Roads Rivers and Trails

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Tag Archives: Sustainability


The Triple Bottom Line Part 3: Economic Sustainability

By: Mackenzie Griesser

When examining the sustainability of a company, we have to consider the triple bottom line: the Environmental, Social, and Economic aspects of their business. This blog is the last of a 3-part series discussing the sustainability of different brands we sell here at RRT. We’ve already covered the environmental and social sustainability initiatives of these companies, so now it’s time to delve into the exciting world of economic sustainability! For the purpose of this blog, we will define economic sustainability as saving money and how the methods of saving affect the other two aspects of sustainability. These savings can happen several ways. The easiest way a manufacturing company can work towards economic sustainability is by reducing the amount ofHERproject money they spend on labor. Usually this occurs by outsourcing to foreign countries, which can have a strong negative impact on their social sustainability. The other major way they can reduce costs is by reducing the resources used for their offices, whether it be water, electric, or other materials; this plays into environmental sustainability as well.

Outsourcing labor to foreign countries is not at all uncommon these days. Labor is cheaper in other countries, so why wouldn’t companies take the least expensive route when it comes to manufacturing their products? There are fairly strict policies already in place to ensure the workers in these countries are treated humanely and earn decent benefits and wages, but several brands we carry take it a step further. For example, Mountain Hardwear, and its parent company Columbia, participate in HERproject, which is a workplace program that provides women’s health education to the ladies working in their factories in Vietnam and China. Additionally, they also partner with Better Work, which is a group that partners with the International Finance Corporation and the International Labor Organization. This cooperative works constantly to increase compliance with labor laws and improve working conditions overall. Another company that goes a step beyond the basic labor laws is Black Diamond. They are a founding member of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Fair Labor Working Group, which works to increase education of best practices. They also drafted OIA’s first Fair Labor toolkit and utilize information gathered from audits to create Corrective Action Plans to improve this toolkit. Unannounced audits performed by third party companies are standard across the board for all of the brands we carry.

Arc’Teryx goes above and beyoARCTERYX_0008nd traditional fair labor standards. They went as far as to create their own guidelines and policies to ensure their products are manufactured responsibly. Prior to entering into a contract with a facility, Arc’Teryx conducts a comprehensive audit of the existing factory, taking note of workplace conditions and current compliance to existing labor laws. Once any minor issues are fixed and the facility passes a secondary audit, a contract is made up and terms are agreed upon by both parties. These facilities are unique in that their employees are trained to use specialized techniques and equipment and earn high wages because of their unique skill sets. After the decision-making and contract-building processes are finalized, third-party audits are conducted monthly to ensure their standards are being upheld. In some cases, staff members are permanently assigned to monitor daily operations. While they stay up-to-date with labor compliance initiatives such as Fair Wear, they prefer to focus on the continual development of their own audit processes instead of partnering with external initiatives.

Another way companies can save money is reducing their resource use, increasing their environmental sustainability at the same time! Black Diamond and Thule definitely have the most initiatives of this sort. BD implemented a closed-loop anodization system, a super efficient way to reuse and recycle wastewater from their tumble and polish processes, in their Asian facilities. Similarly, Thule has a closed-loop system for wastewater in most of their manufacturing facilities and offices. Both of these companiLEED-for-the-wines do an excellent job of recycling waste from production as well. Excess water from the oil/water mixtures BD uses in production is boiled off and the oil is sent off to be recycled. They also recycle all of their leftover scrap metal and cardboard at their facilities in Utah and China. By the end of 2016, Thule aims to recycle 95% of their total waste. These companies are also similar in that they ship by sea and rail instead of plane and road whenever possible, significantly reducing their carbon footprint by doing so!

Reducing resource use in offices is another way companies can save lots of money. Several companies’ offices are fitted with energy-saving technologies such as the green roof on Black Diamond’s Rhenus warehouse and skylights at Patagonia’s Reno service center. Several offices and warehouses are LEED certified as well. LEED certification for buildings is measured on a point scale; different structural and technological implementations count for different amounts of points, which add up to certify the building as silver, gold, or platinum. Some examples of the types of technologies that are utilized to get this certification are low-flow toilet400x225_4---Solar-installation-on-Fire-houses, storm water collection systems, and automatic lights that are only on if someone is in the room. Many of the offices and warehouses of the brands we carry implement many of these technologies, and more! One interesting way Osprey saved money was in the heating and cooling of their headquarters in Cortez, CO. They planted native deciduous trees on the south side of the building to provide cooling shade in the summer and allow the sun t0 warm it in the winter. Patagonia utilizes unique landscaping at their Reno and Venture offices to divert rain water away from paved surfaces and into rain gardens and bioswales, where the water can return naturally to the water table.

