Jul 27, 2022 - Business

Outdoor industry prioritizes gear repair to reduce climate footprint

Osprey backpacks on display at the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Show in Denver. Photo: John Frank/Axios
Osprey backpacks on display at the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Show in Denver. Photo: John Frank/Axios

The outdoor industry prides itself on being a leader in the global fight against climate change.

Yes, but: First they must look inward.

What's happening: Outdoor gear companies are putting renewed efforts into reducing their environmental footprint, particularly when it comes to their products.

What they're saying: "The model of continuing to always replace things creates this expectation with the consumer that everything can be tossed," explains Emily Kuhlman at Osprey Packs. "We are trying to reverse the waste-producing mindset and keep things alive as long as you can."

Zoom in: Osprey is setting the industry standard with its southwestern Colorado repair shop in Cortez, where 13 staffers work at sewing machines to fix broken zippers, torn fabric and other adventure mishaps. "If you have a good product, it just needs a patch and it can have a new life," Kuhlman told Axios.

The big picture: A similar mindset holds at Sea to Summit's North American headquarters in Boulder.

  • Barry Robertson, the brand's tech resources manager, said repair was the first choice for adventurers decades ago, and the trend is slowly regaining popularity.
  • "I think every company and every consumer should be looking at their [environmental] footprint," Robertson said. "The outdoor industry should be at the tip of the spear on this."

The other side: In Boulder, 37.5's Preston Brin is looking ahead. "Recycling is preferred, but the harsh reality is most of this will end up in the landfill anyway," he says.

  • His company is creating fabrics with enhanced biodegradation, using particles made from volcanic sand that also enhance performance.
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