The Dark Secret Behind Your Ski Jacket

Soggy pow days, grey rainy mornings, aggressive afternoon slush.

What do these three things have in common? 

You get wet and very few of us enjoy being damp, let alone wet through. I hate it, it’s uncomfortable, cold and the word moist makes me cringe.

It’s why I’ve always invested in a high-quality durable ski jacket. Something that lasts years and keeps me super dry. 

Functional well made outerwear is a sustainable clothing choice, bucking the trend of fast fashion with the majority of us getting years of use from jackets and pants.

Plus One Tree at a Time is doing wonderful things to ensure these items enjoy an even longer life and stay away from landfill.

Buying a responsibly made ski jacket that you know will last for years, even if it needs a few repairs, is a no brainer compared to other less durable clothing when it comes to sustainability and the environment, right?

Well almost, except for pesky PFCs. Pesky is the wrong word, abominable PFCs.

You may remember me discussing perfluorocarbon (PFC) in certain types of ski wax used by racers and cross-country skiers.

Unfortunately, this nasty chemical also acts as an amazing waterproofing membrane on virtually all of our ski jackets. It is used to create DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coatings during manufacturing and in aftermarket re-waterproofing sprays like Scotchguard. 

The chemical is posing such a problem to humans, animals and the environment that it prompted Greenpeace to take action. 

In 2015, Greenpeace ventured to the furthest corners of the globe (impressive seeing as the Earth is a sphere) in search of PFCs.

Shockingly, the research team found PFCs chemicals almost everywhere they took samples from China, to Switzerland, to Patagonia, some of the most remote natural places on earth.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology also recently studied earthworms and bank voles in the soil at ski resorts. Perfluoro chemicals found in the earthworms was significantly higher than usual and chemical build-up was over 5 times higher than average in the voles.

PFCs are chemical compounds used to make the majority of outdoor waterproof gear including ski jackets, pants and backpacks.

These harmful chemicals enter the environment throughout the lifecycle of a product. During manufacturing, PFC gasses are released into the air getting carried around the world eventually ending up in the water supply.

The DWR coating created with PFCs also permeates into water through usage with rain, snow, and washing methods drawing chemicals out of fabrics.

Anything that enters the world’s water supplies becomes a direct problem for humans, animals and plants as we ingest whatever happens to be swirling around…. Or if you’re partial to earthworms?

So what’s the problem with PFCs?

Well, they are almost indestructible, they don’t decompose, remaining in nature for years. In the rivers, the lakes, the oceans.

The real kicker is the bioaccumulation which means in humans and animals PFC builds up quicker than it is excreted. That means the more PFC in the world, the more we’re all exposed to its toxic properties including hormone and reproduction interference plus suspected carcinogens.

A report on Risk Management Activities on Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains “it can reasonably be anticipated that continued exposure could increase body burdens to levels that would result in adverse outcomes.”

Do we really need PFCs in our outerwear?

Let’s be realistic, PFCs are not a necessity and there are PFC free alternatives on the market. In fact, Greenpeace scientists used these equipment alternatives during their expedition around the globe in harsh winter conditions.

Still though, virtually all major manufacturers use PFCs in their products including brands like North Face and Patagonia.

They continue to do so despite knowing these adverse effects although they continue to look for an alternative without affecting quality.

“Patagonia has long relied on a DWR with perfluorinated compound (PFC) but we have been searching diligently for an alternative because of its harmful environmental impacts” explains Patagonia.

The sustainable outerwear company go on to defend their use of PFC “The garment [without PFCs] must be replaced more frequently, which constitutes its own environmental problem. Every replacement garment comes with its own environmental cost in energy and water used and waste and greenhouse gases generated. So sacrificing garment life is not an option.”

What are the alternatives?

Untrakt

UNTRAKT create completely PFC free outerwear that is recycled and recyclable, reducing the amount of textile waste ending up in landfill throughout the lifecycle of its products.

The growing company uses what they call ecoSHEILD to waterproof jackets and pants. This waterproof breathable membrane is built from 85% Polyester film waste and 15% recycled bottles.  

That’s really cool, not only do they eliminate PFCs but also recycle plastic film and bottles to produce a truly innovative product.

In another (really awesome) step to building a more sustainable brand, UNTRAKT has partnered with One Sleeve at a Time, our online store to give ski gear a new life.

UNTRAKT is donating all its damaged goods which will be repaired and sold at onesleeveatatime.fr. So if you’re looking for new outerwear this winter, head over to the site and give a jacket a new home.

Picture Organic Clothing

Picture outerwear has been PFC free since 2017. The famously eco-conscious ski brand has been building outerwear from recycled material since 2009. Whilst they have been aiming to move away from PFCs completely for many years, now they have beaten the temporary solution of using C6 PFCs with the introduction of Teflon EcoElite which is PFC free and renewably sourced.

“According to us, this water repellency treatment is the best alternative. It offers 3 times the durability of regular PFC free treatment’

Rapanui Clothing

We’re big fans of the innovative clothing brand Rapanui. One Tree at a Time’s t-shirts are printed using its Teemill service, everything’s made to order, meaning we only make what you need, when you need it.  

Now Rapanui has released a lightweight full zip jacket with continued sustainability and environmental impact in mind. The simple, light, fitted jacket is water-repellent while excluding PFCs. The design is kept simple with close-knit organic cotton treated with wax and made from all-natural materials. No PFCs, no plastic.

Let’s tell outdoor brands that we don’t want PFCs on our mountains

The science couldn’t be more clear. This man-made chemical spreads to every corner of the globe, it doesn’t decompose and doesn’t belong in nature.

Outerwear manufacturers are still reluctant to drop PFCs despite these effects. Of course, it’s important to give consumer products the longest possible life but at what cost? 

Finding these dangerous chemicals in animals in ski resorts shows without a doubt that they enter the food chain, making predators just as prone to build up as worms and voles.

There are amazing alternatives available like UNTRAKT and Picture for you to choose from. Let’s start choosing PFC free outerwear and show the industry we don’t need these chemicals.

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