Located near Centura Health in Avon right off of I-70. An innovative natural science learning campus for residents and visitors of the Eagle Valley. Free and open to the public.

318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon, CO 81620

Located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain out of Lionshead Village, Vail. All visitors must have a pass to ride the gondola. Free and open to the public with valid gondola pass.
Nestled along Gore Creek near the Betty Ford Alpine Garden and Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail Village.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO 81657

Curious Nature

Good Outdoor Gear Shouldn’t Generate Waste

Posted by Walking Mountains Science Center on Jun 3, 2024 11:36:54 AM
Walking Mountains Science Center

In a mountain town, it’s difficult to avoid a conversation about the latest gear, and while that gear equips us for a day in the mountains it can come at a cost that is more than the price tag. Sustainable apparel is becoming central to more brands, but there is still significant waste in both consumption and production within the fashion industry. How can we get the gear we need to appreciate nature without destroying it?

            The fashion industry is one of the most prolific contributors to environmental degradation. According to the Union Nations Conference on Trade and Development, footwear and clothing production accounts for 8% of global emissions, produces 20% of global wastewater, and dumps half a million tons of plastic pollution into the oceans annually . The majority of this comes from “fast fashion” - over the last 15 years, clothing production has doubled whereas each item's lifespan has significantly decreased. Many producers are selling cheaper products intended to fit current trends and be disposed of quickly. In 2018, the US alone produced 17 million tons of textile waste - most of which ended up in landfills.


Textile Waste in Landfill

So how do we fix this problem? As consumers must purchase less and extend the lifetime of our apparel. We should consider the impacts of both creating and disposing of each item of clothing.   Before purchasing, consider borrowing from a friend, renting gear, or mending something you already own. If you decide you do need this item, try to purchase second-hand. There are some great second-hand options out there for gear such as Transition Sports, Patagonia Worn Wear or even Thrifty. If you decide to buy something new, buy from brands that consider the planet - this can sometimes be difficult to discern as greenwashing is prevalent. Some key things you can look for are companies that have lifetime guarantees on gear or will offer to mend gear if it breaks, those who are open about their supply chain and give specific ways they are increasing it’s sustainability, natural fibers or recycled materials, and specific dedication to fair labor practices.

The next part of this sustainable consumption is what to do when you inevitably outgrow, get tired of, or break something. After you’ve replaced your gear, try to either upcycle the old item (companies like Burton will upcycle it for you!), pass it on or sell it. With gear in particular, it is important that anything you pass on is usable and safe. For example, do not donate broken climbing equipment. In these situations gear should be disposed of based on material. Textiles can go to drop sites to be turned into rags and made into other materials, but crucially should not be sent to the landfill. We must always consider our gear's end point - the environmental and social effects it will have once it ends up as waste. In a market that relies on disposability, it's up to us to advocate for change, to push brands to do better for us and the planet and to consider the real cost of our consumption. Let’s all get outside safely and sustainably with less wasteful gear!

Bella is a Naturalist at Walking Mountains who’s best items of clothing come from her mom’s closet.

Topics: Curious Nature

Walking Mountains Science Center

Written by Walking Mountains Science Center

Our mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education.