Saving on costs is almost always at the top of a business’s priorities. And why wouldn’t it be? They’re trying to make money, after all! But there are right and wrong ways to do it. In my research for this blog, I found so many different money-saving methods that the brands we carry implement, and was happy to find that they are all super sustainable! These companies are saving a lot of money by reducing and reusing resources. And while many of them do most of their manufacturing oversees, they take so much care to make sure these employees are treated fairly, and many go above and beyond to provide them with beneficial programs as well!

This concludes the Triple Bottom Line blog series (you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). We’ve discussed how sustainable outdoor recreation companies really are on all three levels: environmentally, socially, and economically. You are now armed with knowledge for making mindful decisions when investing in these companies and can rest easy in knowing they are trying to protect our beautiful planet, just like you and I!

The Triple Bottom Line Part 2: Social Sustainability

By: Mackenzie Griesser

The first blog of this series discussed the most obvious factor when determining a company’s sustainability: their environmental awareness.  Another important element that contributes to the triple bottom line of sustainability is social sustainability. This can be defined many ways, but for the purposes of this blog we will define it as a company’s efforts to give back to the communities in which they operate. This can be done several ways. Some companies organize fundraising events and donate the money to local environmental groups while others send volunteers to help with ongoing projects. No matter their level of involvement however, every brand we carry invests in their community in some way. Part two of a three part series on sustainability in the outdoor industry, this blog will highlight some of the social sustainability initiatives that different brands we carry at Roads Rivers and Trails have to offer.

Patagonia definitely takes the cake when it comes to community involvement and outreach. They work closely with several environmental organizations and donate 1% of all profits to nonprofit groups across the globe. Another way they raise funds for these groups is by organizing the Salmon Run, a 5k community “fun run” in Ventura, California. They also created an environmental internship program for their employees, which is one of the best internship programs I’ve ever seen. Not only do they allow the inteexte842rns to work with whatever environmental group they want, they continue to pay and offer benefits for the duration of the internship, which can be up to two months! Patagonia also takes steps to give back to its namesake, Chilean Patagonia, by sending employees at the company’s expense to help create a new National Park from a former sheep and cattle ranch. Volunteers help remove non-native plants and restore grasslands, build trails, and even built a visitors’ center and other necessary infrastructure. When it is finished the park will span 173,000 acres and be a home for over a hundred species of native fauna, including the four-eyed Patagonian frog and the near extinct huemul deer.

While Patagonia’s community outreach and dedication to environmental protection is truly astounding, Arc’Teryx is right behind them in giving back to communities and protecting beloved wilderness areas. However, they differ from Patagonia in that most of their involvement and outreach is through partnerships with other organizations. For example, they partner with the North Shore Mountain Bike Association to help maintain and protect mountain biking trails on Canada’s North Shore. They are also a sponsor of the Trail Builders Academy, which utilizes both on-site and classroom settings to teach proper trail building and maintenance techniques. They are also members of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, which requires a membership fee that directly funds projects that Arc’Teryx employees regularly volunteer time towards, and the Conservation Alliance, which engages businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild plaArcteryx_BirdNestCape_Delivery_Day_1ces. The membership fees for this organization also go towards funding projects that are voted on by members. One project that Arc’Teryx created and organizes itself is the Bird’s Nest Project. Staff members volunteer time to sew discontinued Gore-Tex fabrics into garments for homeless citizens in Vancouver, which are distributed by local police departments and homeless shelters.

Another brand that invests a lot in their community and organizations across the country is Osprey. Like Arc’teryx, many of their social sustainability initiatives are through partnerships with other organizations. They helped Conservation Next organize and execute an event where volunteers spent the day removing invasive species and performing much needed restoration work on trails in Eldorado Canyon State Park. They also act as a sponsor for Telluride by financing renewable power for Lift 12, as well as sponsoring the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. On their own, they donate $2 of every pro deal sale to non-profit organizations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Continental Divide Trail Alliance, and donate 5% of profits from their biannual community “Locals Sale” to nearby non-profit organizations. Donations from these two fundraisers totalled around $7,000 in 2009. Financial donations aside, they also allow employees to do 8 hours of volunteer work on their clock, racking up 200 hours of paid volunteer work in 2009 alone.

