- Sustainability as a central theme in the outdoor segment
- Recycled materials and a circular economy as state-of-the-art
- Sustainability is now increasingly embedded within companies
Recycled materials have proven to be an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional nylon fibers. In addition to the ability to recycle materials, the concept of the circular economy is moving into the spotlight—meaning that synthetic fibers are recycled over and over again. As an alternative to this, manufacturers are also moving to use more natural materials in the future. But in searching for ways to preserve nature as a stage for its various sports, manufacturers have discovered more than innovative processing methods. Along with manufacturing new products, they also want to address holistic topics and work together with NGOs to pursue social and ecological sustainability goals or adopt sustainable issues in their corporate objectives.
One trend that is gaining attention in the field of sustainability is the use of regenerated materials in the outdoor and sporting goods industry. Instead of conventional mesh, manufacturers are increasingly turning to Econyl—a 100 percent regenerated and regenerative nylon fiber made from nylon waste, such as discarded fishing nets, that is manufactured by the Italian company Aquafil. Partners from around the world work in a specially designed recovery program to supply Aquafil with suitable waste materials from landfills and oceans; through multiple processing steps, the scraps are manufactured into new nylon fiber, which does not differ from conventional nylon fiber in terms of its function—durability, breathability and tear-resistance—but it can be recycled over and over again and reformed. According to Aquafil, 10,000 tons of Econyl save some 70,000 barrels of crude oil and prevent 57,100 tons of CO2 emissions. The production of Econyl thereby reduces the greenhouse effect by approx. 80 percent compared to conventional nylon fibers; Econyl will be used by many manufacturers in their Summer 2020 collections.
Among others, the Austrian shoe maker Dachstein will use the material for the first time in the Urban active models from its Summer collection. These models feature a combination of recycled microfiber and regenerated Econyl materials. The lining is also made of recycled mesh and the sole is partly made with recycled rubber. California clothing maker Prana is foregoing the use of new polyester and nylon material beginning in the summer of 2020 and will use 100 percent Econyl for its new swimwear collection. adidas is continuing its work with the organization Parley for the Oceans and will present three products in exclusive Parley Editions at OutDoor by ISPO. One of these is the Terrex Free Hiker. The upper part of the shoe is made from recycled Parley Ocean Plastic, is breathable and lightweight. It can also adapt to the wearer’s foot shape thanks to adidas Primeknit.
German manufacturer Jack Wolfskin is also turning to recycled materials for its Summer 2020 collection. “Our 100 percent recycled and highly functional PES membrane, the world’s first, is especially notable,” says Daniele Grasso, Director of Apparel at Jack Wolfskin. Several models featuring the membrane are already available in the Winter 2019/20 collection. Beginning in summer 2020, the membrane will be rolled out with the entire Jack Wolfskin Texapore Ecosphere series, which mainly consists of jackets. American clothing manufacturer The North Face will use its proprietary Futurelight membrane for the first time in its Summer 2020 collection; this membrane was first introduced at ISPO Munich in 2019. The lightweight membrane is produced with nanospinning technology, which creates nanometer-sized openings that ensure a vapor-permeable, or breathable, yet also waterproof fabric. For its Summer 2020 collection, The North Face will use the membrane in the new Tente Futurelight jacket. In addition to the revolutionary membrane, the trail jacket features an outer fabric made of 100 percent recycled nylon material with a recycled polyester lining.
One important aspect of sustainability is the durability of products. The Earth’s resources are finite, and the longer consumers can use a product, the more resource and environmentally friendly it is. Many manufacturers are therefore turning to durable and well-conceived products that should last for generations. American water bottle manufacturer Klean Kanteen, for instance, has begun using a durable power coating. The Klean Coat is four times stronger than the original coating on Klean Kanteen products and will not flake off. Primaloft is also extending the lifespan of its products. In January, the American material technologies company introduced Primaloft Bio, the first synthetic fiber made from 100 percent recycled material that is also biodegradable. The company is now announcing that this material is renewable in keeping with the concept of a circular economy. A circular economy emphasizes waste minimization and the reuse of raw materials. The model is considered a sustainable alternative to the classic linear economy, in which the majority of the raw materials used are subsequently disposed of and only a small amount is reused.
In addition to recycled materials, manufacturers are also turning their focus to renewable resources from nature. In recent years, classics in this field were—and still are—Lyocell, also known as Tencel, made from eucalyptus wood, and merino wool. Beginning next year, for instance, the cycling clothing manufacturer Triple2 will use a combination of 64 percent merino wool and 36 percent Tencel for its jerseys. This will make the shirts very comfortable to wear. They will be made of 100 percent natural materials and be 100 percent biodegradable. Schöffel, on the other hand, is focused on a different natural material: coffee. The clothing manufacturer is turning textile fibers with recycled coffee grounds into the functional fabric S.Café. For summer 2020, the company based in the Bavarian city of Schwabmünchen is introducing the new S.Café Airmem. A lightweight membrane that is made of one-quarter coffee oil and thus integrates a natural, odor-reducing effect in jackets, among other things. The Bavarian sleeping bag manufacturer Grüezi Bag, on the other hand, introduces the Biopod DownWool Ice Compostable, a sleeping bag made from breathable nylon that can be almost 100 percent industrially composted in 200 days. This would take conventional polyester fabric some 400 years.
While manufacturers have occasionally aspired to produce sustainable products in recent years, sustainability aspects are now becoming more and more embedded in corporate philosophies and work processes. Among companies that have practiced sustainability for years are industry giants such as American outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, as well as smaller brands such as Icebug, which is the first climate-positive outdoor shoe brand. To that end, Icebug operates in accordance with the UN’s Climate Neutral Now initiative and, since the end of February 2019, offsets more emissions than it produces. German outdoor supplier Vaude focuses on sustainability, durability and ecological and social responsibility for its new products. In total, 81 percent of the Summer 2020 collection features the company’s own Green Shape Label, which covers the entire product lifecycle and stands for ecological materials, durable design and social responsibility. In Vaude’s new Urban Life collection, 40 percent of the models are GOTS-certified and 63 percent are made with natural materials. This collection also uses GOTS-certified natural colors, Natural Dye by Archroma Earthcolours. The Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, is the world’s leading standard for the manufacture of textiles made from organically produced natural fibers. Only textiles made from at least 70 percent organically produced natural fibers can be GOTS-certified.
Outdoor manufacturer Ortovox from Taufkirchen near Munich has also launched its own wool standard, the Ortovox Wool Promise, with the goal of greater sustainability throughout the business process; for OutDoor by ISPO, the company has launched a five year plan, called ProTact, which sets specific targets for its existing sustainability commitment. In addition to embedding sustainability targets in their corporate values, many outdoor manufacturers are also following the trend of supporting regional or global non-governmental organizations. American shoe maker Keen, for instance, is continuing its Better Takes Action campaign, and the Swedish company Primus, mainly known for its outdoor stoves, is offsetting all of its CO2 emissions resulting from the production of gas for its stoves and cartridges through an aid project in Uganda.