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43 Interesting Things Triathlon Companies Are Doing to Go Green

From Trek to Specialized to Pearl Izumi and Clif, tri-related brands are making some big efforts to preserve our outdoor training grounds.

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From Trek to Specialized to Pearl Izumi and Clif, tri-related brands are making some big efforts to preserve our outdoor training grounds.

As consumers, we have the power to shape the way companies do business. By choosing where and how we spend our dollars, we drive how companies produce the products we buy—and what they make in the first place. That means we can help push them toward adopting processes that lower their environmental impact.

Below are a few examples of what key players in the triathlon industry are doing to preserve our environment, be it through product life-cycle analysis, recycling and repurposing of materials, supply-chain optimization, and protecting natural resources.

So the next time you’re in the market for a new piece of equipment, consider the power your purchase has in saving (or destroying) the beautiful places where you like to train.

Trek

  • Highly involved in developing trail networks throughout the country thru IMBA.
  • Built 16 miles of singletrack outside their HQ in Waterloo, WI while planting tens of thousands of oak trees and native seeds in an effort to restore the land to its native state. Each year, they perform a controlled burn of the site to remove non-native flora (some non-native species have a negative effect on a local ecosystem).
  • The first manufacturer in Wisconsin to switch entirely to renewable electric power. All their facilities are 100% powered with electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biogas. They used to burn 10.5 million pounds of coal each year, and now they burn none.
  • Custom-designed ovens allow a 90% reduction in carbon footprint and 6x less energy over industry standards.
  • First bicycle company to collect and recycle carbon fiber.

Specialized

  • Partnered with Duke University to examine the life cycle of carbon fiber and aluminum bicycle frames. Among the areas of improvement, they found that a tremendous amount of energy (in the form of heat waste) is lost in the industry-standard process of heat treating aluminum frames. They’re currently looking for methods for recapturing the waste heat and converting it back into useful energy. If successful, they plan on making those results open source so that all manufacturers can take advantage of a more efficient, environmentally friendly method of production.
  • Discovered that their largest material footprint is in the packaging, and have actively working in reducing their packaging footprint.
  • Almost all of the materials used in our products have a second life
    • Carbon fiber: Over 17,000 lbs recycled to date
    • Rubber: 22,000 lbs recycled in 2014
    • Metals: 26,000 lbs recycled in 2014
  • Carbon fiber repurposing into a variety of new products. The recovery process uses significantly less energy than it takes to create virgin carbon fiber.

Clif

  • Caddies were redesigned to be shrink wrap free avoiding the use of 90,000 pounds of plastic per year.
  • 77% of all ingredients are organic and/or certified sustainable. Goal: 80% by 2020
  • 83% of waste stream is diverted from landfills or incinerators. Goal: 90% by 2020
  • 10% packaging reduction for all Clif Bars.
  • Clif Shot Bloks packaging was redesigned in 2008 to save 25,000 lbs of packaging a year
  • 100% green power for electricity for all facilities
  • Their smart solar array installed in 2010 was the first ever in North America over 500 kWh, providing most of their electricity and hot water.
  • In 2010 the company was invited to Washington D.C. to address a national USDA conference about how to drive change toward a more sustainable 21st century agricultural system.

Outdoor Industry Association: Paving the Way
Currently over 300 companies in the outdoor industry are working together as part of the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association’s Sustainability Working Group to identify and implement sustainable business practices in their supply chains. The few triathlon-related brands who have signed on are Brooks, Pearl Izumi and Smartwool. Other non-triathlon companies include REI, Patagonia, Timberland, The North Face, and Salomon. Below, what a few more big sports brands are doing to reduce their environmental impact:

Nike

  • Today it takes about half the energy to make Nike shoes as it did eight years ago.
  • Flyknit technology, a technique for assembling a shoe’s upper by knitting, reduced 3.5 million pounds of waste since its inception in 2012 (60% less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods).
  • Reuse-A-Shoe program has recycled approximately 30 million pairs of shoes.
  • ColorDry technology, which dyes fabric using zero water, has saved more than 20 million liters of water.
  • Since 2010, more than three billion plastic bottles have been diverted from landfills and converted into recycled polyester for Nike products.
  • The Nike Grind program transforms old shoes and manufacturing scrap into high-performance Nike footwear and apparel as well as high-quality sports and play surfaces, including courts, tracks and more.
  • Nike Grind materials are used in 71% of Nike footwear and apparel products.
  • By 2025, aims to use 100% renewable energy in its owned and operated facilities.
  • By 2020, aims to have zero waste sent to landfill or incineration without energy recovery.
  • In 2015 contract factories diverted 92 percent of footwear factory waste away from landfills or incinerators.
  • ‘Moonshot’ goal to double its business while halving their environmental impact by 2020.
  • Revenue increased 52 percent between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 while carbon emissions decreased 18 percent per unit.

Adidas

  • Ranks fifth among the ‘Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World,’ a ranking produced by Toronto-based magazine and research firm Corporate Knights that rates global firms on 14 key measures, evaluating their management of resources, finances and employees.
  • Collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, an organization dedicated to reducing plastic waste in oceans, on making shoes made of recycled plastic from oceans.
  • By the end of 2017, aims to produce at least 1 million pairs of Ultraboost shoes with Ocean plastic.
  • Ambition (no timeframe) to eliminate virgin plastic from their supply chain.

Brooks

  • Have saved over 25o,ooo trees by using 100% recycled materials in their packaging since 2009.
  • Have saved more than 6oo,ooo pounds of shoe stuffing (that paper found inside the shoe when first bought which helps the shoe hold its shape) since removing from most styles since 2009.
  • Have saved more than 2.2 million pounds of paperboard since minimizing their shoe box in 2012.
  • All product materials come from at least 20% recycled content.
  • All of their shoes’ midsole (BioMoGo) biodegrades 50 times faster than a traditional EVA midsole. The BioMoGo technology includes a non-toxic, natural additive that exponentially increases the rate of biodegradation by encouraging anaerobic microbes to break down nutrients into reusable byproducts. While traditional EVA midsoles lasts up to 1,000 years in the landfill, BioMoGo biodegrades in 20 years. Brooks has made this innovation open-source for the industry to use.
  • By using BioMoGo in its shoes, Brooks saves us from roughly 30 million pounds of landfill waste over 20 years.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per shoe have decreased 14% since 2011, thanks to Brook’s commitment to reducing, reusing and recycling.

Deckers (Hoka)

  • Their data center, where all their servers are located, runs on 100% renewable energy.
  • Employees who carpool, walk, bike, or use public transportation are reimbursed $1 per commute.
  • Recycled over 85,000 pairs of used shoes in 2016 by donating to charities worldwide.

Davide Giardini is an Italian-born US-resident waterman turned professional triathlete. He has a BA in Environmental Sciences from Roger Williams University, and worked in Business Sustainability on Oahu, Hawaii. When he’s not training in Boulder, Colo., he can be found surfing, kitesurfing and SUPing in Hawaiian waters.

Connect with Davide on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.