Five Ways to build a More Sustainable Outdoor Wardrobe
In 2022 there is no escaping the fact that humans are having a hugely detrimental impact on our planet and the environment through our consumption of natural resources and our output of pollutants into the air and water. The problem is so severe that recent studies have suggested at this rate the fashion industry may be responsible for using almost a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. As lovers of the outdoors, we believe that the outdoor clothing industry should be setting the best example possible on how to reduce this impact and make ourselves part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Since the early days of Nordic Outdoor we have always picked the brands we work with based on three simple credentials; style, function and sustainability. Our hope has always been that by putting a focus on ensuring that we only work with sustainable outdoor brands we can help people create a more sustainable outdoor wardrobe without it becoming a challenge.
One of the biggest struggles in becoming a more sustainable outdoor clothing retailer is that it can become counter intuitive to tell people to buy less while this consumption is intrinsically linked to our business. The answer however is simple – buy less but buy better. By offering products we believe in, that we’re confident match our ethos and ethics and that we are sure will last there is less of a need for reduced prices, constantly changing trends or some of the other practises that make ‘fast fashion’ one of the biggest polluters in the world.
Today we’re taking a look at five ways you can build a more sustainable outdoor wardrobe and the work that brands we work with have been doing to help consumers make better choices when it comes to their outdoor consumption. If you think we’ve missed something or want to ask a question about our Sustainability Policy then reach out to us via email.
Buy to Last: Sustainability through Longevity
Sustainability through Longevity is one of the easiest ways to reduce your consumption footprint and one of the concepts we believe in the most here at Nordic Outdoor. By simply reducing the amount of clothing which required to be produced we can eliminate a huge amount of the negative impact this production causes to the environment.
Look for fabrics which are durable and match with your needs such as G-1000 for tasks such as bushcrafting, choose styles which can be worn for a multitude of tasks and fit in with your everyday wardrobe as well as your adventure wardrobe and choose companies who champion repair and replace policies such as those offered by Houdini Sportswear.
A champion of the concept of sustainability through longevity are Japanese Outdoor brand Snow Peak who put all their outdoor equipment through rigorous testing to ensure that it is built in such a way that in even the most challenging outdoor conditions it will perform. They are so confident in the quality of the product that Snow Peak offer a lifetime guarantee on all their equipment and promise customers that if it doesn’t live up to their standards it can be exchanged or replaced free of charge.
Another example of sustainability through longevity is the Light My Fire Titanium Spork n’ Straw Kit. In recent years we have seen a huge (and justified) effort to rid the world of single use plastic cutlery and in August 2021 the government even banned the use of single use plastic cutlery. One of the most common alternatives for those looking to stop using single use is to seek out wooden or bamboo alternatives, and while these are undoubtably better for the environment than throwaway plastic they do not challenge the underlying problem of a disposable economy where products can be used once or twice then thrown out. While a product like the Titanium Spork n ’Straw may take more energy to produce than a bamboo alternative, it is designed to last a lifetime and be used hundreds and thousands of times which sways the environmental cost-benefit analysis hugely to the side of titanium.
If we take the example of the Titanium Spork and adopt the same thinking into our outdoor wardrobe it’s clear to see that sometimes the most ‘eco’ material may not be the most sustainable choice if it will need replaced in a much shorter period.
When you’re looking to purchase new outdoor clothing, consider your needs and uses for the product to select something that will last you longer and need replaced less. While this may sometimes be the more expensive choice the old adage is correct – “buy cheap, buy twice”.
Try Natural Fabrics
We have always been massive believers that natural fabrics can be some of the best choices around when it comes to outdoor kit. Our love affair with Merino Wool brand Aclima is over a decade old now and we would still choose them over any modern synthetic equivalent – not only for sustainability reasons but for performance reasons also.
The sustainability benefits of natural materials are many – however this doesn’t mean that all natural materials are instantly sustainable. While Cotton is the most used organic material around its production can be water and chemically intensive which offsets some of the benefits. Organic Cotton however is grown in a way that doesn’t use any pesticides or chemicals and in turn makes it a much more sustainable choice. Other commonly used materials such as polyester are oil-based plastics which mean that at the end of life they will not biodegrade in the same way as natural fabrics would but, instead will remain in landfill for decades, if not hundreds of year.
