Schooled By An Industrialist

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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to:

    Schooled By An Industrialist

    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest

    Three questions from a time past:

    If not now, when?
    If not here, where?
    If not me, who?

    More often than not, the answers are still forthcoming.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I was thinking of the Shania Twain song, “Who’s bed have your shoes been under?”

    I’ve written before about the paradox of the outdoor recreation equipment industry using materials made by some of the biggest baddest industrial giants. We cry when Weyerhauser chops down a spotted owl nest while wearing products with components made by Dupont, Montsanto, Dow, offshore sweatshop labor, synthetics made in the third world to skirt EPA regulations, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sure, the forest is a primary concern, but we’re thowin’ the baby out with the bathwater when we patronize polluters of every kind.

    The only manufacturer I have seen jump on this is Patagonia, using organic cotton and recycled PET plastic for fleece. If there are more, lets hear about them!

    Go through your pack and see what you come up with:

    *Titanium alloys. How was it mined and refined? What kind of conditions are the workers exposed to?

    *Plastics. We start with the petroleum industry and work our way out. Where are they made? What environmental regulations do they adhere to? Is it a US company gone offshore to avoid the EPA? Some countries like Germany require that any offshore subsidiaries follow the same environmental laws as the parent company does at home.

    *Sewn fabrics. Where were the basic fabrics made and what was the environmental impact? Where were the garments made? What political and workplace conditions are the workers subjected to? Are they fairly paid? Footgear looms large in this area and we have all heard the fallout.

    *Electronics. Same deal– pollution and working conditions. Add batteries as a major factor in environmental impact.

    *Personal hygiene products. Wanna talk about DEET manufacturing? If Buddha is in your sunscreen, is he smiling?

    *Move one step out in the circle– who do these manufacturers support? Who are they in bed with politically? Are you getting to the top of the mountain and supporting the wrong side with your consumer dollars? It gets more frightening when you look at the offshore connections. What human rights monsters do we support with our consumer dollars?

    Daunting isn’t it? It’s hard to even begin to grasp world trade and the impact we make on people and the planet.

    So this is a good thing to see and the really good thing to hear is that this CEO found it was GOOD FOR HIS BUSINESS. That is the thread that will change the world.

    harrison Fox


    Ray Anderson is on the forefront of this new movement. He seems to be using principles that could be similar to those presented in William McDonough’s book…Cradle to Cradle. Definitely worth a read. And it is not even printed on trees!

    Patagonia is not the only one using earth friendly materials. As for organic cotton clothing and bags you can find some at

    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    At the risk of being irreverent, Dale’s post (which I like very much) reminds me of a remark allegedly made by Otto von Bismarck: “People who like sausage and respect the law should never know how either one is made.”

    I admit to a great deal of ambivalence on this issue. I use Patagonia clothing pretty much exclusively – primarily because their stuff fits me better than anything else I’ve found. However, I do smugly tell myself (as I wheel my weekly can full of trash to the curb) that I’m at least doing a little something to help recycle by buying their clothes.

    My alcohol stove makes me put on a Colin-Fletcherish halo: “I no longer burn fossil fuels when I’m in the backcountry – just a few ounces of alcohol, which is renewable.” Of course, I used gallons of gasoline as I drove my car to the trailhead.

    One thing I’ve learned from studying history is that we can never go back – only forward. We can change the current state of the industry – not politically, but by our purchasing power decisions. Don’t like sweatshops? Then buy only US-made packs – even if they weigh and cost more. Petroleum-based synthetics bother you? Feel free to wear cotton and wool. Mining a problem? Use wood fires and find a wooden hiking staff. (I won’t belabor the point with more examples.) I, for one, don’t want to go back to the days of canvas, cotton, and leather. I like my titanium, spinnaker cloth, and such.

    However, I can decide to carry less gear, replace it less often (don’t tell my wife I said that), choose gear made from recycled products (can I really get used to a pop-can stove instead of my Trangia?), spend the weekend “simulating” a backpack trip by camping illegally in the woods at the local (and boring) state park instead of driving 500 miles to the prettier Red River Gorge, etc. I can also choose to pass my used gear on to someone else, to help more people get out and become aware of the issues. We’ll never eliminate our impact – all we can do is moderate it within our power.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Glenn Roberts wrote: “At the risk of being irreverent, Dale’s post (which I like very much) reminds me of a remark allegedly made by Otto von Bismarck: “People who like sausage and respect the law should never know how either one is made.”

    I encourage iconoclasm and you may tilt at my windmills all you like :) Another Victorian age quote went something like, “one should never think about how sausages, or children, are made.”

    I ran into the global market issue years ago while selling parts for Toyota. They were taking a lot of heat for their competition and I remember some sort of poster or chart that showed a car with captions and arrows listing the country of origin for the parts. Of course, there are components and design input from all over the planet– the point being that a Japanese car comes from a lot of places other than Japan. Yeahhhhhh, wellll, the profits are in Yen!

    My point being that it is darn near impossible for John Q. Backbacker to keep up with all this and of course it goes a lot of places other than the backpacking market niche.

    We should be aware and buy with a conscience. How far we would get in the current world market is a big question. Trying to go ultralight with environmentally and socially responsible products seems to be an impossibility at this point.

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