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Topic: Ethics of Gear Consumption< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 1:59 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So, I think a great deal about my own consumption habits and their impact on the environment, etc. Please note, I said I "think" about these issues a lot. How often I take action, make better choices, etc. is a different story. For instance, I wear and buy a lot of polyester and nylon (oil based with lots of chemicals) clothing. I rationalize this by saying I walk and bike as much as possible (I haven't driven in months) and cotton clothes simply make this lifestyle much more difficult. I also try to buy used in thrift stores and on ebay but admit to loving getting a swanky new piece of shiny gear with all of those emotional expectations.

So, here's where things could get heated and/or off track. Regardless of political leanings, I assume many on this forum are concerned with climate change. I happen to be a lefty (NOT party-affiliated, though) and do not care for the Koch brothers for many reasons. I bring them up in this context because A) they have funded a great deal of climate change denying, and B) they make a lot of fabrics used in outdoor gear (Cordura, Coolmax, nylon, spandex, etc.). I am certain I own a lot of gear with Invista products (Invista is a subsidiary of Kock Industries.) I did not realize that Koch industries had a fabric division until today when I was doing some research.

Here are some links:
http://www.invista.com/en/brands/index.html
http://www.greenpeace.org/usa....ustries
http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2013....one-app

So, I'm curious to hear others' opinions/ideas about this issue (ethical consumption). I'm not trying to be self-righteous, because I AM VERY MUCH GUILTY OF financially supporting industries, companies, etc. that contribute adversely (in my opinion) to the environment, etc. I do not see this as a black and white issue but one with many, many shades of gray.

Also, while I admit I am an independent lefty, some of the best and most valuable discussions I've ever had are with those whose political beliefs differ dramatically from my own. So, do others out there consider these issues? Do others feel guilty or not empowered or simply "stuck" in a tough situation given the industrial scale of 2013?

I did not post this in the politics section because I'm mostly interested in the tension between loving wilderness and being a 21st century consumer. I hope this doesn't devolve into an angry discussion of electoral politics and apologize for planting those seeds if it does.


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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I have a friend with an app on his phone.  Scan the barcode and it will tell you if the company has an affiliation with the Kock bros.

A lot of fleece is made from recycled plastic if I remember correctly...and fleece lasts a long time.

I appreciate your honesty.  I suspect 90% of the people who say they are concerned about global warming/the environment/etc. do very little that would cause them inconvenience to further their causes.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the response, Lamebeaver. I wonder if that app is Buycott. It's not available for Android yet, which I use. It does more than scan for Koch brothers, too, I believe. It can be configured to disclose lots of other issues important to consumers.

Also, I'm realizing that probably every major outdoor gear manufacturer uses Invista (Koch Industries) fabrics. A quick scan of Patagonia's site (I respect Patagonia's environmental commitment, for the record) uses Invista fabrics. Of course, many other chemical companies (DuPont is the first that comes to mind with Gore-Tex, etc.) make a LOT of money from backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Other than weaving one's own wool clothing, it's damn hard to buy technically proficient gear and avoid contributing to industries that cause a great deal of environmental harm. It's a very difficult subject, but I would love see more consumer advocacy from wilderness loving consumers.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting.

Most of us lack the financial resources to effect the world significantly in favor of our chosen causes. For most of us, our only real chance to influence corporate decisions is in deciding how to spend our money on consumer goods.

So, yeah, I think about stuff like this. (I had no idea the Koch Brothers were in the outdoor fabric business.) I buy gear mostly on anticipated quality and cost, but I definitely think about policy considerations. I'm not a very consumerist person: BPing gear is one of the few consumer items I spend significantly on.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I like to drive my vehicles. I like to hike and bike in synthetics. I live in the desert and use a lot of water. I eat meat but hate the idea of assembly line slaughtering of animals.

I am an Independent with very Progressive leanings. I disdain large corporations which put profits ahead of people and the environment.

I am a hypocrite but I am not a fool.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(desert dweller @ Jul. 09 2013, 2:28 pm)
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I am a hypocrite but I am not a fool.

Hear, hear desert dweller. I feel similarly.

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(DustinTN @ Jul. 09 2013, 11:20 am)
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[I]t's damn hard to buy technically proficient gear and avoid contributing to industries that cause a great deal of environmental harm. It's a very difficult subject, but I would love see more consumer advocacy from wilderness loving consumers.

