With Earth Day on our minds, we turn to our resourceful members, so many of whom are going above and beyond to be environmentally conscious. Few industries are very green by nature, but there is no question that many snow sports manufacturers and retailers are stepping up their green practices every year in order to help keep winter in our mountains and to do our part to help the Earth. ZEAL, RAMP Sports and Soul Poles are three such companies, each one building their process based on an environmentally focused philosophy.
At ZEAL, innovation and style come together with 100% USA-Grown Cotton M49 resin, the most sustainable sunglass material ever made. ZEAL events manager Mike Filander took some time out at the SIA Snow Show to catch us up on what’s new at ZEAL. He proudly showed us the line of frames made from their M49 resin, including the Ace, Memphis, Dakota and Fleetwood. ZEAL has been working with Mazzucchelli in Italy to develop the resin and the process, which is totally exclusive to ZEAL.
“This is a collection that’s basically made from cotton,” Filander said. “We take the cotton seed and we burn that down to a resin and we ship that to Switzerland and then finally it’s put into our molds in Italy. It’s completely biodegradeable after 18 months in a non-oxygenated environment, like in water or under the ground. For the lenses, the polymer that sticks all of them together is the e-Ilume lens we use, so it degrades in 18 months too. The Memphis, the Ace, the Dakota and the Fleetwood acetate frames are the only ones we use the M49 resin with.”
The rest of the ZEAL line-up features their Z-resin, which is made from castor beans, and is also a sustainable and environmentally friendly process, unlike the petroleum-based products most resins are made from. “We just wanted to do something different,” Filander said. “We can only make a few different circles, so we wanted to find out how to make different, interesting, basic materials in our manufacturing. We’re not trying to change the world but we’re doing what we can. And we find it’s a big selling point. Ace is one of our top sellers. Of course, it works well to use this material, but at the end of the day someone is going to buy a sunglass that looks great on their face.”
RAMP Sports, Built Green from the Ground Up
At RAMP Sports, the focus has been on making green practices a foundation of the brand right from the start. A recent green audit of the company showed that RAMP is giving 13 percent of proceeds back to the Earth through their green initiatives.
RAMP President, Mike Kilchenstein, said he feels that people buy from RAMP for their US based production, new patented vacuum molding process, and their green initiative. “Our best practices help make the brand even more attractive. Companies producing overseas especially in Asia have no control over this. Making skis and snowboards isn’t inherently green. That being said, you can do a lot to be a company who does everything possible to do things right. We use factory materials like FSC Certified Bamboo Cores and Entropy resin that cost more, but provide more sustainable, clean products. And these products have even better performance than the old things like poplar and traditional epoxies.”
In addition, RAMP finds ways beyond the materials used in its skis and boards to tread as lightly as possible on the Earth. “We ship to consumers in padded ski and board bags, eliminating thousands of boxes. We donate the equivalent of 300 pounds of carbon offset for every pair we sell. We also spend a bit more to use Blue Sky energy. We epicycle scrap into things like our giant Yeti out front and do an annual art show where local artists make projects from scrap, last year 127 pieces. We feel like when you put these things together with our US-based production and our innovative molding process, RAMP is a very compelling story and brand.”
Soul Poles Introduces SoulLite at the Show, Extending their Line of Environmentally Conscious Poles
The SoulLite Project is Soul Poles’ most recent undertaking to create an affordable alternative within its line of environmentally conscious and socially responsible ski and hiking poles. Soul Poles’ products are all handmade from responsibly sourced bamboo and recycled PET plastics, a business model that is driven by Soul Poles’ mission to protect the Earth.
Founded by former U.S. Ski Team members Bryon Friedman and Erik Schlopy in 2011, Soul Poles’ mission is drawn from their love for the mountains and the outdoor lifestyle. “We see SoulLite as our first step towards increasing the visibility of the brand in outdoor retail and on hill,” said Friedman. “Priced according to consumer trends, we anticipate SoulLite to fill the void between affordability and sustainability, supplanting the aluminum pole for the environmentally conscious consumer.”
Soul Poles’ line of ski poles have been recognized for their performance as well as their corporate responsibility, most recently earning them a 2015 “Editor’s pick” by Freeskier Magazine. By extending the company’s reach to include The SoulLite line of accessibly priced, truly convertible ski and hiking poles, Soul Poles hopes to further the conversation about environmental and social responsibility in the ski and outdoor industries.
So many SIA Members are doing their part for the environment, and there are a lot of interesting brand stories to tell. These three examples represent just some of the huge impact our members and snow sports retailers are making, not just in reducing their carbon footprint, but also in spreading awareness. To find out how other SIA members are working to help the environment, check the websites of Protect Our Winters and 1% For The Planet. Snow sports resorts are also making a huge impact in awareness – read this recent Outside Online article to learn more.