Green Scene peeks at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trends

From what we could ascertain, the outdoor industry is embracing the environmental issues that threaten our industry and our world with ever-opening arms. It is becoming harder and harder to make the argument that it's too hard, too expensive, too complicated or too whatever the excuse to launch green initiatives at a corporate level.
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The SNEWS® team of editors powered by caffeine, chocolate and beer (not necessarily in that order), ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. Here's our take from companies and products that stood out to our team on Greening the Outdoor Industry:

From what we could ascertain, the outdoor industry is embracing the environmental issues that threaten our industry and our world with ever-opening arms. It is becoming harder and harder to make the argument that it's too hard, too expensive, too complicated or too whatever the excuse to launch green initiatives at a corporate level.

An increasing number of companies provided information on responsible packaging, power initiatives, and use of recycled materials in their products through the Green Steps Program. On Aug. 10, The Green Steps Association, in conjunction with Outdoor Retailer, sponsored a display of environmental products and a variety of workshops geared toward creating consumer awareness, and development and promotion of responsible products. These workshops took place at the Marriott during the on-water demo.

Leading the charge to be a responsible company, Prana announced at Summer Market a revolutionary power initiative that brings it and its dealers into partnership. The company is buying renewable energy credits to offset the power usage of 100 of its retailers, a total of 3 million kilowatt-hours of power. Eventually, Prana said it hopes to offset the power usage of all of its retailers. For more information on this initiative, visit www.prana.com/naturalpower. Look for a more in-depth SNEWS® story on Prana's wind power initiative in the weeks to come.

Keen raised $8,200 for the Conservation Alliance on Aug. 12. The company gave away a free pair of Keen Antiguas for every $20 donation to the Conservation Alliance. For a donation of $30 or more, supporters received Antiguas plus a Black Diamond Ion headlamp. Keen passed out 375 pairs of shoes, and about 50 headlamps were distributed. The line in front of the Keen booth was long, and the crowd was patient. Keen also announced that it will match the joining fee of any company that becomes a member of the Conservation Alliance through the end of 2005, capped at $120,000 total in matching contributions.

Both the Sustainability Working Group and the Green Steps noon meetings were well attended, with at least 60 people at each event. Frank Hugelmeyer, president of Outdoor Industry Association, was the first to speak at the Sustainability Working Group meeting. Hugelmeyer encouraged participants to form working groups on issues of environment, sustainability or whatever their priorities. He reminded participants that OIA is at the end of a three-year funding cycle, and that the trade organization will be evaluating which initiatives it should be funding in the near future.

"OIA is your trade group," said Hugelmeyer. "We need to reflect the needs of the membership."

David Benell presented "A Climate Change Primer for the Outdoor Industry," to about 60 attendees, and a lively discussion followed about how to reduce corporate and personal impact on the environment. Cards were collected from those who wanted to continue the discussion.

At the Green Steps meeting, Mary T'Kach of Aveda talked about the company's triple bottom line, which has resulted in substantial profit for that company. She gave concrete steps and suggestions to attendees as to how to initiate environmental programs from their own offices through the supply chain. She asked the industry, "How will you keep your businesses in business if the environment is trashed?" and pushed people in the room to unite and take action. She encouraged people to reflect, and asked: "What legacy will you leave?"

On the sustainable fiber front, Continuum, the first environmental fabric sourcing agent that we know of, launched its organic and best management practice cotton, wool and synthetics at the show. According to owners Anne Gillespie and Stuart Adams, response was extremely positive.

Thermore announced Thermore Natural, made from Ingeo, polyester derived from corn. According to Thermore, it will be the first thermal insulation made with sustainable fiber.

Once again, Earth Creations donated the official Outdoor Retailer Summer Market T-shirts. This year, they were not only clay-dyed, but 100 percent organic cotton.

Many new products with environmental stories were featured at the show. Patagonia presented the Long Haul Short, which is made from 100-percent recycled materials including post-consumer industrial waste and factory scrap. Guyot Design showcased The Utensil, a camping spork that nests with a serrated edge spatula/knife. The set is made from recyclable nylon and will be reclaimed by the company.

Big Agnes announced a new best practices DAC pole system that will be used on four of its tents in 2006. The poles are made with the most environmentally sensitive anodizing process available, the company told us. Innov-8 introduced its line at Summer Market, and showed the first road running shoes that the SNEWS® team has seen that can be re-soled.

Fox River was distributing a brochure at its booth on the company's sustainability commitment which includes recycling 450,000 pounds of materials each year, use of alternative and organic fibers, and energy and water efficiency.

We saw more Green Steps around the show, and that program continues to grow, which is a good thing as it shows industry passion and support for the concept, and funds generated from the program go to providing green energy to power the trade show.

And yes, we did hear from many of our readers an increasing level of disgust over the few folks who jumped on the Green bandwagon that are, well, using the green theme simply as a promotional tool. And yes, we know that, in fact, those same companies might not really be all that green, but for now, we'd prefer to focus on the positive. Of course, if those who are not really making honest green steps continue to wave a green banner simply because it's cool and garners essentially free marketing exposure, we will start calling you out onto the carpet, and deservedly so.

SNEWS® is very committed to further the communication of the green message. Our monthly "Green Scene" column takes a look at what our industry is doing well, what it can do better, and provide inspiration and ideas for establishing our industry position as the leaders in green for both preservation and profit. If you have ideas or issues you would like to see us discuss, send an email to:GreenScene@snewsnet.com.

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