The FC ECO 3.0 GTX is a relatively lightweight, midheight hiking boot designed for day hikes and moderate backpack loads. It’s an especially durable and comfortable boot that fits more like a trail shoe than a hiking boot, and it handles a wide variety of trail conditions with ease. A Gore-Tex liner helps keep your feet extra dry too. The boot is available in men’s and women’s styles, has a Vibram outsole composed of 30 percent recycled rubber, an upper that uses 100 percent recycled nylon for the mesh, laces, and webbing, and a liner made with recycled materials. It’s a far cry from shoes made from 100 percent recycled material, but this shoe and others in the FC ECO line are a big step in the right direction for La Sportiva and the high-performance footwear market in general.
$150; Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington; Mountain Goat, Manchester
Isis Hang-Loose Capri
These are incredibly comfortable pants manufactured by Isis, made from an environmentally friendly blend of hemp and recycled polyester. Isis incorporated a bit of lycra into these pants, too, which improves their fit and ease of movement. The pants feature a removable draw cord, small front and back pockets, and a durable construction that wears longer than cotton. Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated fibers on the planet—a fiber, unlike cotton, that is often grown without the application of water-polluting pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
$65; Mountain Travelers, Rutland; Skirack, Burlington
SOLE Casual Flips
Save your wine corks! SOLE has helped to organize the ReCork program (www.ReCork.com), which aims to recycle cork for use in SOLE’s sandals, as well as other products. SOLE’s Casual Flips are not only extremely comfortable and certified by the American Podiatric Medical Association, they feature a footbed and midsole constructed from cork. The sandal strap also features a 50/50 mix of hemp and recycled polyester. SOLE uses a corn-based material for the retail packaging of its footbeds and sandals, and they continue to explore alternatives to petrol-based foam and adhesives used in some of its products.
$75; Skirack, Burlington; Skiershop, Stowe; First Trax Sports Shop, West Dover
Vermont Peanut Butter
This is without a doubt the best peanut butter we have ever tasted, and it’s especially cool that it’s made right here in Vermont. Featuring only organically grown nuts—nuts grown without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers—and totally free of hydrogenated oils and trans fats, Vermont Peanut Butter comes in a great variety of flavors. Our favorite is “Avalanche,” a rich and creamy peanut butter blended with white chocolate—a perfect addition to your food supply when heading out for a few days in the mountains or on the river. One especially tasty flavor—a unique blend of organic almond and peanut butters—is the “Mad River Mojo.” This is blended with Vermont honey, and the addition of antioxidant-rich dried cranberries and omega-three-rich flax makes for one outrageously tasty and nutritious nut butter. All of Vermont Peanut Butter’s flavors include the addition of 100 percent pure whey isolate, making these nut butters some of the most protein-rich on the market.
$6–$10 per jar; Pittsfield General Store, Pittsfield; Onion River Co-op, Montpelier
Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In
Extending the life of your valuable outdoor gear makes good environmental sense, and Nikwax’s various waterproofing and washing products offer one of the easiest and most environmentally sound ways to do just that. The TX Direct Wash-In works by immersing your entire garment into a nontoxic, water-based waterproofing solution. This process helps to rejuvenate the water repellency of the garment whenever it feels a bit worn. (We do this approximately once a year with most of our layers). This is also a great way to enhance the water-repellency of lighter-weight layers not necessarily designed for wet weather. Nikwax offers water-based waterproofing and washing solutions for gloves, sandals, climbing ropes, maps, wool, down, and other outdoor gear. Nikwax’s products are free of all fluorochemicals and volatile organic compounds.
$13; Pinnacle Ski and Sport, Stowe; Clearwater Sports, Waitsfield; Mountain Goat, Hanover, N.H.
Primus EtaPower Pots
Primus produces some of the finest cookstoves, lanterns, and camping accessories on the market, including several high-quality tents and pads. The company’s relatively new series of EtaPower Pots, available in five sizes (1 to 2.9 liters), are unique in that they are equipped with a nifty heat exchanger that will make any stove up to 50-percent more fuel efficient. This saves precious and increasingly expensive fuel, as well as time spent heating water and cooking, while helping to reduce the amount of fuel you’ll need to carry. The pots come with lids and pot-grabber handles, are constructed with hard-anodized aluminum, and feature a nonstick titanium surface on the inside. Combine these pots with one of Primus’ cookstoves, like the EtaPower MF stove, and enjoy some of the most fuel-efficient camp cooking on the planet.
$58–$78; Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington; Eastern Mountain Sports (Manchester, Rutland, South Burlington)
Big Agnes Encampment Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes has been a leader in the outdoor industry for utilizing eco-friendly alternatives to virgin and petrol-based materials, and for seeking alternative manufacturing practices that reduce waste, water pollution, and the carbon footprint of its products. Its Encampment sleeping bag is a roomy and highly functional, three-season sleeping bag made with 97-percent recycled synthetic fill. This bag is rated down to 15 degrees, has a built-in pillow pocket, and features an integrated sleeping pad sleeve so you will never roll off your pad again.
$145–$160; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, Brattleboro; Onion River Sports, Montpelier; Mountain Goat, Hanover, N.H.