Sustainability projects and community efforts are underway around the world, and some are actually making big progress. That’s what this column is all about — the good news, the wins, the stuff that brings a tear to your eye and keeps that inner flame burning. For this week’s inaugural column, we look at outdoor brands. We’ve dubbed it the “Outdoor Retailer” edition, following the bi-annual outdoors gear trade show that just took place in Denver. Many brands, and the parent company of the show itself, presented exciting sustainability initiatives.

1. Skateboarders planting trees

Shoe brand Etnies launched its “Buy a shoe, plant a tree” initiative back in 2011 and just surpassed 2,000,000 trees planted. This is an enormous feat for capturing carbon emissions. For a writer who grew up admiring the pro skateboarders that wore Etnies shoes, it’s also a nice piece of evidence — to go along with the sport’s 2020 Olympic debut — that a subculture once thought of as a public nuisance has grown up without sacrificing its DIY ethos.

2. Zero-waste snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a low-impact sport — put on the snowshoes, move across the snow, take them off. But what happens when a pair of snowshoes has done its time and needs to be replaced? Crescent Moon Snowshoes is relaunching its recyclable foam snowshoes this fall with an even bigger focus on sustainability. They will be fully biodegradable, made of cornstarch, potato starch, and food waste. The brand says they biodegrade in just one year underground, meaning that the photos you take on your snowshoe trips will (hopefully) last longer than your discarded snowshoes.

3. Taking the gas out of ski wax

Finally, someone on this side of the planet decided that we don’t need to be rubbing gasoline onto the bottom of our skis or snowboards to go fast. North America’s first plant-based ski wax, mountainFLOW eco wax, funded its Kickstarter and is now available. To boot, the brand took home an Outdoor Retailer innovation award for its efforts. There’s even a rub-on option for those of you still tentative about using an iron. We all know how badly those burns can hurt.

4. Clothing for clean living

Nearly every company has a “sustainability” tab on its website these days, but how many are actually taking big steps to be as clean and ethical as possible? Outerknown, a clothing brand founded by pro-surfer Kelly Slater, talks a big game but also walks it. It’s turning fishing nets and nylon waste into clothes, and channeling Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard by guaranteeing its jeans for life.

Outerknown also walks the talk on packaging. Often, “sustainably produced clothes” still show up at your door cocooned in plastic and accompanied by a bunch of promotional junk that’s destined for landfill. I ordered two shirts from Outerknown’s website to put their talk to the test, and it checked out. The shirts came in a recyclable paper envelope, were not wrapped in plastic, and I pulled out nothing but two t-shirts and a tiny receipt — also recyclable.

5. Bringing the industry together

We close this first edition of the round-up with a bold call to action for the entire outdoor community. At the Outdoor Retailer show, the Outdoor Industry Initiative unveiled its new campaign, the Climate Action Corps. It’s similar to what the non-profit group Climate Neutral has been doing to certify brands — ranging from outdoor gear producers to media companies — that offset 100 percent of their carbon emissions. Brands use Climate Neutral’s certification for bragging rights and to inspire others to follow suit.

The Climate Action Corps aims to bring brands on board to measure and reduce carbon emissions on an ongoing basis, with a focus on both quick wins and long-term solutions. The group released its initial field guide, with a follow-up promised for June. The focus is on helping brands build an “aspirational GHG reduction target” (GHG stands for greenhouse gas) and a plan that is built around their specific company needs to make it work.

Here’s to those stepping up to make it happen. We’ll see you next week.

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