The Rise of Sustainable Winter Sports Equipment

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Amidst winter’s embrace, with snow enthusiasts preparing for the slopes, a subtle revolution quietly unfolds in the realm of winter sports equipment. The rise of sustainable gear isn’t just a trend; it’s a movement towards a greener, more environmentally conscious way of enjoying the wintry outdoors.

Sustainability Matters: Why It’s Important

As winter sports enthusiasts, we are inherently connected to nature and rely on our planet’s health to enjoy our favorite activities. Choosing sustainable gear acknowledges this interdependence, recognizing that our passion should not compromise the ecosystems we adore. By prioritizing environmentally conscious brands, winter athletes play a crucial role in ensuring the longevity and vitality of the natural spaces we love to explore, ski, and snowboard. It’s a responsibility and an opportunity to protect the playgrounds that inspire us.

Championing Change: Outdoor Companies Making a Difference

Within outdoor brands adopting circular economy practices and embracing recycled materials, standout trailblazers lead the charge toward sustainable winter sports equipment.

Ortovox stands out as a sustainability beacon dedicated to transparent and responsible practices. Their Protact initiative embodies a comprehensive approach to sustainability, from sourcing wool with high animal welfare standards to minimizing environmental impact in production. Actively engaged in fair trade and ethical partnerships, Ortovox supports local communities and ensures fair wages. Their organization reached significant milestones while maintaining a 100% PFC-free, climate-neutral collection since winter 2022/23.

Ortovox’s commitment to sustainability extends deep into the heart of its products, with a particular emphasis on the wool supply chain. Since 2011, they have supported Swiss alpine farmers, integrating climate-neutral insulating fibers into their products. Following this up, in 2017, Ortovox initiated the Ortovox Wool Promise (OWP). OWP covers an extensive range to ensure sheep truly thrive. From farm and land management, animal welfare, and transport to slaughter, Ortovox works closely with Tasmanian farmers to attain 100% Mulesing-free wool (negating a process that causes unnecessary pain and stress). Through these efforts, Ortovox sets a commendable standard, proving that environmental consciousness and high-performance gear can coexist.

Swisswool’s ethically raised sheep grazing the Swiss Alps.

Patagonia is another transformative outdoor company that exemplifies a commitment to transparency and ethical sourcing. Their meticulous examination of the hidden costs of clothing emphasizes the fashion industry’s environmental impact, prompting a revolutionary change within their company. Patagonia tackles these challenges by implementing eco-friendly and circular business practices. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program is a great example. It is taking a big step towards accessing its product’s entire life cycle by encouraging second-hand use and recycling of clothing. Patagonia moves toward marketing both new and old items—newly recycled and classic refurbished—promoting a new way to efficiently scale and profit while slowing the rapid cycle of continuous production in fast fashion.

This dedication extends across their supply chain, boasting achievements like 98% of fabrics made with preferred and recycled materials. 100% of the down is responsibly sourced, 100% of the virgin cotton in their clothes is grown organically, and 92% of the materials with water-repellent chemistries are PFC- and PFAS-free. Through these initiatives and more, Patagonia continues to pave the way for sustainable and responsible business practices in the outdoor industry. Through carbon-negative goals and ongoing activism efforts, outdoor companies are leading the charge toward sustainability in the outdoor trade.

Worn Wear program refurbishing and recycling clothing to be resold and cherished by another owner. Photo Credit: ©Drew Smith
Worn Wear program refurbishing clothing to be resold and cherished by another owner.
Image courtesy of Patagonia

Navigating ‘Greenwashing’ in Winter Gear

Not all that glitters is green. In the world of sustainable winter gear, navigating through ‘greenwashing’ practices becomes crucial to making informed and eco-conscious choices.

Greenwashing occurs when companies exaggerate or misrepresent their environmental efforts to appear more sustainable than they are. Greenwashing tactics in the winter sports industry can be subtle and misleading, making it crucial for consumers to stay informed. Some companies engage in greenwashing by emphasizing a single eco-friendly aspect of their product while overlooking other environmentally harmful practices. An example is a brand that promotes recycled material in its ski jacket but fails to mention the carbon-intensive manufacturing process or the non-recyclable components in other parts of the product.

Consumers can discern authentic sustainability efforts from mere marketing strategies by delving into a company’s practices and scrutinizing its entire production cycle to counter this. ‘Green Badges’ or ‘eco-labels’ are certifications that typically indicate that a product has undergone assessments related to its environmental impact, considering factors such as resource use, production processes, and overall ecological footprint. These badges help alleviate consumers’ need to research every aspect of a brand’s production cycle and separate genuine eco-friendly products from those that merely claim to be. By fostering awareness and skepticism, individuals can become empowered advocates for the environment, encouraging transparency and accountability within the winter sports industry.

Decoding the Green Badges

Trying to decode the enigmatic ‘green badges’ adorning your winter gear is an essential step toward a more sustainable outdoor adventure. Understanding the significance behind labels like bluesign® approved, Fair Trade Certified, Better Cotton Initiative, Responsible Down Standard, and many more empowers winter sports enthusiasts to make environmentally conscious choices.

Keep an eye out for these prevalent green badges as verification of ethical and sustainable products.

When a product bears the bluesign® approved label, it signifies that the entire manufacturing process—from raw materials to finished product—adheres to stringent environmental and ethical standards. Fair Trade Certified indicates fair wages and ethical treatment of workers, fostering social responsibility. The Better Cotton Initiative promotes sustainable cotton farming practices, while the Responsible Down Standard ensures the humane treatment of animals in the down supply chain. And exploring what it truly means when a product boasts recycled materials sheds light on the circular economy, reducing waste and conserving resources. With this knowledge, outdoor enthusiasts can confidently choose winter gear that aligns with their commitment to sustainability.

Charting the Future: What Does Sustainability Look Like?

The future of sustainable winter sports equipment holds exciting possibilities as innovative technologies and materials continue to emerge. Companies are exploring alternative materials like plant-based plastics, recycled fabrics, and bio-based composites to reduce their environmental footprint. Additionally, advancements in design and manufacturing processes are leading to gear that’s not only high-performing but also environmentally conscious. For instance, there’s a growing focus on modular designs that allow users to replace specific components, extending the lifespan of the gear.

Much of the outdoor industry is departing from the traditional linear waste model and adopting circular economy principles. This shift involves designing products that can be recycled and reused, and repurposing waste into new items with multiple use cycles. As sustainability becomes a non-negotiable factor in consumer choices, the industry further commits to innovation that ensures future winter sports gear will deliver on performance with a minimal eco-footprint.

The Outdoor Industry’s Responsibility

Grounded in a profound link to nature, the outdoor industry bears a unique responsibility to guide by example. Integrating eco-friendly practices and impactful initiatives motivates consumers to partake in forging a more ecologically balanced world. By setting stringent standards, the outdoor sector, alongside consumers, becomes a driving force, compelling other industries to prioritize sustainability and foster a snowball effect of positive environmental impact.

Let’s embrace a new era where every carve in the snow leaves a positive mark on the planet. Join us at Jans on this journey towards greener slopes, one sustainable gear choice at a time.

By Broc Helgeson, Content Writer,

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List of Green Badges