As an outdoor lifestyle brand, we care about the environment a lot. Nature is our playground, and want to help to preserve it. The trouble is, as a business, we make new products every single day - and we take that responsibility very seriously. That's why we do our best to make eco-friendly bags, and I thought it might be helpful to provide some insight about how we do it.
First up, let's dispel some myths. The Earths' ecosystem is extremely complex. Turning off your appliances at night or recycling your plastics does help, but the overall impact is tiny.
The environment is a hot topic right now, so all kinds of businesses use it in their marketing. It seems that everything is 'Eco-Friendly', 'Green' or 'Sustainable' nowadays but, to tell the truth, they're probably not. They might be kinder to the environment than other alternatives, but they're not saving the planet on their own. It's not that simple.
The best way to explain it is to talk about cars. A friend of mine works for the World Wildlife Fund, and she drives an ancient, diesel thirsty 4x4. Ironic, right? Every time we meet up, I'll say to her. "Shouldn't you be driving a Prius?".
But her response makes a lot of sense.
She bought her 4x4 new, 20 years ago or so. It took a huge amount of energy to make it. All sorts of different materials, all made in a factory somewhere, then shipped to another factory and assembled into a finished vehicle. It's a mammoth task and realistically, the emissions produced when manufacturing the car far outweigh the total emissions it releases every year. The bulk of the car's emissions were released on the day it was made and today the car still runs fine.
If it ain't broke, why fix it?
I also spoke to someone at Patagonia a few years ago. They were trialling a recycling scheme for their jackets, and in doing so they realised that the logistics of collecting the jackets (or even having them shipped back to them) would create more emissions than they could save when recycling the jacket itself.
It makes you realise how nuanced this issue really is.
So what's our approach to the environment? Do we make eco-friendly bags? Well, for a start, we try not to use the buzzwords. Instead, we do our bit for sustainbility through longevity.
But what does that mean?
We know that most of the negative environmental stuff happens when our materials are made and when we manufacture our bags. We do our best to minimise this impact, but a lot of it is unavoidable.
As a result, we build our bags to last. We choose materials that are durable, versatile and timeless. We select hardware that won't break. We pick fabrics that wear in, not out. We create designs that are simple and timeless so that you'll still want to use them in 20 years time.
And, where possible, we try and choose materials that are as kind as possible. Our stainless steel hardware, for example, is made from 70% recycled steel. Our webbing is made from polyester, which is pretty easy to recycle too.
Sometimes, we make hard decisions. We know that cotton isn't great for the environment. It uses a lot of land and water to grow, and requires a lot of chemicals to turn it into a fabric - but we know it lasts. We've seen 50 year old Barbour jackets that are still in use - and they still look great. For us, the longevity of the fabric outweighs its initial impact.
This ethos is even present in our design process. We favour simplicity. We believe that simple products tend to be more versatile, and are less likely to become outdated. Buying a backpack that's fully kitted out to carry a 17" laptop, a kindle and has a port for your headphones sounds great - but who's going to be using a 17" laptop in 10 years time? And headphones with a jack? Bluetooth will make them obsolete in no time!
To a hardline environmentalist, no, they're not. But there isn't much that is truly 'Green'.
This article is over-simplified and I'm sure many of you would dispute some of my claims too, that's fine. We need to talk about this stuff. All we can do is be honest with you. We're not going to 'greenwash' you like other brands will. We're just going to make the best bags we can, using the best materials we can find. Then, it's up to you to ensure that they stay in use for many years to come.
And whatever you do, don't put them in landfill!
Pass them on and help them live forever.