Green Scene: Outdoor Retailer Winter Market deserves applause for placing green awareness front and center

Outdoor Retailer's first foray into being green was a success in raising awareness, initiating a dialogue and getting the industry thinking and talking.

Outdoor Retailer’s first foray into being green was a success in raising awareness, initiating a dialogue and getting the industry thinking and talking.

Two lunchtime sessions on sustainability were packed. David Bennell effectively moderated a forum where participants were able to ask and respond to questions. The overwhelming theme of both sessions was that there are a lot of companies that want to learn more about how to lessen their impact, and there are a lot of questions about how to do it, what it costs, how to reach the low hanging fruits, and where to turn for information, support and guidance. There was discussion about how to define sustainability, and the numerous stories and questions from many sectors of the industry clearly illustrated the need for organization and action on the topic of the environment. Anne Gillespie’s advice: Take a look at where we, as an industry, can have maximum influence.

Bennell has already followed up with the PowerPoint presentation from the first lunchtime meeting, which included results from a survey of environmental and sustainability interest from 66 industry respondents. The general sentiment in the room was that the industry wants the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) to take the lead in acting as a clearing house for information, and becoming a place where companies interested in getting greener can find the guidance and information they need. Several members of the OIA board and staff were present, including Kim Coupounas of GoLite and Michelle Barnes, OIA marketing director. Both promised to take the passion of the discussion and the desire of the industry for OIA to get involved back to the OIA board. OIA is considering how it might become involved, and if enough of its members want it involved.

In the meantime, Indigenous Designs created the Green Steps Association to provide information to the industry, and to report on companies that are taking environmental initiatives. The association promises to establish a website that is a clearinghouse for information on sustainability, as well as a Green Steps sustainability journal and resource guide to be distributed at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and Winter Market.

The Wintergreen Industry party featured recycled plates, napkins and other paper goods made by Seventh Generation, and organic food and drinks. Though the spread was more diverse when the food was conventional (last year’s coconut shrimp sure were tasty), this was a bold step into new territory by Outdoor Retailer, and it did a great job.

We heard from both retailers and manufacturers that the Green Steps listing and sponsorship helped them make connections they otherwise may have missed. Fifty-five companies (including our own company which SGB inexplicably left off the list published in the show daily) listed the environmental actions they are taking internally with Greensteps, and 20 companies sponsored green footprints with suggestions on how to reduce energy consumption in front of their booths. The revenues from the footprints went toward funding the wind power that provided energy to Winter Market. Our hats are off to Outdoor Retailer for setting an example and making the commitment to wind power at the show. We hope to see this continue over the long term.

SNEWS® found several companies through the Green Steps listings that we didn’t know about or whose environmental initiatives we were unaware of, including Consoltex. Consoltex is a fabric manufacturer that is coming out with a line of organic cotton fabrics, including a nylon-faced organic cotton with low impact dyes. Within a year, Consoltex expects to use all natural dyes made from fruits and vegetables. It has new coating and lamination equipment that will let it make a range of solvent-free waterproof/breathables, as well as other fabrics.

Though there is plenty of room for improvement, we would say the Green Steps program went about as flawlessly as it could for a first-year effort. The only real glitch we heard during the show was that Nomad Journals was missing the green footprint in front of its booth when we stopped by. Its journals use 100-percent recycled paper and metal rings made from recycled metal.

Sierra Club hosted an organic wine tasting to introduce its new line of organic chocolates, energy bars and candies, which were outstandingly delicious, and that’s not the wine speaking. Also on the food front, the Organic Fuel Natural Endurance Bar debuted at the show. It’s a tasty, organic and non-GMO food bar available in three flavors. And, though it wasn’t advertising it, Sierra Designs launched its first organic cotton items, including several color options in button-down, lifestyle shirts.