One reasonably good way is to control our urge to "buy more" -- like 8 backpacks, 4 tents, 6 shells, 14 different mid and base layers just to "dial in" to the climate and trail just right.

Another is to go for quality -- while spending within our means.  Not necessarily sexy brands, but to avoid buying "throwaway" junk that will only clog up our landfills even more -- just because they were "such good deals".

As a (hopefully) former gear freak... I have pared down much of my hiking gear.  As for gadgets, I've been fighting for almost a year now not to get a 7" tablet -- because I already have a perfectly good 10" tablet.  Success so far, but yes, the urge is there.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 2:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(desert dweller @ Jul. 09 2013, 11:28 am)
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I am a hypocrite but I am not a fool.

God loves an honest hypocrite.  There is hope for you and me.   :D

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

http://www.invista.com/en/brands/index.html

Cool!  A buyer's guide!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ben2World @ Jul. 09 2013, 2:39 pm)
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(DustinTN @ Jul. 09 2013, 11:20 am)
QUOTE
[I]t's damn hard to buy technically proficient gear and avoid contributing to industries that cause a great deal of environmental harm. It's a very difficult subject, but I would love see more consumer advocacy from wilderness loving consumers.

One reasonably good way is to control our urge to "buy more" -- like 8 backpacks, 4 tents, 6 shells, 14 different mid and base layers just to "dial in" to the climate and trail just right.

Another is to go for quality -- while spending within our means.  Not necessarily sexy brands, but to avoid buying "throwaway" junk that will only clog up our landfills even more -- just because they were "such good deals".

As a (hopefully) former gear freak... I have pared down much of my hiking gear.  As for gadgets, I've been fighting for almost a year now not to get a 7" tablet -- because I already have a perfectly good 10" tablet.  Success so far, but yes, the urge is there.

I totally agree, Ben. That is precisely what I'm trying to do with varying degrees of success. The problem, of course, is that corporate messaging and marketing is difficult to ignore (at least for me.) Limiting consumption in general is possibly the most important action, but I can't help but feel deflated when I realize that SO much of this gear from companies I truly respect and truly feel care about wilderness has such negative environmental impacts.

I'd love to see an "Environmental Impact Index" or EII introduced into the specs of goods. Maybe something on a scale of 1 to 100 or 1 to 10. This could even be self-reported. If nothing else, I think something like this could help raise awareness for consumers like me. While that may sound ridiculous, I think outdoor gear manufacturers are one of the few industries who might embrace (or at least be pressured to adopt) such a policy, because I think many of them, or at least many of their employees, do truly care about environmental impact.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Its not something I worry about.  My backpacking gear consumption's effect on the environment pales in comparison to all the flying I do in private aircraft so buying one less pack wouldn't make much difference. I could fly less if there were fewer of the rest causing congestion on the roads though.  :)
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Welcome Pilgrim,

If everyone though like you did, and did a little research before buying, and didn't buy stuff just because others were buying stuff, we would still be well below 350 ppm of CO2 in atmosphere. Most people have no ability to distinguish what they want from what they need. The landfills of full of stuff that people wanted, but nobody needed.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Honestly haven't given this much thought, but I tend toward Ben's suggestion of buying the most expensive or highest quality that I can afford - clothing, gear, appliances, etc.  I abhor the practice of buying cheap crap like a $15 toaster only to have to replace that same thing every year.  Same with outdoor gear and a large reason why I don't shop at Wal-Mart.  I want quality anything that won't end up in a landfill after a few months of use.  When given the choice between an item made in China and one made elsewhere, I will avoid those Made in China, but I'm not hardcore enough to boycott China altogether.

Aside from that, I have chosen not to reproduce, which is about the best thing I can do for the planet.  I recycle and have a 4 mile commute, but not bringing more consumers on to this earth buys me a little slack here and there  :;):


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(Ecocentric @ Jul. 09 2013, 3:29 pm)
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Welcome Pilgrim,

If everyone though like you did, and did a little research before buying, and didn't buy stuff just because others were buying stuff, we would still be well below 350 ppm of CO2 in atmosphere. Most people have no ability to distinguish what they want from what they need. The landfills of full of stuff that people wanted, but nobody needed.

