Friday, June 26, 2015

Op-ed: Utah's ski industry needs Clean Power Plan to survive | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Onno Wieringa and Peter Metcalf

Utah's unprecedented quality of life and world-renowned outdoor recreation are a huge part of what makes Utah Utah.
Unfortunately, climate change and poor air quality are forever altering the Utah we know and love. Fortunately, we have a historic opportunity to help improve air quality and combat climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce pollution from our country's electricity sector. The plan is critical to protecting Utah's outdoor industries, particularly the ski industry, which is under threat by the impacts of climate change.
Regardless of whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not, you want this industry to thrive. Utah's ski industry alone provides 20,000 jobs and contributes $1.29 billion to Utah's economy. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that Utah's outdoor recreation brings $12 billion in consumer spending, $3.6 billion in wages and salaries and almost $900 million in direct state and local taxes. Despite being a major economic driver, the outdoor industry is competing for influence on Capitol Hill against powerful lobbying groups motivated to shut down the Clean Power Plan.
As representatives of Utah's outdoor industry, we view the Clean Power Plan as not only vital to our business future, but a doable, workable opportunity that will benefit Utah citizens and businesses. The reality is that the outdoor industry, particularly the ski industry, is feeling the impacts of climate change now and Utah needs the Clean Power Plan to help protect a primary contributor to our economy.
To Black Diamond Inc., which provides world-class gear to skiers and outdoor enthusiasts, the Clean Power Plan is a small step in the right direction. In fact, our industry has a business imperative to advocate for it. It is not idealism or political motivation to see this. It is mathematics and economics that illustrates Utah and Black Diamond will be in much more serious pain without the healthy, multi-billion dollar ski, outdoor and active outdoor related tourism industries in our state.
At Alta Ski Area, we're a founding member of the National Ski Areas Association Climate Challenge, a group of 30 ski areas committed to reducing emissions. Winter resorts like ours have had to up our accountability in the climate change arena to protect our business. But doing this doesn't break the bank or cost jobs. We have implemented common sense actions for increasing energy efficiency to cut emissions. These measures have been good for business — in fact, we see a financial return on every investment we make in energy efficiency.
While we may have different ideas about the best ways to power our future, there's no question that we can use energy more efficiently. Energy efficiency is a central part of the Clean Power Plan, and is so readily available it is almost comical. Just ask Rocky Mountain Power.
Its parent company, Pacifi Corp, has released its 2015 energy efficiency potential study, which identifies how much energy we can save over the next 20 years. The study clearly shows that energy efficiency is an affordable and reliable strategy to help achieve the pollution reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. And considering that the residential and business sectors together account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy use, it makes sense to focus on how our homes, work places and industry can cut energy waste, save money and reduce pollution.
The Clean Power Plan is achievable, affordable and necessary. Let's embrace this opportunity and safeguard our state's outdoor culture.
Onno Wieringa has been president and general manager of Alta Ski area since 1988. Peter Metcalf is CEO and President of Black Diamond Inc.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Patagonia invests $1 million in Beyond Surface Technologies, a Swiss company aiming to eliminate chemicals in outerwear

Patagonia is upping its own environmental ante with a $1 million investment in Beyond Surface Technologies, a Swiss company that’s pushing petrochemicals out of the gear closet

