Clothing For A Sustainable Future
(Or, What Are You Wearing Today?)


By Brian Gordon, Last updated 2/10/2022

Earth as see from space

Earth Day is April 22.

On April 22, 1970 the venerated newsman Walter Cronkite began a CBS news special, “A Question of Survival” with the following words:

“Good evening, a unique day in American history is ending—a day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival—Earth Day—a day dedicated to enlisting all the citizens of a bountiful country in the common cause of saving life from the deadly byproducts of that founding. The foul skies, the filthy waters, the littered earth...”

What occurred on April 22, 1970 is widely acknowledged as the birth of the modern environmental movement. Much of that movement has been centered on “sustainability”, which the United States EPA defines as a concept based on the simple principle that “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

As a supplier of boating-related apparel, West Marine is fortunate to be associated with clothing manufacturers who are working in a variety of ways to reduce their impact on the environment, conserve natural resources and more. Examples of suppliers who make sustainability a key part of corporate policy include prAna, Columbia Sportswear, Gill, Teva and Costa. Following is a brief summary of what each of these companies is doing to promote a sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come.

Woman relaxing on beach on top of inverted boat

prAna's business model has embraced sustainability since their beginning.

prAna—Manufacturers of Clothing for Positive Change (C4PC)

Sustainability has been at the core of PrAna’s business model since the company was founded in 1992. As PrAna explains, “The clothes we wear tell a story.  From the fields where our organic cotton and hemp are grown, to the factories where our clothing is assembled. From the chemicals that need to be carefully managed, to the way we package  and ship each style—everything we do is for the planet and its people. Sustainability has been part of our prAna DNA from day one—and doing things right is just what we do.” PrAna is owned by Columbia Sportswear.

Columbia Sportswear—Doing the Right Thing

Columbia Sportswear’s efforts in the area of sustainability focus on “doing the right thing”. As Columbia’s CEO Tim Boyle explains,”At Columbia, we create enduring, iconic, and innovative products that enable people to enjoy the outdoors longer. We combine our approach to product creation with our commitment to our consumers, communities, and the environment. We want you to be proud to wear our products any time you step into the outdoors.”

Man in Columbia shorts and shirt flycasting in saltwater flat

You can be proud to wear Columbia Sportswear products any time you step into the outdoors. 

Columbia’s commitment to sustainability focuses on three key initiatives: Empowering People, Sustaining Places and Innovating Products.

Empowering People includes partnering with nonprofit organizations like Business for Social Responsibility which delivers training on improving women’s health, finances and gender equality.

Sustaining Places takes the form of partnering with environmental organizations, environmental impact management and sustainable manufacturing practices. Making a positive impact is Columbia’s partnership with the Planet Water Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit that helps combat our global water crisis by bringing clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

Man on bow of boat

Made with 98% recycled materials, Gill's new OS2 System is their most sustainably produced product line to date. Shown: Men's OS25 Offshore Jacket.

Innovative Products include product designs and sustainable manufacturing practices that reduce Columbia’s impact on the environment. Examples include the Responsible Down program which ensures that all down-insulated products meet the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a certification that recognizes best practices in animal welfare and verifies responsible sourcing across Columbia’s supply chain. Worthy of mention is Columbia’s OutDry™ Extreme ECO Collection, their first waterproof-breathable rainwear made with no intentionally added PFCs—a group of chemical compounds of environmental concern.

Gill—Reducing Their Impact on the Environment

Taking responsibility is at the core of Gill’s commitment to the environment. As a marine brand, Gill recognizes that they “have a vested interest in ensuring our oceans, beaches and coastlines are free from damaging pollution and unsightly plastic waste.” Acting on this interest, Gill offers a number of apparel items made from recycled PET plastic water bottles. One example of this is their (New in 2021) Eco Pro Rash Vest, made from 13 recycled plastic water bottles.
Adhering to their Corporate Code of Conduct (introduced in 2015) Gill works with suppliers to ensure that they commit to safe and fair working conditions for all workers. All suppliers must agree to meet specific requirements and Gill monitors this through regular on-site social audits.
Like Columbia, Gill adheres to the Responsible Down Standard and only sources down from birds that have not been live plucked, force fed or subjected to unnecessary harm.

Costa del Mar—Helping to Untangle the World’s Oceans

Costa sunglasses positioned next to fishing net

Costa's "Untangled" collection of sunglasses are made from recycled fishing nets. Shown: Antille sunglasses with Net Black Frames and Polorized Green Mirror Lens.

In 2018, Costa celebrated 35 years as a manufacturer of premium sunglasses by partnering with nearly 4,000 participants to remove 7,698 pounds of trash from 35 beaches around the country. To date, working with the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and others, Costa has gone on to remove over 3,000,000 plastic bottles and 180,600 pounds of trash from our beaches and waterways.

Costa is also working to reduce manufacturing emissions and their carbon footprint. As a maker of premium sunglasses, Costa manufacturers all of their frames from bio-based resin which compared to petroleum based resin offers a reduction in emissions and overall carbon footprint. Further evidence of Costa’s commitment to the environment is evident in their “Untangled” collection of sunglasses which are made of recycled nylon fishing nets—helping to eliminate one of the worst forms of ocean pollution.

Teva—Lessening Their Footprint

Teva sandals shown against artistic background

Since 2020, Teva has diverted 40 million plastic bottles from landfills and put them to better use—strapping sandals to your feet.

From making products with recycled materials, to lessening their water usage and reducing packaging, Teva is focused on implementing changes that make a big impact. Examples include Teva's sandal recycling program that enables customers to return their worn out sandals to Teva so they can be kept out of landfills—by recycling them into running tracks, playgrounds and more. Teva's recycling efforts also include making 100% of their iconic straps out of recycled plastic. Since the program's inception in 2020, Teva has diverted 40 million plastic bottles from landfills and put them to better use—strapping sandals to your feet. In the area of packing, since 2017 Teva has reduced the total weight of their packing by 4.1 million pounds.

Conclusion

While the above discussion focuses on just five suppliers to West Marine, we should mention that others are working for a sustainable future as well. From Grunden’s 100% biodegradable packaging, XTRATUF’s Ankle Deck Boot ECO made from plant-based Yulex® Foam, to sustainable Quicksilver Waterman and Roxy swimwear these manufacturers and others are working to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony now and for generations to come.