…Its not just the fabric that can catch you with your pants down. In part 5 of his 10 part series on Ethical Outdoor Clothing and Equipment, Ed takes a look at the unsung heroes of our kit.
Unless you use a poncho when you step up to the crag, throw a leg over your bike or slide into your kayak, you have a debt of thanks to pay to the unrecognised titans of adventure gear manufacture. Zips, buttons, laces, velcro, buckles, rubber and elastic are what really hold your adventure together. Think back to a time when you have left your saddle bag open and the contents distributes itself over fifteen miles, or when you have forgotten to zip up your jacket before you step out onto the summit forgetting about the wicked wind that will whip it off your back. The often genius devices that sent the loop and toggle system packing to the fashion duffle sector are critical to the success of the finished adventure sports product. So tell me this, if they are that critical to the product, surely they should have their place in the line for the eco makeover that so much gear is going through right now? After all, 100% should mean 100% right? Manufacturers seem ready to go to the efforts of sourcing ethical down, and recycled fabric for your down jacket, but will they finish the job off by ensuring that the zip, elastic and velcro are also towing the line? You cant exactly be proud wearing your eco rain trousers if you have to close your eyes when you unzip and have a pee. Trust me, my research tells me that this is not a comfortable thing to do, particularly late at night in a forest. A conscience free eco zip would very much help this situation. So lets take a look at a few if these essential elements and whats being done in the industry. Velcro
Velcro, in its very conception, development and use is the perfect eco advance. Designed through bio mimicry, velcro was inspired by cockleburs which have flower balls that hook onto your clothing ( or a passing animal ) and are taken to a fresh piece of ground to establish itself anew. These plants inspired George de Mestral to develop two fabrics that could replicate this infuriating plants system. A two inch patch of Velcro can hold the weight of a human. So you need very little of it for a great deal of strength ( think of the strong man event when they use Velcro straps to tug a jumbo along ). This is efficient.Finally, all of the raw materials in Velcro can be manufactured using practically any existing plastic. These days that increasingly means recycled plastic, which are very easily and cheaply sourced, and can easily return into the system at the end of their life. LacesI want to make it clear that whilst I am a fan of Velcro, I do draw the line when it comes to shoes. Call me a traditionalist, but I like laces
That said, the people at Yankz could help me take another green step forward here. They have developed an elastic lace made of recycled materials. This quick lacing system replaces everyday laces and offers a secure, adaptive fit for use in really every sport. Their CoolMax recycled elastic cord “laces” automatically stretch with your foot movement, allowing a constant and supportive fit with no pressure points. The final touch is that recycled plastic buckles will then secure the elastic lace in place once you’ve found the perfect fit.Zips
Ok, so I have mentioned zips, but not really got into the matter. Lets take a first principle – we need to get metal out of our clothing. It is a painfully unimaginative hang on from history, when metal was the only mouldable ‘hard material’. It uses a hell of a lot of raw material, which is rarely sourced ethically, and then needs to be treated with chemicals to prevent it rusting. As an alternative, look for plastic zips. Plastic can join most progressive materials into the melting pot to be re – spun, metal cannot. YKK and RiRi are making some very smooth, waterproof plastic zips from recycled stock. But it is TYT Trend that seems to be most fully engaged in greening your trim. They have brought major brands including Levis along with them on their mission to produce earth conscious zippers. Made from 100% recycled polymers, in their factories that are 100% owned by them, their products are made in the best conditions and emerge from an incredibly transparent supply chain. Keep an eye out for these guys, with thinking like this, they could take over the world.
Have a think then, the next time you zip, strap or scratch your kit shut. This stuff matters. If its essential to your kit, its essential to your world.