How Columbia Eliminated PFCs And Maintained Performance

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Instead of iterating on the 40 year-old approach to building rainwear, Columbia decided to start from scratch. In the process, the company reinvented the category and developed a process that would allow removal of PFCs without degrading performance.

In Spring 2016, Columbia released OutDry Extreme technology that completely changed how rainwear was constructed. "We eliminated the outer fabric layer and thus eliminated the need for a protective coating of PFC-based DWR. This was a huge leap forward to getting rid of most of the PFCs in rainwear. After a quick round of high fives, we immediately set to work on the next step of removing any remaining PFCs from our OutDry Extreme membrane," states a company blog.

Introducing OutDry Extreme ECO

Next spring, Columbia will  release the outcome of these efforts. "We are excited to announce that there are no PFCs intentionally used in the OutDry Extreme ECO Shell. No PFCs used in the DWR. No PFCs used in the membrane. And in keeping performance top of mind, we're pleased to share that the jacket adheres to our high performance standards and will provide industry-leading rain protection."

Lifecycle Approach

"We could have stopped with the removal of PFCs, but we decided to treat the first release of OutDry Extreme ECO as an experiment in building our most environmentally friendly, high performance jacket. So we asked ourselves: What would further reduce this jacket's environmental impact? We took a holistic, lifecycle approach to evaluating sustainability and are using the Higg Index framework as a guide to measure, manage and improve the social, environmental, ethical and chemical impacts of the product."

Here are several reasons why Columbia feels that the OutDry Extreme ECO jacket is its most environmentally sustainable performance rain shell:

Materials

1. The main fabric of the jacket is 100% recycled polyester, and is made from approximately 21 recycled bottles

2. Additional trims and components also contain recycled content

3. Extracting virgin raw materials for polyester is energy intensive and requires dependency on oil. Using recycled polyester helps to reduce energy needed for oil extraction and reduces landfill burdens by keeping plastics out of waste streams

Processing

1. The garment fabric is not dyed. Eliminating the fabric dyeing process reduces water, energy, and chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing process and saves approximately 13.5 gallons (51L) per jacket. This is an 80% savings from the dyeing stage, when compared to a dyed fabric.

2. Raw materials have been sustainably manufactured according to the bluesign® standards. To receive this seal of approval, manufacturers must have verified to meet the strict safety and environmental requirements of the bluesign® criteria and are producing in a resource conserving way with a minimum impact on people and the environment.

Packaging & Logistics

1. Hangtags are designed specifically to minimise material use and are super slim.

2. The paper is FSC certified, 100% post-consumer recycled content.

3. Jackets were shipped in single-wall cartons designed to use 30% less materials as compared to double-wall cartons.

Use & Care

1. Since the surface of the jacket is not a textile that easily traps dirt and stains, in most cases the jacket can be simply wiped clean.

2. This feature reduces the need for washing and thereby potentially reduces the water and energy used in cleaning the jacket. The use & care phase of a jacket may account for up to 35% of a jacket's overall environmental impact.

End of Life

1. At the end of your jacket's life, after you've explored the world, standing under waterfalls and enduring rainstorms, this jacket can be donated through Columbia's ReThreads programme at participating Columbia stores where it can be processed for a second life.

When the jacket launches in early 2017, OutDry Extreme ECO technology will be featured in two styles in both men's and women's, priced at $199 MSRP.

The Future of OutDry Extreme ECO

"OutDry Extreme ECO has proven that it's possible to build a sustainable waterproof breathable solution for extreme conditions. Now, it's our challenge (and our opportunity) to educate our consumers about why PFC alternatives matter and why it's in our collective interests to pursue solutions such as OutDry Extreme ECO. We're also very conscious of the fact that while OutDry Extreme ECO offers a PFC-free alternative, it does not solve the problem PFC issue entirely.

For the near future, short-chain PFCs will still be used in a majority of our waterproof products. We are committed to the pursuit of non-fluorinated alternatives across our product lines that meet performance expectations.

Consider OutDry Extreme ECO a significant milestone in our commitment to keep you dry and protected, while also helping to protect the environment. So while we've cleared that first boulder, there's still a long climb ahead. And we're excited that you'll be joining us on the journey," the blog concludes.           

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