Shopping ethically produced outdoor clothing is one of the most important ways you can support our planet and animals. Whether you’re searching for eco-friendly hiking boots, green insulation or ethical sleeping bags, here are some tips on selecting sustainable outdoor gear.
Why It Matters
When planning for a hiking excursion or winter camping trip, it’s essential to consider the environment and how your gear can be produced responsibly. Every piece of outdoor equipment leaves an impact on the environment, as there are various components involved in its production – from clothing and gear to tents and sleeping bags – that need to be considered when making decisions about its suitability for outdoor use.
One of the most pressing concerns is the use of chemicals, especially perfluorochemicals (PFCs), which have a detrimental impact on the environment. PFCs are commonly found in fabrics to make them water-repellent but they can also leach into the air when heated.
Detergents and toxic materials used in outdoor apparel manufacturing have become a major focus for many brands, leading to the Blue Sign Approved label – an easy way to identify clothing that has had these chemicals eliminated at the beginning of production.
The best ethical outdoor clothing brands take their environmental impact seriously and guarantee all products are produced with fair labor and manufacturing practices. Furthermore, these companies use eco-friendly materials and sourcing practices in the production of their gear.
Fair Labor & Manufacturing Practices
When shopping for ethical outdoor gear, it’s essential to verify the materials used in its production are eco-friendly. Furthermore, consider how those responsible for producing the clothing are treated and what standards they adhere to regarding their working conditions.
Many major outdoor clothing brands are taking steps towards sustainable production. They use third-party oversight groups that audit factories for compliance with fair labor standards on matters such as health and safety, hours of work and wages, freedom of association, and more.
Though these tools are not perfect, they provide consumers with a good starting point to ensure their purchases don’t contribute to human trafficking or slavery in supply chains. Unfortunately, many global apparel manufacturers do not treat their workers well abroad.
Recently, The Guardian reported that Lululemon’s main supplier KSI had been found to have engaged in forced labor violations at its factories in Chittagong, Bangladesh. This is not an isolated incident; it’s likely Patagonia, VF Corp. and REI collaborate with KSI as well.
Eco-Friendly Materials & Production
If you want to reduce the environmental impact when hiking, camping or rambling, ethical outdoor gear is key. This means avoiding plastic-based materials and seeking brands that use recycled and upcycled innovations as much as possible.
Eco-friendly fabrics can be sourced from a variety of sources, such as organic cotton, merino wool and responsibly sourced leather. Some brands strive to reduce water and chemical emissions during production – like Vaude who uses Ecolor dyeing processes that generate fewer greenhouse gases.
Other sustainable innovations include recycled polyester (known as post-consumer waste) which is commonly used in insulation, shoes and other clothing items. Some of the top brands also incorporate upcycled materials into their supply chains.
Outdoor gear often uses synthetic fibres that emit toxic gases and consume vast amounts of natural resources. Thankfully, many brands are taking steps to reduce these emissions through their own initiatives – such as using recycled materials, reducing packaging size and investing in energy-efficient equipment.
Cruelty-Free & Vegan
If you’re vegan or want to avoid using leather, fur, and other animal products in your outdoor gear, there are plenty of great alternatives. Many manufacturers now produce cruelty-free & vegan gear that looks and feels just as good as traditional leather and fur products.
An animal-free product is more than a marketing ploy; it ensures no animals were killed during production or testing of the item. Typically, you’ll see an official cruelty-free logo to indicate whether or not it was tested on animals.
To guarantee you are not spending money on products tested on animals, look into the ingredient list or ask the brand if they source from a company which adheres to ethical manufacturing practices and is cruelty-free.
You can look for a Responsible Down Standard label, which guarantees the down used in clothing and sleeping bags came from birds treated humanely. Some brands will even include a tag stating it’s free from live-plucking, which can be cruel and cause pain to the birds.
Recycled & Upcycled Innovations
When it comes to outdoor gear, people are understandably concerned about its environmental impact. They want it to be durable and functional but also ethically produced.
