Outdoor lovers often think of themselves as environmentalists—but outdoor gear isn’t always all that green. Take waterproof shells: Constructing your average waterproof/breathable membrane comes at a cost to the environment. Not only are they based on non-renewable, petroleum-based plastic, but they also use toxic per fluorinated compounds, or PFCs, that don’t break down when released into the environment.
And while the industry is beginning to wean itself off of virgin plastic as more brands incorporate recycled materials into apparel and accessories, some companies are eyeing the next step in sustainability.
Launching in 2019, snowsports apparel brand Picture Organic Clothing is bringing its first bio-based membrane to market with a collection of sustainably sourced outerwear. Called Dryplay Biosource, this bio-based membrane is 30 percent castor oil and 70 percent recycled PET, plus it’s waterproof and has a 20K breathability rating, just like its PU-based counterparts.The brand created it in partnership with Arkema, a chemical company focused on innovating materials.
“The difference is just the foundation of what it’s made of,” explains PR representative Maro LaBlance. “It actually performs same way a normal membrane does, and it’s just as durable as a normal membrane.”
So why isn’t everyone using it? In a word, price. This technology can add about 25 percent to the kit’s cost. “Picture Organic’s focus will be on getting the price of the technology down,” says LeBlance. “They want eco-friendly options to be more affordable.” The company is already working on its 2021 apparel line and is actively working to lower prices in upcoming seasons.
This promising technology isn’t entirely new. Castor seed apparel dates back to the 1950s, but disappeared from design as plastics took center stage. And The North Face took its own stab at a similar membrane back in 2011, releasing one made with 50 percent castor oil in its Venture Jacket.
But since then, no other outdoor brand has embraced this technology. So Picture Organic is taking the leap, launching Dryplay Biosource in its new men’s Harvest Jacket and Bib ($499 and $399), making them the brand’s most expensive apparel pieces. Extra eco-cred: The Harvest kit is also built from 58 percent recycled polyester.
“Picture Organic’s primary focus is removing dependence on petroleum-based products,” say LeBlance, and the Harvest line is its first step. In coming seasons, expect the Dryplay Biosource membrane to expand beyond its Lab collection and gradually into Picture Organic’s traditional line.
And Picture Organic isn’t keeping this innovative technology to themselves. “They care so much that they’re not keeping it proprietary,” says Eric Carpenter, Picture Organic’s East Coast sales rep. He says the brand is in talks with other leading brands about using the technology to reduce polyurethane dependency, including Patagonia.“
The industry as a whole needs to look at bio-based materials, so we’re not reliant on fossil fuels,” says LeBlance. And as Dryplay Biosource joins other post-petro innovations on the market like PrimaLoft’s new biodegradable insulation and fleece materials, it appears we’re off to a good start.