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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Columbia To Release Raingear Without PFCs


Columbia will reveal new rain jacket free of perfluorinated compounds, better known as PFCs, in spring 2017. The rain jacket will feature a technology the company calls OutDry Extreme ECO and will sell for $199.

Columbia released another technology called OutDry Extreme this spring. By using the technology, it eliminated the outer fabric layer of rainwear, which eliminates the need for a PFC-based Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating. Most rain jackets uses PFC-based DWR on the outer layers which allows them to repel water. Without that treatment, water would just soak into the fabric. And no one wants a rain jacket that doesn’t keep them dry.

PFCs are so incredibly strong that they don’t easily break down in the environment, and are found to bio-accumulate in animals and humans. So, why aren’t outdoor brands rushing to ditch PFCs? Columbia staff pointed out in a blog post that almost all major outdoor brands acknowledge that “PFC-free DWR alternatives haven’t provided the durability and performance that customers expect.” In other words, other companies know that although PFCs are bad for the environment and human health, the alternatives just don’t work.

But the outdoor industry has transitioned to shorter-chain compounds, which are considered to be less persistent. Columbia transitioned the DWR used in all of its products to the C6 chain, which is considered safer. However, since C6 still has some environmental risks, Columbia wants to find eco-friendly alternatives.

Enter OutDry Extreme ECO and the rain jacket that will use the technology. The jacket’s eco-friendly traits don’t stop at the use of the new technology. Its main fabric is 100 percent recycled polyester, which will come from approximately 21 recycled bottles. Trims and other components will also contain recycled content. The jacket’s fabric will not be dyed which will reduce water, energy and chemicals. The raw materials used to make the jacket will be sustainably manufactured according to the Bluesign standards, which require manufacturers to meet a strict set of safety and environmental requirements.

Columbia's other environmental initiatives

Columbia has other environmental initiatives beyond its futuristic rain jacket. One of them is sourcing more sustainably-produced materials. Almost 80 percent of the materials it uses are polyester-based, and making polyester is energy intensive. The solution is recycled polyester. Since 2014, Columbia has bought over 10 million yards of polyester with recycled content.

Columbia also wants to ensure that the down insulation used in its products is produced under humane and ethical conditions. The company committed to using 100 percent certified natural down based on the Textile Exchange’s Responsible Down Standard for fall 2016. Using the standard will ensure that the down Columbia uses is sourced from geese, ducks or other waterfowl that are treated responsibly, and it will also allow the down to be traced.

The company's goal for its packaging is to produce minimal waste. One way Columbia minimizes packaging waste is by specifying that its manufacturing partners use single-wall cartons instead of double-wall. This small shift reduces the packaging materials needed for product shipments by nearly 30 percent. The company also minimizes transport waste by increasing the efficiency of its product shipments. For example, in 2013 it reduced fiber used by almost 400 tons and eliminated about 750 containers through reduced carton volume and improving container utilization.

Ending landfill waste from unwanted clothes is a necessary part of being a sustainable clothing company. To that end, Columbia is piloting a take-back program called Rethreads. Through the program, customers can bring in their used clothing and shoes from any brand to seven stores in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota. Customers who bring in unwanted clothing are given 10 percent off a purchase of $75 or more.

Image credit: Columbia

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman