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Arc’teryx’s ‘Rebird’ Circularity Initiative Spreads Wings

Arc’teryx Equipment’s newest sustainability strategy is ready to take flight.

Dubbed Rebird, the outdoor-wear brand’s new platform marks an organization-wide commitment to pivot from the traditional take-make-waste economy to a “more circular way” of operating that provides a “loop of endless possibilities.”

But Arc’teryx is not taking the journey alone, according to Katie Wilson, the North Vancouver-headquartered firm’s senior manager for social and environmental sustainability.

“Certain aspects of circularity, especially the part about keeping product in use for as long as possible, have been part of how we operate since the beginning,” Wilson told Sourcing Journal. “But as we began to expand our efforts, we saw an opportunity to bring our guests along with us, share why circularity is important, show them how they can get involved and start to shift mindsets.”

Through Rebird, consumers can access Arc’teryx’s used-gear resale initiative and explore the outdoor label’s “care and repair” service. They can also snap up the brand’s new Stowe Windshell, a lightweight color-blocked jacket made using repurposed end-of-roll Squamish Hoody fabric that would ordinarily go to waste. Also available for sale are Arc’teryx’s first upcycled products: a tote and a pouch derived from gear that’s past the point of repair. A single deconstructed Gore-Tex jacket, Wilson said, provides enough fabric for one tote and two pouches.

All of this is just the beginning, she promised. Soon, the platform will serve as an “interactive space” where customers can follow Arc’teryx’s efforts to “keep products in use and turn waste into a resource,” Wilson said. For those new to the concept of circularity, the website will provide a primer on how it can take the pressure off virgin raw-material extraction.

Consumers will also learn how designing for extended use can contribute to the brand’s science-based target to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 65 percent by 2030. Depending on its specifications, some 70 percent to 90 percent of a freshly minted Arc’teryx product’s carbon footprint is created even before it leaves the factory, she added.

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“We know the most sustainable thing we can do as a consumer goods company is make durable products, so we’ve always done that,” Wilson said. “Durable products also lend themselves well to programs that focus on extending the life of products even further, like resale and repair, so we’re looking at how [to] encourage our guests to think a little differently about repairing a product or trading it in for somebody else to use instead of throwing it out.”

Its environmental advantages aside, Arc’teryx’s used-gear program has also brought in new customers who are able to access the company’s products at more affordable prices.

“Something in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the people who use used gear [is] new to us,” Wilson said. “And interestingly, the people who trade in gear are not the same people who buy used gear. There’s only about a 2 percent overlap. So those who want to free up space and get something new that better suits their needs is an almost completely different group from the group that wants to shop in a used environment as opposed to a new environment.”

One of Arc’teryx’s secret weapons is ARC’One, a company-owned manufacturing facility in New Westminister that produces roughly 5 percent of its merchandise. At this “mini design center,” the brand’s skilled technicians can turn around prototypes “fairly quickly,” field test them in the mountains “in our backyard” and then tweak them as necessary, said Greg Grenzke, design director of outdoor product.

ARC’One, which is known internally as “box city,” also houses the company’s warranty center, supplying not only a motherlode of castoff gear that can no longer be patched up but also plenty of grist for reverse engineering, improvement and experimentation.

“We see every product that’s coming back, so we can essentially design out common failure points, whether it’s a material or construction,” Grenzke said. “And then that’s also where our repairs are being done, so we can see how our team is preparing them [and] suggest new ways to recover those products.”

Arc’teryx started working with a third-party company to make the totes and pouches before deciding to bring the work in-house so it could better learn from the process and scale it up. Meanwhile, the product team has “increased significantly” the amount of recycled materials it uses as part of its suite of preferred textiles. The majority of Arc’teryx’s lineup now incorporates preferred materials, Grenzke said.

“These are really high-value materials that we really want to keep,” he added. “Our goal would be to have no product land up in the landfill, so Rebird will be the place to make all of this happen.”