By Dani Poirier, Environmental and Sustainability Studies Student
I’m happy to admit that I have thus far skied more snow days than not this winter. The Salt Lake Valley has been hit repeatedly with storms of fresh powder to blanket the mountains thanks to our weather amigo, El Niño! With all of the season’s precipitation, I have been noticing the quality of my winter gear even more.
As outdoor recreationalists, we should be thinking about how our lifestyle impacts the environment, and what lifestyle changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint. Consumption is a huge aspect of carbon production because of the processes involved in the life cycle of each product. But what happens to the product once it is no longer in use? This is known as the cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis: from the extraction of resources to the moment the item ends up in a landfill. This short video, “The Story of Stuff,” does an excellent job summarizing the toxic patterns of a consumer culture.
The great thing is, we don’t have to keep buying new products. There are simple steps each of us can take to extend the lifespan of our favorite products, including well-used winter gear. I’ve been wearing the same ski pants and jacket for six ski seasons now. One common problem I’ve found with my gear is that the fabric loses its water resistance, otherwise, it’s still perfectly useful! There are a few things that can ruin a beautiful snowy ski day, like being soaked to the skin and frozen to the core after a wet day on the slopes. Fortunately, there’s a simple fix to this soggy problem.
Rather than tossing the gear goodbye and buying a fancy new waterproof jacket, you can purchase fabric water-repellent spray and re-waterproof your gear, making its weather durability almost like-new again! The CEO of Patagonia, Rose Marcario, said, “As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair, reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.” Follow these easy steps to extend the life of your outdoor gear…and save money to spend on that epic spring break trip to the desert, or burritos!
- Buy waterproof fabric spray. I bought a spray from Wal-Mart for around $8. I bet your favorite outdoor store would carry a similar spray as well.
- Hang your gear. I recommend doing it in the garage or outside when it’s not windy. The waterproofing spray is similar to spray paint, and it initially has a very potent smell. Don’t worry, after it dries, the smell goes away.
- Find a small, somewhat hidden area on your gear and do a test patch. Some fabrics might react differently than others.
- After testing, evenly spray your gear all over. Let dry completely and repeat for more water durability.
- Get out and enjoy a beautiful day on the mountain without feeling like you went for a swim. Hopefully the only swim gear you’ll need is a snorkel for the powpow El Niño carries our way!
I believe that we have a responsibility to protect the places we play. I dream of being 80 years old and still enjoying great snow seasons on the slopes. Climate change threatens the future snowpack, which is why we should make lifestyle changes to reduce our carbon footprint now. Extending the lifespan of products (not just our winter gear) is a great way to reduce impacts and eventually increase our snowpack.