ur ski jacket is full of petrochemicals. Ditto a fair amount of the other clothing in your closet that attains that magical, paradoxical state of being both waterproof and breathable when you’re hiking or biking up a steep ridge in a fierce storm.
Through decades of tweaks and improvements, material scientists and chemists have produced these miracle fabrics through a combination of membranes and finishes. High performance comes at an environmental cost, however, since these substances rely on petrochemical feed stocks. Plus, the use of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in finishes used to create durable water-repellent (DWR) exteriors—a key part of that waterproof-breathable magic that outerwear can attain—has an especially dark side: The chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a by-product of PFC production, and studies have shown it to cause developmental problems in lab animals. The toxin, which plays a role in many industrial applications, has made its way into the environment, and small amounts are found everywhere, from the blood of polar bears to the blood of most humans.
Today, nearly every major outdoor apparel brand uses PFC-based finishes for waterproof-breathable jackets and pants. The EPA has been working with chemical companies for years to phase out the DWR finish, known as C8, that produces the most PFOA. Most companies are moving to a different DWR, known as C6, but here’s the rub: This alternative falls short in terms of performance, and it still generates trace amounts of PFOA. Plus, it’s still reliant on petrochemical feedstocks.
As part of its larger mission to reduce the environmental impacts of its products and supply chain, Patagonia announced earlier this month that its venture arm,$20 Million and Change, has invested $1 million in Beyond Surface Technologies (BST), a Swiss startup that’s developing plant-based chemicals it believes can replace conventional PFC-based finishes.
BST was formed in 2008 by a group of textile industry veterans with a strong background in chemistry who wanted to produce waterproof-breathable textile finishes differently. “It dawned on me that it is a bit crazy what we were doing,” says BST director Mathias Foessel, referring to mainstream companies seeking alternative petro-based finishes. “We were developing products with inherent hazards, and then trying to find the best way to mitigate those risks or control those hazards.”
So BST started developing alternatives to the alternatives. “What if we eliminated the risks to begin with? Why not come up with [textile] finishes with lower hazards or no hazards? And then we can use crude oil for something more important.”
Five years in, BST has brought three different bio-based finishes to market that are already being used by a number of major brands, including Patagonia, Levi’s, Adidas, and Puma.
These finishes include the Midori Biosoft, which is designed for use on base layers;Midori Biolink, a natural acid-based finish for denim (replacing a conventional finish that contains formaldehyde, Foessel says); and Midori Evopel, which is the holy grail of textile finishes because it is designed for waterproof-breathable shell fabrics. 
BST is using a range of agricultural and algal products as feedstocks, with a focus on raw materials that have been approved to use in personal care products or food additives. “If it’s approved to rub into your skin or to eat, it should be okay to functionalize your textile with,” Foessel reasons. BST also avoids GMOs and plants that would compete with food crops. It is also using some waste products from the production of other bio-based chemicals, such as biodiesel. 
BST’s work is far from complete. Foessel says he’s confident that the Midori Biosoft and Biolink products are on par with the performance of their crude-based counterparts, but the current formulation for Evopel is a work in progress. For one, Evopel relies on a mix of crude- and bio-based feedstocks at this stage (Biosoft and Biolink are both 100 percent bio-based). For another, it’s not ready to go neck-and-neck with conventional waterproofing finishes.
“There is research needed to put it up a notch and increase performance,” he says of Evopel. “With PFCs used in sportswear and apparel, you have different classes of performance and expectations. We believe [Evopel] is not good enough yet.”
This is why that $1 million from Patagonia is well timed. 

Natural fibers have drawbacks not only in terms of performance but also the amount of water needed to produce them compared to synthetics.   Photo: Courtesy of Patagonia

The financial support from $20 Million and Change is also the first outside funding BST has accepted; until now, the founders have bootstrapped the firm. “We have turned down other investors who wanted to take a larger role [in BST], and we declined because we felt it was important to keep the freedom of being able to work and test what we want to, and even fail and come back and restart. That’s part of the fun,” Foessel says. “We have to be independent in our decision making. We have a high rate of failure, and if there was someone in the back room trying to veto ideas, we’d not have gotten here.”
Of course, even if BST succeeds in disrupting the crude-based textile finishes sector, most of the fabric its products will be used on will continue to be derived from crude (although many polyesters are made from recycled PET bottles). 
All consumer products have environmental impacts, and those impacts have to be viewed across the product’s entire lifecycle—natural fibers have drawbacks not only in terms of performance but also the amount of water needed to produce them compared to synthetics. Still, Foessel believes it may be possible to use the Biolink finish on base layers made from natural fibers and match the wicking performance of synthetics, though that would require innovations from other parts of the textile world. “We started at zero. We came with a strong passion. I think we need experts in other fields who can do the same [to put the performance of natural fibers on par with synthetics].”

Friday, April 10, 2015

Clothes You Can Feel Good About Wearing | Outside Online

Clothes You Can Feel Good About Wearing - These 15 progressive companies are making sustainable clothing that looks as great as it wears.

