Reduce, Re-use, Repair, Recycle
The Outdoor industry has long attracted those with a love of nature. But is this love, or being comfortable in the outdoors, killing that which we love. The use of chemicals, plastics, the throw-away society, travel the the growing demand for infrastructure in outdoor areas might just be destroying the outdoors, and ourselves.
But what can we do about it?
Make a conscious, informed decision about how you want to get outdoors. One of my favourite marketing outings in the outdoor industry has long been the opening line in the old catalogues from Klattermussen. "Don't but a new jacket unless you really need one." Peter Askaluv was one of the first outdoor designers to look at the effect on people and environment from the gear he was making. He was one of the first brands to move away from ePTFE membranes due to the increased incidence of infertility of workers working in factories where it was produced. He fought for better flouro-carbon free impregnations for waterproof clothing, natural techniques for dying material, and wanted to see the old gear that was worn out in order to make the next version even better and more durable.
Patagonia has for years been pushing the same idea. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's founder, set up 1% for the Planet, whereby companies can pledge and donate 1% of their profits ( generally about 7% of the turnover ) to projects which help maintain or re-juvenate outdoor areas. The also moved over to organic cotton 20 years ago and are currently trying to remove all petro-chemicals from their wetsuit production, looking instead towards natural rubber. And most recently, rolling out the repairs facilities around the world. Take a look at the video series Worn Wear: A Film About the Stories We Wear. Presented by Patagonia
Vaude has also played a strong role into this field, both in terms of Fair-trade and the Bluesign label, looking at working conditions for those making their gear and the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.
Question yourself if you really need to replace that old jacket, just because the zip springs open, or maybe just replace the runner. If you do end up replacing it, look at the functionality instead of just the weight. A heavier facing fabric will generally be more wear resistant, but also keep beading longer, needing less re-impregnation. Wash your gear regularly to keep it in optimal shape. Shit on it and it will shit on you when you really don't need it - give it a bit of love on a regular basis and it will keep on loving you. Also look in your closet to see what you already have and how they can compliment any new addition. 1 + 1 = 3.
If your gear is completely worn out, how can you reuse it for other tasks or if need be recycle the material.
Look at the materials that can be used instead of just what you are used to. Not all jackets need to be waterproof. Waterproof means, depending on where you are, the the material can withstand a hydrostatic head of 1500mm ( 1200 in the US ). This is the amount of pressure the a rain drop exerts on a flat surface when it falls. Most outdoor membranes are rated between 3000 and 20000. Snow is dry by definition, and so gear for in the snow doesn't have to be waterproof. EtaProof, and organic cotton, was developed during the second World War. A double layer could keep the water out for up to an hour, when used an an immersion suit.
Look at where you are going. Do you really need to go to the other side of the world, when you haven't been in your own back-yard. Look global - thing local. I love kayaking through the canals of Amsterdam - I can put in 100m from my front door. And yet most people I know who paddle in the Netherlands are white water paddlers - there is no white water in the Netherlands!
And when you get out there, do you really need to stay in a hut. Why not pitch a tent? Get even closer to nature. Just remember to not leave a trace. Even if it means carrying someone else's trash. Don't leave it as you found it - leave it cleaner.