I wish I could say I only bought what I need instead of what I want, but that's surely not the case. I'm trying, though. It's been a gradual process of really considering my consumer habits over the past year or so. I'm trying to drastically reduce my HVAC usage, am hoping to build or buy a tiny house and live a little more in accordance with my values. I have STRONG consumer impulses, though!

Perhaps it's a midlife crisis as I just turned 40 this year, but I'm feeling a stronger and stronger gnawing at my self to make more significant changes. I can say, however, that backpacking and hiking have been an ENORMOUS catalyst to re-think my many bad habits.

I'm highly skeptical we can rewind back to 350 ppm (or simply halt the uptick) without many, many more tragedies affecting people of influence and/or their constituents/customers, but I'm hopeful nonetheless.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 3:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The earth is overrated. Didn't the Koch brothers invent something really cool?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 4:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't know the math but I'd think a person could take one less airline vacation every couple of years and that would help all of us a lot more. As much as some garments are made from recycled plastic I think saying no to bottled water goes a lot farther for our environment than being preoccupied with clothing ethics. We can do far more with our vote than our shopping choices IMO. I'll buy American given the reasonable option, good for the environment and good for our neighbors too.

Chouinard is a great guy, you'd never guess he was a multi-millionaire if you met him at a party. Great company indeed. A shame they have to do business with the Koch heads but the world isn't perfect.

I've heard there's a Brew Pub/Restaurant in Ashland Oregon that feeds literally thousands each week but only generates 20 pounds of trash. Support the good businesses you can but don't compromise the safety good gear provides for environmental conscience.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 6:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The total US consumption of non-fuel petroleum products are 15% of production.    Of that 3% are asphalt and 1% are lubricants which is also related to roads and vehicles.   The remaining 11% is a wide range of products that make our modern world possible.  

http://www.ranken-energy.com/Products%20from%20Petroleum.htm

It is the FUEL use that is the issue not petroleumn products in general.  Reduce fuel use radically and there is not an issue.  I personally am a peon on the bottom of our technological world, with little effective influence on choices made by those who control our world.  When what is reasonably availabe changes ie greener vehicles, I'll sacrifice some level of higher cost if affordable for the same function.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 6:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great points all around. I appreciate the collective wisdom of this community.

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(double cabin @ Jul. 09 2013, 1:08 pm)
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I don't know the math but I'd think a person could take one less airline vacation every couple of years...

That might just be my fate going forward...

Creaky bones and joints now ache whenever I maintain a position for any length of time.  Not good for 12 or 20-hr economy air travel.  And it takes me at least two to three years to save up enough credit card awards to go "business class".

It would be hard (and prolly unproductive) for any of us to judge another -- unless in truly egregious cases.  But I truly believe that if we all take environmental issues seriously, we will moderate our consumption habits for the better.  In a country as rich and as consumption oriented as ours, there is always room for improvement, right?


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 8:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well I sail and row instead of power boating so do I get a pass for my air travel?

The industrialization of China and India will have a far greater impact on the environment than any lifestyle change made by mere 300M Americans.  I'm still not convinced climate change is necessarily caused by us nor that it is "bad" and not just "different."  So some animals will die and low lying coastal regions will flood.  So what?  I must admit that I'm fairly ignorant on this topic.
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(double cabin @ Jul. 09 2013, 4:08 pm)
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We can do far more with our vote than our shopping choices IMO.

You've got that backwards, oldtimer.  Our votes are useless because we willingly choose one from the two options at the front of the store.  No one is looking to see what's on the shelves out back.  But regardless, our dollars are more powerful than our votes.  If people stop buying a product, companies will react and change their behavior.  If people switch their votes over, nothing changes.

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(no_granola @ Jul. 09 2013, 5:51 pm)
QUOTE

(double cabin @ Jul. 09 2013, 4:08 pm)
QUOTE
We can do far more with our vote than our shopping choices IMO.

You've got that backwards, oldtimer.  Our votes are useless because we willingly choose one from the two options at the front of the store.  No one is looking to see what's on the shelves out back.  But regardless, our dollars are more powerful than our votes.  If people stop buying a product, companies will react and change their behavior.  If people switch their votes over, nothing changes.