Monday, March 2, 2015


By Protect Our Winters
Here at POW, we rely largely on our corporate partners to achieve our mission. These partners recognize the success of their business directly relies on the health of the environment and therefor align their core values with direct action to help protect it. These are the companies who understand the role they can play in the climate movement is massive and that inaction will have direct influence on their business and way of life.
Fortunately for us, we work with a number of brands that have built environmental responsibility and climate advocacy into their corporate DNA and into their annual business plans. Together, these brands have come to represent the lion’s share of the market in the winter sports industry and have the economic and social might to create the social movement that we desperately need to effectively address climate change. We can’t thank these partners enough for their commitment to us, the community and the environment.
We prefaced this post with that because no matter how big or how small, corporate involvement in climate change is critical to save a season that’s an integral part of our culture and identity, but also the economic backbone of the global winter sports industry.
The most common question we ask ourselves on a daily basis at Protect Our Winters is, “How can we make the biggest impact?” In 2012, when considering getting involved with a massive fight against coal exports in the Pacific Northwest, we asked ourselves this again and started doing some research.  First and foremost, the biggest opportunity we saw was that it became very apparent that part of the reason that the issue hasn’t risen to the level of climate emergency outside of the PNW is because the scope of the destruction is virtually unimaginable.
It’s hard to fully imagine the impact 50 trains a day, loaded with coal, can have as they rumble through on their way from Wyoming, unless of course you live in one of the many small communities along the on the rail line,  you’re one of the affected Native Americans who call these places sacred, or one of Washington state’s legendary waterways risking coal dust (or worse, a coal spill) in their fragile ecosystem. And then if that’s not enough, consider the global climate impacts when that coal is burned.
And that begged the question: why are we all not aware of this when the amount of carbon emissions produced by the burning of this coal deposit alone outweighs that of Keystone XL and would undoubtedly result in irreversible impacts on the global climate?
Momenta would be our way to truly illustrate what’s at stake and place it in the minds of a broader audience to spotlight what this small group of fossil fuel companies is risking for their own profits.
And so Momenta was born.
First step: funding. In all truth, we undertook a documentary project that was probably bigger than we were able to execute at the time, but it was important to us and our members that we do something meaningful. The price tag was bigger than any project we’d ever undertaken, so we filmed an incredibly powerful trailer and threw it up on Kickstarter. The donations came in from local citizens that truly cared, but we came up short. By a lot.
With seven hours to go before the Kickstarter campaign was scheduled to end (and if you don’t make your campaign goal by the end, you don’t get anything) we had pretty must lost hope on bringing Momenta to life.
It was 10:30 p.m. in Los Angeles. Then the phone rang. It was Ed Lewis from SNOCRU, a social startup app for the winter sports community based in Park City, calling from Gillette, WY (home of the Powder River Basin). He wanted to know more about Momenta. He was driving to Utah and was blown away by the destruction from the coal mining in the area and wanted to get SNOCRU involved somehow, as he knew what more burned coal in the world meant to global CO2 levels. I filled him in on Momenta and after hearing about the soon-to-be-failed Kickstarter campaign he simply asked, “how much do you need?”
Within minutes, Kickstarter alarms were going off in my email and with six hours to go, Momenta was funded.  We launchedMomenta this week, in very large part because of the generosity and the commitment of a startup brand called SNOCRU and a CEO who knows that without paying attention to the environment, there will be no need for businesses like his own.
And that’s what we hope other brands in the snow community will do – see beyond today and understand that in order to stay in business for generations, we all need to act like SNOCRU, to visualize what a world without snow would be like and take meaningful action. It’s time to step up and help protect our winters, for our livelihoods and for future generations.
Watch Momenta here for free, now:
Learn more about SNOCRU here:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boombot REX

Boombotix, a leader in portable music technology, announces the “Build-A-Bot” customization tool for the Boombot REX. 

The Build-A-Bot also comes with limited edition artwork created by Benny Gold (MSRP 

The Boombot REX ultraportable Bluetooth speaker connects to iPods, computers, 

tablets and other smartphones with Bluetooth capability. The special polymer housing 

means Boombots are built to withstand more than just general wear and tear. Build-A-

Bot allows users to create a unique Boombot REX by mix-and-matching the speaker’s 

grills, bezel, clip and body color. Additionally, Build-A-Bot users can upload pictures from 

smartphones or personal artwork, and print it on a Boombot REX’s grill.

“We’re the first speaker manufacturer to allow this level of customization through our 

website,” said Boombotix founder Lief Storer. “Having the ability to put my dog’s face on 

a Boombot REX speaks volumes to what customized speakers represent and what 

Boombotix was always meant to be: a personalized, ultraportable music experience.”

Boombotix partnered with Benny Gold to create three limited edition designs that users 

can select when customizing a speaker. With offices in San Francisco only two miles 

apart, the two brands made for a natural fit. 

“The Gold brand consistently partners with companies that represent quality products, 

and the Boombot REX exemplifies that value,” said Benjamin Weiner, creator of the 

Benny Gold brand. “The designs we created for this partnership include imagery that 

The Boombot REX boasts the best sound for its size, among other attractive 

specifications for a rugged, ultraportable speaker:

 A rechargeable medical grade lithium-ion battery (1500mAH capacity) offering a 

 Improved hydro-sealing to handle light rain/snow (IPX4 rating)

 Easy to reach top mounted button configuration

 Embedded microphone to take calls on the go

 Power: 2 x 3W Full Range Drivers + Passive Bass Woofer

 Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP Wireless Connectivity

All Boombots come with a one-year, “no matter what” warranty. The ABS polymer 

housing makes every speaker ultraportable and ultra rugged.  Boombotix offers many 

accessories, such as the bicycle handlebar bar mount and TuffSKIN protective cover, to 

give users even more creative and travel freedom.


Boombotix was founded to make the best ultra-portable speaker experience. The 

company’s weatherproof speakers feature premium acoustics, wireless connectivity, 

rechargeable batteries, and ruggedized shells built to last. Boombotix’s speakers 

interface with smartphones, tablets, laptops and most mobile devices. These ultra-

portable speakers are the new evolution of mobile audio: Boombots.