These three companies definiteindexly do the most when it comes to social sustainability, but all of the brands we carry give back in one way or another. Rab and Prana contribute to multiple service projects, including restoration work at Peak District National Park (UK) and sending aid to natural disaster sites. Big Agnes and Sea to Summit support Leave No Trace, an international organization that teaches outdoor ethics. These two also support several other environment-focused organizations such as the Conservation Alliance, the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

Some businesses see giving back to nearby communities as a great PR move, but it’s incredibly important to account for how their operations affect local people. Companies benefit from these communities and everything they have to offer, so it is crucial that they invest in them to ensure their longevity. Social sustainability is often overlooked or assumed, but the brands we carry here at RRT do an awesome job of making sure local neighborhoods and the organizations that support them are taken care of. However, they cannot truly be sustainable unless they follow the criteria of the triple bottom line, which includes social as well as environmental and economic sustainability. You can read about our apparel brands’ environmental sustainability here . Stay tuned for the final blog of this series, which will discuss the thrilling world of economic sustainability, coming soon!

Outdoor Apparel Companies and Environmental Sustainability

by Mackenzie Griesser

As an environmentalist in a capitalist society, I can’t help but think about how the gear and apparel I purchase are manufactured. It would be super disappointing if the companies making products that are meant to be used in the great outdoors were actively contributing to unsustaiimagesnable practices that harm the planet! I was curious to see just how sustainable the brands we carry are so I did some research and was happy to find some great information. When we talk about how sustainable a company or product is, we have to consider the “triple bottom line”: social, economic, and environmental sustainability. If the company or product does not meet all three of these qualifications, we can’t call them truly sustainable. In my research, I found that there is way too much information to discuss all three of these components in one blog, so this is the first of a 3-part series covering each factor that makes up the “triple bottom line”. The following is a brief summary of the environmental sustainability initiatives of some of the brands we carry, specifically outerwear and apparel companies.

When we think about the sustainability of apparel, there are a few questions we must ask ourselves: Where did the raw materials come from? How were they obtained? What processes do they go through as they are made into a garment? How long can they be used before being thrown out and added to the ever-growing landfill? Luckily for us, most of the brands we carry answer all of these questions directly on their websites and are great at providing consumers with transparency concerning all of their processes, from cradle to grave. Mountain Hardwear even goes as far as to publish lists of the manufacturers that produce their materials every year for the public to polybag-herosee! Most other brands, including Arc’Teryx, Ibex, Patagonia, and Prana, perform Life Cycle Assessments regularly, following products from manufacture to disposal to ensure that they are doing everything as efficiently and sustainably as possible.

When it comes to raw materials, the brands we carry are pros at finding the most sustainably procured materials at a reasonable price. Both Patagonia and Prana use several recycled and re-purposed materials, including down from old bedding that is washed and sterilized, wool from old sweaters and scraps from production, cotton also from production leftovers, nylon, and polyester made from pre- and post-consumer recycled plastic. They both also utilize hemp, which leaves the soil it is grown in healthy enough to grow food crops directly after harvest, as well as organic cotton, which is not genetically modified and does not require fertilizers or pesticides.  Patagonia takes it a step further and also utilizes Tencel, a branded lyocell fiber that comes from the pulp of trees grown on farms certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, yulex and guayule rubber, which together make a more sustainable version of neoprene, and undyed cashmere.

Chemical management is also very important to consider. The big “bad guy” often used in outdoor apparel is perfluorocarbons, or PFCs, which are used in waterproofing materials. However, several brands now use more sustainable alternatives including single polymer polypropylene and short-chain PFCs, which biodegrade much easier than other chemicals and take less energy and resources to obtain. Arc’TeryxPatagonia also adheres to a strict Restricted Substances List to ensure the materials they are using are safe for both the consumer and the environment.

The last thing to consider when determining the sustainability of a garment is what will happen to it once it wears out. Several brands, including Patagonia, Ibex, Chaco, and Arc’Teryx, encourage customers to send back worn-out or damaged products to be recycled or repaired in order to prevent adding waste to landfills. In general, however, all of the brands we carry make super hardy and durable products, so they will last a long time.

Another thing to consider is ensuring that the animals that materials are sourced from are treated well. Every brand we carry that utilizes down in their products (Sea to Summit, Rab, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Arc’Teryx, and Prana) are certified under the Responsible Down Standard. To be accredited under these standards, the farmer and company must adhere to some standard principles. First, birds are never live-plucked or force fed. Also, the welfare of the birds is respected from birth to death. This means injuries and illnesses are prevented as much as possible and treated in a timely manner they cannot be prevented. Companies that are accredited under these standards are randomly audited multiple times a year by third-party companies, usually with unannounced visits, and only products with 100% certified sustainable down can carry the RDS label.

While down is utilized in many products we sell, we can’t forget about good old merino wool (AKA Miracle Fabric.) Ibex definitely leads the way when it comes to wool that is harvested sustainably. They only use ZQ merino, which has a pretty intensive certification process. Any farmer can be accredited if they meet the 5 freedoms granted to animals by the Animal Welfare Act. First, the sheep must be properly fed with wholesome foods that meet all nutritional requirements, as 24well as be provided with limitless water. Next, they must be given appropriate shelter. Another freedom granted is the freedom from unnecessary pain and distress, which means the farmer must know how to handle them to avoid distress and maintain their property so that there is little risk of injury. Also, mulesing is prohibited under this category. Mulesing is a surgical procedure where sections wool-bearing skin that are susceptible to retaining bacteria that attracts flies are removed. While this procedure does decrease the chances of flystrikes, there are more sustainable ways to deal with this issue, including regular inspections and cleaning and shearing of the vulnerable areas. The next requirement is that the sheep must be allowed to exhibit natural patterns of behavior, which essentially means they must be given adequate space to roam and interact with one another. Finally, the farmer must be able to provide prevention, rapid diagnosis, and treatment of injury, disease, and parasite infestation if any of these were to occur. If a farmer meets all of these conditions, they can be accredited under the ZQ merino standard. Every 3-5 years unannounced audits are conducted, usually by a veterinarian.

Environmental sustainability is such a. important thing to consider when investing money in a company by purchasing their products, especially when it’s a company that specializes in outdoor gear! While some brands offer more sustainability initiatives than others, every apparel brand we carry does a great job of being environmentally conscious when sourcing materials for their products and when manufacturing them. I always feel much better about supporting companies that consider these sorts of things, even if it costs them a little more money, than companies that are only out to make a profit regardless of what effects their processes have on the environment. However, environmental sustainability is only one third of the triple bottom line! Stay tuned for more info on the social and economic sustainability initiatives offered by the brands we sell here at Roads Rivers and Trails.

 

 

Outdoor Adventure Clubs

The Green Umbrella, The Ohio River Way, and Paddlefest

In 2011, RRT became corporate sponsors and donors for the Ohio River Way. At the time, the Ohio River Way was also the organizing group behind the Ohio River Paddlefest. Paddlefest is the premier paddling event in the Midwest and sees over 2,000 people paddle their way down the Ohio River. The Ohio River Way was also the leadership behind the Tri-State Guide to the Outdoors, a yearly free publication that highlights the areas outdoor recreation.

Later, the Ohio River Way would be operated as part of the Green Umbrella, a not-for-profit that aims at making Cincinnati one of the 10 most sustainable metro areas by 2020. RRT continued their financial support for the Green Umbrella and their sponsorship of Paddlefest. In 2014 and 2015, RRT donated their efforts to help make the Guide to the Outdoors publication possible. RRT owner Emily became one of the largest content contributors and organizers for the magazine and would see it reach new heights. The Green Umbrella would also host the Great Outdoor Weekend across the tri-state providing over a 100 free opportunities to get outside and experience something new. Since 2012, RRT has sponsored the event and often hosted a free event for participants.

Meanwhile another organization was getting started: the Outdoor Adventure Clubs were formed in 2013 with RRT being one of their very first cooperating partners. The OAC is directed at getting more underserved students into nature by providing free school-based outdoor recreation, education, and conservation opportunities for urban teens. RRT immediately started working with the group, showing up to schools to promote the new club and travelling to different schools to present to club members and get them excited and prepared for outdoor events. RRT has also helped to lead local hiking trips for the inner city youth in the club. Starting in 2017 we’ve began co-sponsoring WVXU radio spots with OAC to raise awareness and fundraising efforts.

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Working with Columbia we were able to secure a grant for the OAC in early 2017 totaling $5,000 of equipment and financing. In April of 2017 we hosted our first annual Fashion Show Fundraising event with Fifty West Brewery to benefit the OAC and raised almost $1,500 and our efforts were doubled in 2018 to raise $3,000!  Today, we continue to be financial sponsors, but also help with gear donations for the club’s events. If you have old outdoor equipment or clothing, please consider donating it to the club through RRT. Any donation is rewarded with a 10% discount on any same day purchases. Look for RRT to join with the OAC through out the year for some significant raffle donations as well; Support the OAC and test your luck with a different outdoor package every month including RRT packages worth hundreds of dollars!

The OAC also adopted Paddlefest for 2016 and looks to expand their outreach and programs. The OAC continues to improve the lives and outlook for hundreds of area youth. Please consider supporting their efforts anyway you can. For more information visit them at the link below.

Outdoor Adventure Clubs

Read “The Ohio River Way Paddlefest” Blog

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