The outdoor industry, with its focus on environmental and community stewardship that lies at the heart of the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy, has been a leader in environmental conservation, including the ongoing effort to support product and supply chain responsibility.
Toward this end, Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group recently released its first-ever State of Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry report that quantifies the industry’s long-time collaborative efforts to reduce the impacts of its products and processes.
Key issues for the outdoor market include chemicals management, animal welfare, microfiber shedding in oceans and waterways, and carbon reduction strategies. Sustainable materials and product design figure prominently in the equation, with 69 percent of the report’s respondents prioritizing their efforts accordingly.
With this in mind, here’s a rundown of sustainability breakthroughs in outdoor apparel and footwear that promise to have a transformative impact in the year ahead.
Adidas Outdoor ramps up Parlay program
Building on the successful launch of footwear and apparel made from recycled ocean plastic—the result of a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental and collaboration network that raises awareness of the fragility of the oceans and implements comprehensive strategies to halt their destruction—Adidas Outdoor will expand the platform in 2019.
The Parley program will now include ZeroDye and dope dye products. ZeroDye is a no-dye process that saves resources by using materials in their natural color. In dope dying, the fibers are fully impregnated with pigment prior to the knitting process. Both methods reduce pollution during production and save water, energy and other resources.
Allied Feather & Down adds transparency to the supply chain
Insulation specialist Allied Feather & Down recently relaunched its proprietary TrackMyDown.com website, a global educational and supply chain transparency tool that uses a hangtag and “lot number” at point-of-sale to provide apparel and sleeping bag consumers with info on the down contained in products they are considering or have recently purchased. In Fall 2018 there were 80 global brands using the tool, and more than 100 brands are on board for Fall 2019 product lines.
The company also claims it will be the first non-chemical company in the outdoor industry to launch an in-house down care product with a palm oil-free certification. In fact, the certification now extends to all of the company’s processing plants and products. Allied’s Down Wash, new for January 2019, is an eco-conscious technology used to wash down.
Cordura launches TrueLock fiber dyeing innovation
Invista’s Cordura brand is expanding its TrueLock fiber technology for enhanced color durability. TrueLock is created from Invista nylon 6,6 multi-filament fiber that is solution dyed, locking the color in at the molten polymer extrusion level to create deep, durable color throughout the entire fiber structure. The process of TrueLock’s color encapsulation provides benefits including reduced water and energy consumption, as well as reduced dye and chemical usage in textile processing.
Downlite introduces recycled and blended down
Downlite’s re/charged down is 100 percent certified recycled down that is “boosted” to high cluster content and fill power.
The down is reclaimed from comforters and other down products and then washed and re-boosted. Patagonia is a key partner in the initiative. Downlite is also offering planetWISE Repreve/Down Blend made from 30 percent Repreve GRS-Certified Recycled Polyester that’s created from post-consumer plastic bottles and 70 percent virgin down or GRS Certified Recycled Down.
Downlite has also partnered with Cocona to produce ClimaSMART, a thermoregulating down blended with 37.5 technology. The 37.5 down blend is a mix of down and polyester fiber permanently embedded with naturally derived 37.5 active particles that attract and release moisture vapor the body produces when it heats up, and then uses infrared energy the body creates to drive excess moisture out. The innovation manages excess heat and moisture more efficiently than down alone while still retaining down’s feel, loft and insulating properties. It also dries 40 percent faster than natural down alone.
Ecco unveils water-saving tanning technology
Following five years of research, the footwear maker claims its new DriTan innovation is a step toward water-free leather manufacturing. Ecco Leather tans more than 1.25 million hides per year, and external customers—including some iconic luxury brands—source materials from the company. With DriTan, Ecco Leather at its tannery in the Netherlands saves 20 liters of water per hide, amounting to 25 million liters annually. Ecco’s long-term goal is to share the technology with brand partners and tanneries worldwide.
Gore-Tex delivers against ambitious PFC goals
In keeping with its long-term environmental and sustainability goals, Gore has introduced Gore-Tex 2-layer and 3-layer waterproof fabrics using a DWR free of PFCs of environmental concern (PFCec). In addition, the company has increased the use of laminates utilizing face textiles made from recycled materials—in fact, in 2018 more than a dozen such laminates were produced, and the number is expected to triple in the Fall/Winter 2019 collection.
Also on tap for 2019 are solution-dyed face-textiles that will save up to 60 percent in water usage while significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions. During the solution-dyeing process, dyestuffs are mixed with the nylon or polyester pellets prior to spinning into yarn. The resulting yarn is permanently, deeply colored and ready to be woven into fabrics. Gore Fabrics Division Sustainability Leader Bernhard Kiehl told Sourcing Journal that Gore has set “ambitious chemical management goals that define our focus for 2019,” and “the target by 2020 is to get all consumer garment laminates certified according to the Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, and 85 percent of our consumer garments laminate volume approved by Bluesign.”
Gore is also working toward the elimination of PFCec by 2023 from the life cycle of the consumer fabrics.
Polartec’s new fabric boosts warmth, reduces fiber shedding
Polartec’s Power Air knit fabric construction encapsulates air to retain warmth and sheds up to five times less than other premium mid-layer fabrics.
Power Air’s fabric construction encases internal yarns, creating individual air pockets that capture body warmth. The surrounding knit casing also serves as a supporting barrier, preventing loose microfibers from shedding out into the environment. As the first fabric construction to encase air with a continuous yarn, Polartec Power Air is a foundational technology platform that will eventually provide shedding reduction to all existing apparel categories including insulation, lightweight next to skin, and extreme weather protection.
PrimaLoft adds biodegradable fabric
The new PrimaLoft Bio Performance Fabric is a first-of-its-kind advancement made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled, biodegradable synthetic fiber. It joins PrimaLoft Bio Insulation, and the company is targeting Fall 2020 for consumer availability of both iterations.
PrimaLoft Bio’s fibers have been enhanced to be more attractive to naturally occurring microbes found in specific environments such as a landfill or the ocean, meaning that the microbes eat away at the fibers at a faster rate, returning the fabric or insulation to natural elements. This breakthrough combats the growing problem of microplastics littering the ocean, a significant issue for the textile industry.
Schoeller rolls out new finishing technologies
Global textile brand, Schoeller, which just celebrated its 150th anniversary, is expanding consumer product applications for its PFC-free technology finishes ecorepel Bio and 3XDRY Bio for 2019. Schoeller’s ecorepel Bio imitates plants’ natural protection, providing a repellent effect that allows water droplets and mud to run off the surface. The 3XDRY Bio fabric also offers the repellent effect on the outer side, along with moisture management on the inside.