The Conundrum of the Outdoor Gear Industry

The Conundrum of the Outdoor Gear Industry

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As I transition away from synthetic hygiene or food products, I am constantly reminded of a glaring contradiction in my own consumer history: My gear.

There are certain companies in the outdoor tech industry that have an environmentally-focused conscience. Patagonia, Prana, EcoGear, Merrell, Klean Kanteen, Black Diamond, and a few others focus their business practices on protecting the world that their gear is meant to be used in, but it is definitely not an industry standard. This troubles me.

Materials like Gore-Tex, Polyester, Lycra, DWR coating, Velcro, Nylon, Pertex, and many others are far from natural. Many are by-products of the petroleum industry and fuel our growing need for non-renewable plastics.

Should the outdoor gear industry be able to thrive on its consumers’ belief that their purchases are in some way environmentally sound because they promote conscious use of our natural spaces? Does providing consumers with the gear necessary to explore those spaces outweigh the actual environmental impact of those products and the companies that make them? Do “outdoorsy” companies like REI, Mountain Hardwear, or Outdoor Research have an obligation to support business-practices that protect the environment that they are meant for?

Companies like Arc’teryx or The North Face already have a consumer base that values the environment. Most of their products are sold to people who intend to use them to access the Great Outdoors. In my mind, that means that their consumer base is more likely to enact change that would support the environment. Their purchasing power is already geared towards the environment, so why not make the products they are buying more environmentally-conscious?

Even though many outdoor gear companies turn a blind eye to their environmental impact, they have an even greater responsibility to promote practices that will preserve the environment for coming generations. They have an opportunity to enact major change, yet they are passive.

Vote with your dollar. Support companies who are making that difference.

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