10 Outdoor Brands That Recycle, Resell and Repurpose Old Gear
As major gear brands unveil closed-loop programs, the need to buy new is in decline
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It came as a surprise when Patagonia launched the Worn Wear program in 2017. The outfitter’s decision to resell used goods wasn’t unique for Patagonia, a brand known for its trendsetting tendencies, but it was a unique turning point that popularized the concept of repurposing old equipment and apparel among outdoor companies.
For decades we’ve relied on single-use products only to discard unwanted waste in the nearest landfill. It’s a problem so universal that brands from Gucci to Nike are committing to ambitious sustainability targets in the coming years. But the outdoor industry is being held to a higher standard because it relies so heavily on the planet for profit. After all, we buy puffy jackets and hiking pants to use them outdoors — not to sit on the couch.
In the wake of Patagonia’s decision to launch its now-popular Worn Wear program, many competing outdoor brands have followed suit. From The North Face Renewed program that launched in 2018 to the Arc’teryx ReBird initiative unveiled last year, there’s never been a better time to invest in worn gear at a discount, sell what you don’t need for some extra money or simply recycle old goods, all of which are actions that contribute to a circular economy.
Interested in the brands making an effort on behalf of Mother Earth? We’ve rounded up 10 outdoor brands establishing closed-loop cycles, from well-known outfitters to labels you might not know. Put the planet over profit and shop the best ones below.
From its grassroots environmental campaigns to social activism strategies, Patagonia is well-known for its eco-conscious influence. And while your Patagonia gear just might last you a lifetime of use, its Worn Wear program allows you to return gently-used gear for credit or shop a vast collection of used equipment and apparel returned by others from around the world. What’s more, you can even send in your damaged goods for repair or find the nearest Patagonia store to have goods serviced on the fly. For an even more unique look, shop the ReCrafted Collection to find new apparel made from bits and pieces of old Patagonia fabric.
Introduced in 2018, The North Face Renewed program is a completely circular model that selects old or damaged apparel and renews it to “like-new” standards. Of course, some clothing can’t be brought back to life no matter how hard you try, which is why the California-based brand also donates leftover and irreparable goods for recycling. If you can’t find something you like, be sure to check the Recently Renewed section that’s updated daily with the latest revived additions.
Arc’teryx gear is often prohibitively expensive, which is why the Canadian brand’s ReBird initiative is perfect for those looking to score a deal on top-of-the-line goods. You’ll find jackets, shorts, T-shirts and shoes on sale (among other staples), all of which have been renewed to their former glory. But if the idea of scouring the web for deals sounds like too much trouble, consider visiting the brand’s recently opened brick-and-mortar shop in New York City to find Arc’teryx gear you love, or to have your goods serviced through the ReBird Service Center.
For years we’ve relied on the Co-op’s monthly in-person garage sales to score insane deals on equipment and apparel, but REI’s Good & Used program takes the reselling process a step further by hosting everything online. If you’re interested in selling goods, simply search for the product through the retailer’s database and, if it exists, REI will take it back with free shipping in exchange for an REI gift card. Keep in mind, this is still a service reserved solely for Co-op Members, but becoming a member only requires a one-time payment of $20.
Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven has long maintained strict environmental standards that take into account hazardous materials, fabric longevity, sustainable production methods and a robust repair program that teaches you, the consumer, how to mend your Fjällräven gear. What’s more, the Samlaren Collection features one-of-a-kind jackets, bags and hats made from leftover fabrics that can’t be found anywhere else.
New England Mountain Outfitters, or NEMO Equipment for short, began its sustainability efforts in 2019 with a bold initiative to eliminate 100,000 polybags from its supply chain. Since then, the New Hampshire brand has partnered with REI to help consumers return their old equipment through the aforementioned Good & Used program in exchange for a NEMO (or REI) gift card. The outfitter also uses responsibly sourced down, removes harmful chemicals from the supply chain and gives employees time off to volunteer.
Mountain Hardwear equipment is designed to last season after season, but the brand’s Repair Over Replace program provides free repair services to keep products out of the nearest landfill when your favorite gear is showing its age. But even if you don’t need to patch your puffy jacket, the brand also crafts new gear with recycled fabrics, some of which are 100% post-industrial recycled materials. While bigger sustainability plans are sure to come, you can also find Mountain Hardwear products in REI’s Good & Used program.
Jackson Hole-based Stio became 100% Climate Neutral certified in April of 2021, but that’s not all the up-and-coming outfitter has to offer on behalf of the environment. Its closed-loop program, Second Turn, allows consumers to return no more than three pieces of used clothing to be cleaned, repaired, or resold at a serious discount in exchange for store credit worth up to 25% of the original retail value. When the time comes to part ways with your Stio goods, look no further.
While outdoor brands have a habit of establishing sustainability initiatives years or even decades after being founded, Swedish brand Houdini was conceived in 1993 with sustainability at its core. Nearly 30 years later, the outfitter’s products and services are set to become completely circular this year — all products will be made from recycled, recyclable or renewable, and naturally biodegradable fibers. As a consumer, you can also return Houdini goods to local stores where the fabrics will be reused or recycled. And if you need any reassurance that the brand is thinking of the future, their environmental roadmap has initiatives in place through 2066.
As if earning a spot in our roundup of the best hiking sandals weren’t enough, Bedrock’s Re-soul and Repair program places an emphasis on repairing your minimalist footwear for a reasonable cost. If the Vibram soles wear out after a few seasons or a bear eats the sandal straps on a backpacking trip, you can send your Bedrock Sandals in for repair at any point and pay no more than $55 to have them looking good as new. In doing so, your favorite pair of summer footwear stays on your feet and never winds up in a landfill where it doesn’t belong.
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