A value that should be common to all outdoors people is the conservation of nature, and thus also the sustainability of outdoor products. It would be quite strange to spend your spare time outdoors - the further away from civilisation the better - but at the same time contribute to the destruction of nature with the kind of products that you buy and use.
But how do you define sustainability? I will talk about a few important aspects of sustainability in outdoor products hereafter.
When buying a product you should ask yourself where this product comes from. Where is it designed? Where and by whom is it produced? Is is unfortunately nearly impossible to use only regional products, and we will not be able to change this condition with a blogpost. However, it should be a question of principle for every single one of us, in a perspective of leaving the least possible ecological footprint. No one ever changed anything by saying “What can I do? I can’t change the world by myself!”
Products from other continents need to be transported to Europe, which goes along with the use of a lot of resources, and the emission of a lot of CO2 and other substances that are harmful to the nature, the animals, and us humans. On the other hand a product from Europe needs less transport, less emissions, and the ecological footprint of your product is smaller. At the same time you support local and European companies.
Unfortunately there are many products that are not produced in Europe, for obvious reasons. When buying such a product you however still have the choice where you buy it. You can probably get it directly in Asia or the U.S. for a dime or two cheaper, but think about the fact that you make a parcel get delivered from the other side of the world with only your single product. It is obviously environmentally friendlier to buy from European retailers who buy in larger quantities and often get supplied from stocks in Europe.
An important aspect is the quality and the longevity of a piece of equipment. It is quite clear that good gear makes more fun than poor gear, and in some cases poor gear can even cost lives. Apart from that good gear often lives longer than a piece of poor quality.
This has the positive effect that you can keep and use it for much longer, and don’t have to buy a new one as quickly, or ever. This means less production, less emissions, and a smaller ecological footprint.
You could for example buy a cheap saw from a supermarket, and if it breaks or gets dull you just buy a new cheap one. You could also, instead, buy a good quality saw, which will probably not break, and if it ever breaks or gets dull you can simply replace the broken part or the saw blade with a new one.
The same question arises between two good quality products from which one has a longer lifetime than the other.
Another aspect is the choice of the materials that the gear is made of. It may for example be, in some cases, more sustainable to use a synthetic material because it will simply be more durable than a natural material. In many other cases it will however be more sustainable to use a natural material if it’s unnecessary to use a synthetic material for the given product. Not to mention the cases of natural materials that perform better than any synthetic material produced, like it is the case for merino wool.
If you can choose between a natural and a synthetic material, you should choose the natural material if it’s as good as, or even better than, the synthetic material. Natural materials like wood or wool for example are often renewable resources, which is much more sustainable than for example plastic that is made from mineral oil.
Unfortunately many products sooner or later are thrown away. In this case a natural material is easier to recycle than a synthetic material. If you ever choose not to keep a certain piece of equipment anymore you can sell it if it’s a good quality product. However a poor quality product doesn’t have any more value and will probably just be thrown away.
The price is an important variable for nearly every buying decision. It is however not true to believe that a good quality and sustainable product necessary needs to be overly expensive. A simple stainless steel pot, like he Zebra Bushcraft pot, will probably last longer than some other pots on the market that are much more expensive.
Buying equipment should also be considered on the long term. Very often cheap items need to be replaced quite soon, and after some years or decades you spent as much money on many cheap products than you would have on just one good quality one. If you take a good Wetterlings axe as en example, it will very probably last a lifetime. When the blade gets dull you sharpen it. If the handle is broken you can exchange it. In many cases you would spend much more money over a long period of time for poor quality products than you would on a single good quality one.
When choosing the brands that we cooperate with we always consider the sustainability as one of the most important aspects. When we have the choice between an European production and one abroad, we choose the European one.
For example we are proud resellers of Scandinavian brands like Woolpower, Mora, Karesuando, Light My Fire and Wetterlings with their production in Sweden, or Savotta with their production in Finland. We have the Austrian brand Carinthia with their production in several European countries, Petromax with a part of their production in Germany, and Wisport who make high quality backpacks in their small factory with 30 people in Poland.
Unfortunately the very globalized market does not allow us to only rely on European production. Many European and American brands have their production in Asia, and when choosing these brands we still try to pay as much attention to sustainability as possible. We have for example Pinewood and Tasmanian Tiger/Tanka who have their own production sited in Asia, and who have a much better and more direct control of their production than if they made their products be produced in a factory that produces for several brands.
Given the situation of the global market we could never pretend to be perfect, but we carefully think about our decisions and we try very hard to have the smallest possible ecological footprint.