+1.  In our capitalist society, money speaks the loudest.  And a good thing that we have freedom of choice.  So vote (buy) with that in mind, folks.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 09 2013, 9:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Patagonia has a very good reputation.  It is not cheap, but they make good gear.

Rumi


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 10 2013, 12:36 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What has the bigger footprint?

1) Four days on the trail wearing the same stinking synthetic and wool clothes, not running my car or TV or computer during that time, turning off the lights and setting the thermostat and water heater at home before I leave, or

2) Four days around home, driving every day, wearing different clothes every day that all had to be shipped to the store and then bought on perhaps separate shopping trips in the car, washing those clothes, flushing the detergents into the water system, showering each of those days, keeping the thermostat so the HVAC works more, using the computer, watching TV, etc.

I honestly don't know which has a smaller collective footprint, thinking about it makes my head spin. But I do know that it isn't as clear-cut as "wear synthetic or not."


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(JRinGeorgia @ Jul. 10 2013, 12:36 am)
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I honestly don't know which has a smaller collective footprint, thinking about it makes my head spin. But I do know that it isn't as clear-cut as "wear synthetic or not."

I totally agree with that, JR. As I said in my original post, none of these are black and white issues but have many shades of grey.

I do believe, however, that consumers should ask tough questions of manufacturers but with a sympathetic eye towards the difficulty of making solid gear that is relatively affordable while limiting environmental impact. I suspect some manufacturers might welcome some consumer pressure to their suppliers in certain instances, too. To my mind, the key is to have a civil conversation with equal parts respect, restraint, humility, and, above all, honesty and transparency.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 10 2013, 1:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Petroleum products may or may not "be good" for the environment.  If we define "be good" as not contributing to atmospheric carbon (and thus global climate change), petroleum based synthetics are "good".  They add very little to atmospheric carbon.   And petroleum based fuels are "bad" since burning any petro fuel puts carbon into the atmosphere.  

If the goal is to have products that minimize carbon emissions into the atmosphere, focus on the high energy consumption products you use.  Like your car, the A/C unit in your home, your home's constuction, (especially its insulation and "tightness"), the fuel used by your home's heating system, etc.

If the goal is to have a lifestyle that minimizes carbon emissions into the atmosphere, focus on high energy consumption activities you engage in.  Like motorized travel (ground, water, and air), thermostat setting in your home, leaving energy using products "on" when they are idle or not in use, etc.

Within this narrow field (contribution to atmospheric carbon) there are huge complications.  For example, both nuclear power and wind turbines do not add carbon to the atmosphere, but they create entirely different environmental issues.  Hybrid cars use less fuel, but the mining to obtain the lithium in the batteries they use have a HUGE environmental impact.  And so it goes.

And the lithium battery problem illustrates that there are obviously very important environmental considerations other than atmospheric carbon.  We could for example burn other fuels (like wood and corn or sugar derived alcohol) to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions, but that would have a huge impact on our forests and our food production.  There is no one easy answer.  Yet.   If we can figure out how to do cold fusion, maybe that would be the answer.  Maybe.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 10 2013, 1:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

How would burning wood or alcohol reduce carbon emissions?
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(Lamebeaver @ Jul. 10 2013, 1:10 pm)
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How would burning wood or alcohol reduce carbon emissions?

Lower carbon numbers

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(KenV @ Jul. 10 2013, 1:02 pm)
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If the goal is to have products that minimize carbon emissions into the atmosphere, focus on the high energy consumption products you use.

...and the manufacturing and distribution process for you to have those products in the first place. The aluminum alky stove I have is emitting nothing sitting in my closet right now and left alone won't degrade into the environment for a long, long time, but the energy to mine the ore, produce it into an aluminum bottle, produce the equipment that was used for mining and manufacturing, shipping all that stuff around so that the stove ended up in my gear pile in the first place, that adds up fast.


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- JRinGeorgia
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 11 2013, 5:09 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jul. 09 2013, 8:18 pm)
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Well I sail and row instead of power boating so do I get a pass for my air travel?

The industrialization of China and India will have a far greater impact on the environment than any lifestyle change made by mere 300M Americans.  I'm still not convinced climate change is necessarily caused by us nor that it is "bad" and not just "different."  So some animals will die and low lying coastal regions will flood.  So what?  I must admit that I'm fairly ignorant on this topic.

Yes, you are ignorant on the topic.

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