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3 Ways to Love the Earth and Still Have Cool Gear

Revamp your gear strategy this Earth Day.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

Gear. We love it. We have to have it. It keeps us safe, keeps us warm, and gets us outdoors.

Here at The Outbound, we love gear, but we love our planet, too. On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are looking at ways to reduce our environmental impact while not sacrificing safety or comfort. 

Here are three ways to love the planet while still having the gear you need to enjoy the outdoors.

1. Make sure you need it.

Photo by Sonja Saxe | 72 Hours Exploring the Olympic Peninsula

Are you buying a piece of gear because you need it, or because you "need" it?

The lifecycle of a product starts way before you bring it home. From the raw resources extracted for its production to the by-products of its transport (not to mention all the steps in-between), every piece of clothing and gear has an impact much deeper than you see.

Lighten the load on the Earth a bit by making sure that you're buying something you need. Measure your love for adventure by the experiences outdoors and not if you have the latest and greatest gear. Get what you need for safety and comfort, and forget the rest. Your adventurous friends won't mind, and those that do, well...how many friends do you really need?

2. Buy used, and repair your gear.

Photo by Jason Hatfield | Kayak Aialik Glacier

When your quiver needs something new, or a piece of your existing gear breaks, look to the most sustainable options. 

Can you gear be fixed? Check with the manufacturer first. Some, like Patagonia, offer repair services at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. Patagonia repairs over 100,000 pieces per year in 72 repair centers across the globe. They also travel, setting up booths at events where you can drop off something that is broken and pick it up once it's fixed. 

If the manufacturer doesn't offer a fix, look locally to find a seamstress, welder, or machine shop who can. Don't risk your safety, but when you can repair, do.

If a piece of gear is beyond hope, or you're looking for something you don't already own, search around for someone selling it used. There are online marketplaces that specialize in used gear (REI and Patagonia both have them, and there are community sites like GearTrade), but don't overlook local listings on sites like Craigslist and Facebook, too.

3. Purchase sustainably.

Photo by Christin Healey | 10 Images from Our Fall Adventure in Magical Yosemite

If purchasing new is your only option, seek out brands that focus on sustainably made and quality gear. Look for clothing and equipment that is well made and built to last — gear that will stay with you for the long haul and can be repaired if things go wrong.

Some brands have been dealing in sustainability for a long time, while others are just dipping their toes into the water. Show these brands you value their commitment (and call to tell them, if you'd like...they love to hear things like that!). 

Not sure where to start? Here are a few places to look for brands that focus on sustainably and/or the environment:

  • 1% for the Planet: The 2,000+ members of 1% for the Planet donate 1% of their gross sales to environmental solutions in the form of monetary contributions, in-kind donations, and promotional support. Each brand also offers partnership advising to other companies that care for the environment.
  • Certified B Corporations: B Corporations, or B-Corps as they are known, is a business structure that balances purpose and profit. Under their incorporation, they are legally required to consider the impact of their business on the environment, the community, and their suppliers, customers, and workers. Check out a directory of B-Corps here.
  • Climate Neutral Certification: Brands that carry the "Climate Neutral Certified" label on their products have dedicated themselves to measuring, reducing, and offsetting the carbon generated in the making and delivery of their products. 

Photo by Liam McNally | Patagonia Powder Bowl Jacket Review

Looking for more specific examples? Here are some sustainable brands that we love:

  • Patagonia is the OG of sustainable gear, tackling everything from responsible supply chains, gear repair, and using recycled materials, to funding environmental initiatives. Their new ReCrafted line takes pieces of old Patagonia gear and fashions them into something new.
  • Swedish company Fjällräven focuses on sustainable design, materials, and production, and is dedicated to building products that last. Their materials include recycled and recovered wool, recycled polyester and nylon, and recycled cotton. 
  • Costa Sunglasses' Kick Plastic campaign works to reduce the amount of plastic they use as a company, reduce single-use plastic finding its way into waterways, and to mobilize action inside and outside the optical industry. They also have a sunglass frame line made of 100% recycled fishnet.
  • Cotopaxi's product lifecycle tracking and bold, sustainable designs set them apart from the pack. Also, they are also a Certified B-Corp and put 1% of their revenue toward "addressing poverty and supporting community development." 
  • Prana was the "first North American apparel brand to product Fair Trade Certified clothing," a move that directly supports the farmers who make the materials and the factory workers who bring them to life as a new cloth or product. They also focus on using recycled materials, responsible down, and organic where possible.

Cover photo by Christin Healey

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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