This indicates they prefer clothing made from plant and animal-based natural materials such as merino wool, organic cotton or hemp. These types of fabrics won’t have an adverse impact on the environment and will help combat climate change.
Outdoor clothing companies are now employing recycled and upcycled innovations to produce ethically produced products. This includes recycled polyester, repurposed insulation, reused packaging, as well as collected plastic rubbish.
To determine whether a brand uses recycled and upcycled innovations, look at the product itself. If it’s an outerwear item like a jacket, rucksack or sleeping bag, check to see if the material is made from 100% recycled polyester or a combination of virgin and recycled fabrics.
Another innovation that’s becoming more and more commonplace is renting outdoor gear instead of purchasing it new. This practice is especially prevalent in hiking and camping sectors where having access to extra gear can be advantageous over longer trips.
Top Ethical Outdoor Clothing Brands
If you want to protect the planet and safeguard your favorite outdoor spaces, opt for sustainable, ethically produced clothing and gear. Ethical brands place a strong emphasis on worker welfare during production.
Fjallraven, for instance, uses recycled materials and has pledged to phase out fluorocarbons by 2025. They also treat animals with respect and consideration.
When looking for ethical materials, opt for plant- and animal-based fibers like merino wool, down, organic linen or hemp. These eco-friendly fabrics won’t harm the environment and offer outdoor clothing options that won’t harm it.
Another important consideration is the production process. Many ethical outdoor clothing companies utilize circular practices such as upcycling old garments or using reusable packaging.
Additionally, select brands with a proven history of producing their products responsibly. They should be open about their supply chain operations, including manufacturing and logistics practices.
If you’re not sure where to begin when considering sustainable certifications for your brand, check their website for a list of common certifications. Popular ones include GOTS, B Corp, Higg Index and Rankabrand.
Sustainable Footwear for Adventures
When choosing outdoor footwear that is sustainable, look for shoes made with durable, high-quality materials. These will last a long time, keep your feet healthy and help reduce waste production.
One of our top sustainable shoe brands, SAOLA, creates comfortable sneakers out of eco-friendly and recycled materials like plastic water bottles. These shoes are great for daily wear as they’re breathable and stain-resistant.
The brand also uses algae foam for their insoles and outsoles, as well as organic cotton laces. All shoes are created in Spain using solar energy that powers the factory.
When purchasing sustainable clothing and shoes, it’s essential to check for certifications. These include GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and B-Corp Certified; both excellent indicators that a brand is producing its items with integrity without harming either the environment or animals.
Responsible Camping & Hiking Gear
When producing ethical outdoor gear it’s essential to take into account the environmental effects of your products. This includes how they’re produced and the materials they contain.
Eco-friendly products are those made from recycled or renewable resources, which also have a low carbon footprint.
Iameco, for instance, produces a touch screen computer with 70% less carbon footprint than the typical personal computer. Additionally, they manufacture clean generators and power chargers run on solar energy.
Other useful items include a plastic-free first aid box and stainless steel cutlery. These reusable items will help minimize waste while hiking, which is great for the environment in general.
For an environmentally friendly gift, Consider Notabag’s sustainable backpack. They aim to reduce overconsumption by designing a bag that doubles as both a backpack and when folded. Furthermore, Notabag is part of 1% for the Planet and donates part of their profits to Save the Children.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we have a responsibility to protect the environment and the animals that inhabit it. By choosing sustainable, ethically produced outdoor gear, we can reduce our environmental impact and support brands that place a strong emphasis on fair labor and manufacturing practices. From eco-friendly materials and production to cruelty-free and vegan options, there are many ways to ensure the gear we use is produced responsibly.
By educating ourselves on the impact of our gear and the practices of the brands we support, we can make more informed choices and promote a more sustainable and ethical outdoor industry. So, whether you’re planning a camping trip or shopping for new hiking boots, consider the impact of your gear and choose sustainable, ethically produced options that align with your values.