How to be Sustainable When Buying Outdoor Gear
Sustainability and the outdoors are inherently linked. Many of us that love to explore the outdoors are drawn to its pristine beauty and feel an obligation to help protect it. A big way to help protect the outdoors is to make more environmentally friendly purchasing decisions. Where better to start doing so than when it comes to your outdoor gear purchases.
The most sustainable gear purchase is one you’ve already made.
Before you go out and buy a new or secondhand piece of outdoor gear ask yourself if you really need that product or if you just want a new one.
When your gear isn’t appealing anymore… Much of the time when people decide they want a new piece of gear the one they have works just fine though it may have lost its luster. Before buying something new think about how you might be able to make what you have exciting again! For example, consider adding embellishments to the gear like patches, drawings or paintings that add flair to it and give the product a story that only you can tell. If that doesn’t work or you aren’t the creative type - DON’T THROW THE ITEM AWAY - sell it to Out&Back!
When your gear is broken… See if you can get it fixed! Many outdoor gear companies have lifetime (or time-bound) warranties that very few of us are even aware of. If a zipper is busted or a product needs a patch, there’s a good chance that you can send that product to the manufacturer and they’ll fix it for you. If you aren’t sure if the Brand you purchased from has a warranty have a look at their website.
The second most sustainable gear purchase is one someone else made
If you feel like you still want new outdoor gear, the most sustainable gear that you can buy is buying secondhand. Fortunately, there are several options to choose from including peer-to-peer marketplaces like eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Mercari; outdoor specialty marketplaces such as GearTrade; and lastly, Brand or category specific platforms such as REI, Patagonia Worn Wear, The North Face Renewed, Arc-Teryx Used Gear and Pro’s Closet (bikes). FYI - did you know that many of these brands are featured on Out&Back!
When considering which platform to use, pay attention to the less obvious details that are available to you as a buyer. Things to consider include quality, cleanliness, product performance and lastly, some sort of satisfaction reassurance. Make sure you’re not stuck with something that doesn’t meet your expectations.
When buying secondhand, do your homework ahead of time and make sure you’re familiar with the policies and protections in place to avoid any unpleasant surprises. One sure way to avoid the unknowns, is to buy secondhand outdoor gear from sellers who have a certified pre-owned program which guarantees quality, performance, cleanliness and returns.
If you have to buy new, buy gear made with sustainable materials
Most of the environmental impact of outdoor gear comes from it’s materials.
So, if what you have doesn’t work for you and you can’t find what you want from secondhand sellers? The best thing for you to do is to buy gear made with sustainable materials.
Look for recycled materials… Most outdoor gear is made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. The most widely available sustainable alternatives to polyester and nylon are recycled versions of these materials which often cut product environmental impact by 15-40%. Look for outdoor gear that has a significant portion of recycled material in it. You can usually find out if a product has recycled content in it by looking at the hang tags on it or its embedded material content tag. Some gear providers are beginning to play with bio-based synthetics as well, however these are generally hard to find.
Buy natural materials… It's not always possible to buy outdoor gear made of natural materials (think of an ice axe here…) but there’s more out there than you think, particularly in the apparel and footwear space. Buying natural materials helps lessen our dependence on oil as a feedstock for the outdoor industry and makes it far more likely that the material a product is made of can be regenerated. Wool is the real standout material here but not the scratchy terrible kind - we’re talking merino wool. Brands like Smartwool, Icebreaker and others are doing amazing things with merino wool and others are beginning to follow.
Look for warranties… In the outdoor industry any Brand that’s worth its salt provides a warranty on materials and construction. Consider buying Brands that don’t offer warranties as it could be a sign of how they feel about their own product. If it's not immediately obvious as to whether a Brand offers a warranty, remember, Google is your best friend. With a quick search, you should be able to confirm a Brand’s warranty details.