Whether you're buying a beer, a new pair of trail-running shoes or a new bike, there are a lot of choices, but when all (or at least most) things are equal, how do you decide which company to give your hard-earned money to? Increasingly, consumers are choosing companies that are more sustainable, more environmentally friendly, cruelty-free, fair trade and overall more ethical. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies out there doing great things. We have picked a few Colorado examples.
Based in Steamboat Springs, the camping gear company has been around for two decades and has been committed to playing their part in conserving the amazing natural landscapes everyone in Colorado loves so much. Back in 2008, the company launched the Re-Routt collection, a group of products that are constructed using recycled fabrics, fills and hardware and/or environmentally-sensitive manufacturing practices.
More recently, the company donated $30,000 to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC), the nonprofit group that helps to promote and protect the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The company implemented several initiatives in 2018 to raise money for the CDTC, including creating a collection of CDT-inspired sleeping bags, adopting a 75-mile stretch of the trail and raising funds at industry parties during Outdoor Retailer trade shows.
More than $25,000 of the total donation came from sales of the 1101 Collection of sleeping bags sold in 2018. The collection, featuring 80 percent recycled PrimaLoft insulation, was inspired by the rugged, scenic and iconic CDT. The 1101 trail is part of the CDT that winds through the mountains above Steamboat Springs. The funds will help the CDTC reroute a 14-mile section of the CDT from roadway to single-track along Highways 14 and 40 near Rabbit Ears Pass.
Started with a vision to replace wasteful, single-use plastic bottles with insulated bottles made from stainless steel, Boulder-based EcoVessel are striving to make a difference one refill at a time. One way in which they are striving to make a difference is by supporting Water For People, an international nonprofit whose mission since 1991 has been to provide sustainable solutions to the water and sanitation problems in developing countries. Water For People works with communities all over the developing world to construct safe water and sanitation services, provide hygiene education, and empower communities to choose and invest in the right systems for themselves.
EcoVessel donates funds for Water for People through special edition bottles, event sponsorships and direct donations.
New Belgium is a B (Benefit) Corp-certified company ( the designation is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee) that has, to date, donated more than $8 million to communities where their beer is brewed and sold. Beginning in 1995, New Belgium’s local grants program declared that for every barrel of beer produced, it would donate $1 to nonprofit organizations. New Belgium is also a member of 1% For the Planet, donating one percent of sales to environmental causes. Tour de Fat, New Belgium’s philanthropic festival of beer and bicycles, has raised more than $4 million for bike and environmental advocacy groups since its inception in 2000, and the brewery’s Clips Beer & Film Tour has raised more than $650,000 in its first five years for local nonprofits.
New Belgium is also committed to the environment and has worked hard to minimize resource consumption, maximize energy efficiency and recycle at every opportunity. An efficient production facility has allowed the company to achieve a four-to-one water to beer ratio, significantly lower than the industry average, produce 15 percent of its electricity needs through two combined heat and power (CHP or co-gen) engines that burns the methane-rich biogas that is produced by the onsite water treatment plant. And, thanks to 1,235 solar panels covering the roof of the packing hall, the company produces around 4.5 percent of its annual electricity needs. Since January of 2013, the company has been tasking itself on purchased electricity consumption. The “tax” will be used in the near future to invest in other efficiency improvements.
Rocky Mountain Underground
Starting out in a garage in Frisco in 2008, RMU has since moved into a very nice spot in Breckenridge that serves as the company’s first retail outlet and bar which serves as the company’s outdoorhub - think clinics, outdoor education classes, fundraisers, ski demos in winter and bike rentals in summer. Since 2015, RMU has been employee owned and each of its just over two dozen staff are subject to the "50+ days on snow" policy as a job requirement!
Founded with a vision of fulfilling a greater purpose, RMU aims to make a difference in other people's lives by creating quality products that are domestically sourced and produced and by giving back to organizations that are important to them.
The company aims to host two fundraisers a month for organizations large and small and local and international. This past winter, RMU held a series of events to benefit AIARE, the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and it also held a fundraiser for a local company that focuses on teaching women outdoor and backcountry skills. Proceeds from sales of certain beers from the bar are regularly donated to charities. To date, RMU has raised over $300,000 for nonprofits.
The Louisville, Colorado-based apparel company is making a push to be more friendly to the environment their customers love with a range of Social Purpose initiatives. One element to this program includes eliminating hang tags, the almost entirely mostly superfluous tags that, well, hang from your newly-purchased bit of kit and end up in the recycling (hopefully) minutes after getting home. From January this year, the brand will only attach one card to each garment for critical information at the smallest size that can still be recycled. The new tags use 19,400 lbs less paper, saving 165 trees, 68,082 gallons of water and 4,503 gallons of oil annually. In addition, all new polybag packaging shifted to 100% recycled plastic, which itself can be recycled.
Other initiatives include new sustainable technical fabrics made from responsibly-sourced merino and Repreve, a fiber made from recycled plastic bottles, that was introduced this spring. The company is aiming to have 30 percent of its line be made of recycled materials by 2020, and 90% of the total product line made from recycled, renewable or organic materials by 2022. A partnership with The Renewal Workshop to repair and resell PEARL iZUMi warranty returns will give gently used products a second life instead of adding them to the landfill.
Read this article in our spring issue here