One of the best examples we have of a natural material being the more sustainable choice comes in the form of Aclima’s Fleecewool collection which was one of the first times in history a fleece fabric had been created using Merino Wool. By using Merino Wool as an alternative to traditional polyester construction we can totally eliminate the problem of microplastic shedding which has been assessed as the main source of microplastics in our ocean. Not only does Fleecewool eliminate the problem of microplastic shedding but its production is also hugely less energy intensive than the polyester equivalent.
Look for Sustainability Certifications
Finding sustainable outdoor clothing can be an absolute minefield – to make the right decision can take hours of research and often there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding around that you can easily make the wrong choice without even realising. For this reason you should always keep an eye out for products which feature a sustainability certification. These accredited organisations cut through the problem of greenwashing and can help you focus on the issues you find most important. Certifications such as GOTS focus on the classification of what can be called ‘Organic’ while certifications like Bluesign are focusing on production and its compliance with environmental health and safety regulations.
The good news for us is that most brands are keen to showcase the certifications their products have been awarded and often this information can be simply found on the swing ticket or in the product description. These accreditations can be brilliant assists when looking to sustainably upgrade your outdoor wardrobe without being misinformed by greenwashing. For reference you can use this brilliant article from Futurelearn which goes through some of the most commonly found certifications surrounding sustainability in fabric production.
The growth in E-commerce and online shopping in the past decade has been astounding – the ONS found that in November 2021 over 37% of all retail sales in the UK were now online, back in 2007 this was less than 3%. This rise in online shopping has meant that for the first time in history we as consumers are not limited by geographical boundaries when looking to upgrade our kit and equipment. Nordic Outdoor started life back in the early 2000’s when Online shopping was still in its infancy and for many of the brands we stocked at the time we were the only outlet in the UK – nowadays however customers can buy niche and unknown brands from countries across the world and have them delivered in a matter of days.
The obvious problem this culture of online shopping breeds is the environmental impact of the transaction itself. Whether you are considering the footprint impact of shipping a product from the USA to the UK to then be delivered to your door via van (and potentially returned) or considering the impact of each order being individually wrapped in pristine cardboard and paper tissue to create the ‘instagrammable’ unboxing moment there is no question that online shopping can prove troublesome when you are looking to make more sustainable choices.
We love our website – it has opened up opportunities across the globe for Nordic Outdoor as a company, introduced us to many incredible people and during the COVID pandemic it kept us afloat. With that being said - if you are local to one of our stores then we would always encourage you to shop instore. The ability to speak one-on-one with our staff and look in detail at the options and fits and styles and colours is something that we simply cannot replicate through a computer screen. If it’s not a possibility to visit our stores in Keswick or Edinburgh then we encourage questions! Ask us how the trousers you’re considering fit or what the jacket you love’s best use is and we can help you make the best decision for your wardrobe to reduce the chance of your order having to make a lonely trip back up to Scotland in a Royal Mail van.
If you’re not able to shop instore then always make sure to check the sustainability policy of any webstore to ensure your purchase will cause the least impact. Does the store use recycled packaging, partner with sustainable delivery companies and avoid marketing tricks to encourage needless consumption? If so – you might be on to a winner.
Invest in Staples
Many of us will use big events as an excuse to spend a lot of money on ‘new kit’ and unfortunately we will often neglect the clothing we wear most often. Unfortunately it is this mindset which will often act as a road barrier to creating a more sustainable wardrobe when it comes to our hobbies and passions.
Instead of spending that ‘big-chunk’ of your outdoor clothing pot on buying a specialised piece of clothing or equipment you will use once a year, why not instead rent this piece instead and use that budget towards a pair of outdoor trousers you will use weekly or a shirt which you can wear in the city or on your next adventure.
Especially in the current economic climate we recognise that building an outdoor wardrobe which is both functional and sustainable can be challenging. One of the best ways to make your sustainable outdoor wardrobe a reality is to focus on the pieces you will use the most and invest in these. For those one-off trips or ‘every-so-often’ adventures you can rent, borrow, or hire – then when extreme downhill skiing becomes your passion you can give us a call to find the perfect style for the slopes.
Being more sustainable in our consumption is a challenge but one that’s worth tackling. All of the little changes we make in our everyday life will add up to something much bigger and its these changes that are needed now more than ever.
At Nordic Outdoor we’re always keen to learn more and improve our own footprint so get in touch if you think there’s something we’re missing, something we are getting wrong or just something we can do better. From May 2022 we are working to ensure that all new products uploaded to our website feature their sustainability credentials in the description so you can always make the most informed decision and if you ever want to ask a question just drop us a line at [email protected].