Columbia Sportswear has introduced what it’s calling its “first high-performance environmentally friendly rain jacket,” dubbed OutDry Extreme Eco.
Available for spring, the rainwear contains no perflourinated compounds, or PFCs, the accumulation of which can have adverse environmental effects and has been the source of significant discussion among advocacy groups and outdoor brands, Columbia noted.
“The removal of PFCs is a significant accomplishment,” Columbia staff wrote in a blog, noting that conventional rain jackets repel water by incorporating synthetic compounds known as PFCs.
The compound has been used for decades as durable water-repellent treatments on the surface of outdoor clothing, equipment and footwear. This treatment allows otherwise permeable, waterproof materials to repel water. Without this treatment, water soaks into the fabric leading to a clammy wet feeling.
A key factor in the persistence of PFCs in the environment is the chemical chain length, or the number of carbon atoms in the chemical structure. Historically, the outdoor industry has used long-chain PFCs in DWR treatments due to its ability to impede moisture saturation, Columbia explained.
But in response to concerns about the environmental persistence of long-chain PFCs, the industry has moved to shorter chain compounds thought to be less persistent. Columbia, based on Portland, Ore., has transitioned the DWR used in its entire catalogue of outerwear, apparel and footwear to the safer, industry standard. But it still poses some environmental risk, and most outdoor companies, including Columbia, have committed to finding more eco-friendly alternatives.
This past, Columbia released OutDry Extreme, which eliminated the outer fabric layer and thus eliminated the need for a protective coating of PFC-based DWR.
Now with OutDry Extreme Eco, there are no PFCs intentionally used in the shell fabric, DWR additive or membrane.
“We could have stopped with the removal of PFCs, but we decided to treat the first release of OutDry Extreme Eco as an experiment in building our most environmentally friendly, high performance jacket,” Columbia said. “We took a holistic, lifecycle approach to evaluating sustainability and are using the Higg Index framework as a guide to measure, manage and improve the social, environmental, ethical and chemical impacts of the product.
Columbia cited several reasons why it feels that the OutDry Extreme Eco jacket is its most environmentally sustainable performance rain shell.
The main fabric of the jacket is made from 100 percent recycled polyester derived from about 21 recycled bottles, and additional trims and components also contain recycled content.
The garment fabric is not dyed, thereby reducing water, energy and chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing process
Raw materials have been sustainably manufactured according to the Bluesign standards meaning they have been verified to meet strict safety and environmental requirements and are produced in a resource conserving way with a minimum impact on people and the environment.
In addition, hangtags are designed specifically to minimize material use and are super slim and jackets are shipped in single-wall cartons designed to use 30 percent fewer materials as compared to double-wall cartons.
Since the surface of the jacket is not a textile that easily traps dirt and stains, in most cases the jacket can be simply wiped clean, reducing the need for washing, saving water and energy.
When the jacket launches in early 2017, OutDry Extreme Eco technology will be featured in two styles in men’s and women’s, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199.