Jans expert, Jeff Walker skiing at Deer Valley, UT

A Guide to Sustainable Ski Clothing

Innovation has always been at the heart of skiing. In the last few decades, almost no aspect of skis or ski gear has remained unchanged. We’ve seen our skis get lighter, wider, and assume a plethora of shapes to choose from. Likewise, our outerwear and protection have evolved as well. And, in an effort to prevent the depletion of materials and resources vital to skiing, many of these changes have begun to incorporate sustainability.

In short, sustainability involves the development of resources at a level that matches their consumption. The goal of sustainability is to promote the coexistence of human civilization and the natural biosphere. For example, a sustainable way to harvest lumber for building materials is to ensure that more trees are planted in place of the ones cut down. Maintaining this balance is a vital step to ensure we can continue to ski and produce ski equipment long into the future.

As it stands, we are consuming approximately 1.6 times our available natural resources. Contributing factors to the over-consumption of natural resources include recent and rapid increases in population, lack of environmental regulations, and inefficient industry practices. But it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of natural resources. More people than ever are committing their personal and professional efforts to creating a more sustainable world, and industries across the board are pioneering cleaner and more efficient ways to produce the things we use in our everyday life.

And the ski industry is no different. Because of skiing’s inherent connection to the natural world, ski brands across the globe are making the commitment to minimize their ecological footprints and maximizing their efficiencies.

Improvements in the Industry

One of the companies leading the charge at sustainably sourced ski gear is Patagonia. In their blog, The Cleanest Line, Patagonia boldly asks, “What if we could wear our garbage?” And while the question may sound comical or even repulsive, the sentiment behind it is a testament to their commitment to innovation.

Through their ReCrafted campaign, Patagonia is making garments from scraps of used clothing acquired by their Worn Wear facility in Reno, Nevada. This initiative was only launched recently, but this program and others like it are already allowing Patagonia to source 69% of their line from recycled clothing. With its ReCrafted initiative, Patagonia is sorting through used and damaged garments and repurposing aspects that are salvageable—pockets, sleeves, linings, and other components—that are then refurbished and given a second life as part of a new garment.

Patagonia Worn Wear Sidesend Jacket in green
Patagonia Worn Wear Sidesend Jacket. Image courtesy of Patagonia.

But Patagonia’s efforts go beyond repurposing pieces of used and faulty clothing. They’re also constructing fabrics with recycled polyester, recycled cotton, recycled cashmere, recycled down insulation, recycled wool, and mechanically and chemically recycled nylon. With these extensive efforts, they’re hoping not only to minimize their carbon footprint and contribution to landfills, but also to set a positive example for the rest of the clothing and outdoor industries. They note in their Footprint Chronicles that less than 1% of all material used to make clothing gets recycled or repurposed each year, and that for sustainability to be achieved—or even seriously attempted—that needs to change.

The good news is the efforts of companies like Patagonia to spread a message of sustainability throughout the industry seems to be working. Each season, more companies take up similar initiatives to produce less waste and use their resources more efficiently. Marmot, for example, recently launched a program called Upcycle, which turns low-quality raw materials, like plastic bottles, into the performance outerwear that Marmot is known for. And on top of that, the Upcycle collection now offers a complete shirt line that has been certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a globally recognized organization that’s setting the standard in sustainable textile production. The designation GOTS passed down to Marmot’s Upcycle program guarantees that the production method is ecologically and socially sustainable, ensuring consumers that they’re supporting a responsible manufacturer.

Marmot Featherless Jacket made with recycled nylon
Marmot Featherless Jacket with recycled nylon. Image courtesy of Marmot.

Another company that’s joining in the push for sustainability is Arc’teryx. It’s their hope to create sustainably sourced clothing with the same impassioned innovation and relentless durability as their products have always been known for. After becoming a bluesign system partner, Arc’teryx adopted a third-party global textile management system to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible use of materials in each step of their supply chain.

Arc’teryx has also integrated a sustainability rating system called the Higg Index into their manufacturing process. Developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg Index is a suite of tools that rank textile companies and products for sustainability. These rankings incorporate metrics like water usage, air emissions, chemical and waste management, and other environmental factors to rate the performance of a clothing brand or product. By publishing the metrics of a company’s Higg Index score, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition hopes to encourage accountability and transparency throughout the textile industry. As Greg Scott, Director of Product Integrity at MEC puts it, “How do we prioritize potential opportunities to make these products in a better way—to lower their footprint? If the entire industry works in that way, then we can set long-term strategic goals to make collective improvements and have significant, meaningful change.”

Looking Forward

Scott’s point is an important one, and it’s a vital aspect of the issue that’s often forgotten. In recent years, issues like sustainability, scarcity, ecological impact, and the climate have been contorted into everything from political ammunition to a generational divide. But it’s important to remember that sustainability isn’t about pointing fingers, drawing lines, or eschewing responsibility—it’s about making a simple, united effort to preserve the ecological integrity of our planet. The fact that many of our resources are limited and our methods of consuming them can have an impact on our environment is not a matter of speculation or debate, it’s a reality. So, the more we can do to stand together on the issue and support brands that are committed to preserving our planet, the better chance we have of passing our favorite outdoor activities on to future generations. And that’s something we can all get behind. Because, really, who would want to deprive future generations of the joy of scoring fresh powder turns?

If you’re interested in donating gear to Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, you can do so by visiting this link, where you can answer a few questions and receive instructions on how to donate. And if you have Arc’teryx gear you’d like to trade in to their program, you can visit this link to learn how.

By Jeff Walker, Content Writer

Additional Links

Patagonia products

Marmot products

Arcteryx products

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