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How Green is Your Gear?

How Green is Your Gear?

[ Wed, 2010-09-15 14:43 ]
Environmentally-friendly boards.
In the future, the Eco Index may be able to tell you. Check out what the Outdoor Industry Association has in store for you and your green gear.

How sustainable is that sweet pair of skis you’re about to buy? You may soon be able to find out how green all your favorite products are through a new tool called the Eco Index. Designed in collaboration with over one hundred retailers, brands, and suppliers, along with the Outdoor Industry Association, the European Outdoor Group, and Zero Waste Alliance, the Eco Index is an environmental assessment tool designed to advance sustainable practices within the outdoor industry.

The Eco Index is based on a framework created to guide product development. Developers assess where their materials came from and how they were processed along with packaging, product manufacturing and assembly, transport and distribution, use and service, and finally end of life. After assessment, the Eco Index scores a product on a 119-point scale. “There is a lot of green-washing going on right now because everyone has their own standards,” said Beth Jensen, Corporate Responsibility Manager at OIA. “This will hopefully provide a way to measure products against a standard so that companies can make more informed product lifecycle decisions.”

“Timberland had previously developed an internal green index, and many other companies saw that and recognized the need to have an industry-wide tool in order to have the same language and tools when talking about sustainability,” said Jensen. “Individual standards are not helping when talking with suppliers about the sustainability of materials, so this program is designed with a long-term standard in mind.”

The Eco Index, which first debuted at last month’s Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, provides companies throughout the supply chain a way to assess their environmental footprint. With this information, companies can identify areas where they can improve their production process, lessening their environmental footprint. The creators of the Eco Index considered multiple impact types along a complex, long, and interwoven supply chain in order to get the true picture of the environmental footprint of a product.

Right now, there is no label that a company can stick on a piece of clothing so consumers can see for themselves how green a product really is. In the future, though, Jensen sees this as a real possibility. “Now, the Eco Index is made to raise the bar in the industry and make what these companies are doing more credible in an organized way, but the more streamlined we make the system, the more likely it is that companies will actually use the program to make informed decisions about the design of their products.”