100%rPES and 100%rPA
Polyester is the material we use more than any other. To reduce the environmental footprint associated with our use of this performance fabric, we are working to phase out virgin polyester and polyamide and use only 100% recycled Polyester (rPES) and 100% recycled Polyamide (rPA). Using recycled polyester and polyamide reduces both CO2 emissions as well as energy usage compared with virgin polyester and polyamide. By how much depends on the kind of recycling used as well as how you measure the impact. Using recycled polyester has several other benefits too. It means we’re giving new life to material that would likely have been incinerated or ended up in landfill. At the same time, it also reduces plastic waste and crude oil consumption.
Bio-based Polyester and Polyamide
We want to move away from petrol-based materials, but finding alternatives that offer the same quality is no easy task. And we never want to compromise our high performance standards. As an intermediate step we are using more recycled materials. This means fewer virgin materials and less waste. But we already have one foot in the future – bio-based materials that are renewable. Biosynthetic fibers have the potential to produce fewer greenhouse gases over their lifecycle compared with products derived from fossil fuels. For us it is very important to choose bio-based materials made out of natural resources that don’t compete with the food chain. We’re committed to learning more about the potential behind these materials, and ensuring our resourcing is as sustainable as possible.
At the moment we’re focusing on recycled materials, but we believe the future is for sure not petrol-based. That’s why we’re researching and testing alternative materials like man-made Cellulosics (MMCs). These are materials from cellulosic sources like tree bark that are chopped up and processed into pulp before being turned into fibers. We are already using Tencel™ in parts of our products and we are looking into increasing our use of this technical material as we expand our collection. What also makes bio-based materials like this very interesting is that they come from renewable sources.
Other sources include castor oil and sugar cane. We work with the HIGG index and Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) to make sure we’re choosing the best possible options.
Leather production is unfortunately a dirty business. It causes chemical and wastewater pollution and also animal cruelty. It’s not something we want to be part of, so we took the call to only work with vegan leather. As a result, we’re constantly looking to find leather alternatives that can live up to our performance expectations. It’s a big ask: We want our leather alternatives to be breathable, soft and durable while meeting our quality and sustainability expectations. Not easy, but totally worth it.
100% Organic Certified Cotton
Cotton is an incredibly versatile material but it also requires a very thirsty production process. We limit the use of cotton to around 10% of our overall material and we are currently working towards using only 100% organic and GOTS certified cotton.
Only about 10% of our material is made of wool and, like all fabrics we use, it has to meet our high quality standards. With a material that comes from animals, this of course includes making sure that those animals are treated humanely. We are currently working on ensuring that all our wool is 100% certified as mulesing-free and complies with the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). Our Merino Beanie is made with 100% mulesing-free wool, produced in Europe.
Managing the chemicals used in our production processes is a priority for us. This way, we can guarantee safe products and minimize our environmental footprint. We have an RSL (Restricted Substances List) that is aligned with industry leading AFIRM and REACH Standards. All of our suppliers have to comply with these standards.
Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals are a family of man-made, fluorine-containing chemicals. They have unique properties that make materials stain resistant and water repellent. Unfortunately these chemicals can also be damaging for the environment. They bioaccumulate, which means that they can become concentrated inside plants and animals and cause harm. We are working with our suppliers to steadily reduce the use of PFCs in our products. A number of our waterproof items, such as the Waterproof Anorak, the Insulator Jacket, the Waterproof Pants and Waterproof Shorts are already PFC-free.
Materials We Don’t Use.
You’ll never find acrylic fabrics in On products. The production process for acrylic is energy intensive and requires chemicals that can impact the health for those involved in its production, so we’d rather stay clear of it. We also never use real leather because of its large and environmental footprint and the animal cruelty that is connected to the leather industry.
Reducing Our Material Processing Footprint
At the same time as working with preferred materials, we’re also working to improve the ways we process our materials. In particular, we’re striving to improve the dyeing process, which accounts for around 36% of the environmental footprint during production.
Once an On product is finished, it’s shipped by sea to our global warehouses. This voyage takes several weeks and isn’t always a smooth ride. During their journey the products are stored a dusty and humid environment. Our packaging needs to protect the product from damage during this time.
For our shoes, we’re on our own journey to using packaging that’s made from 100% recycled cardboard, with a design that minimizes the environmental footprint while guaranteeing the product is protected.
For our Performance Apparel products, we’re taking a detailed look at where these items are being stored, for how long, where they are then sold and what all this means for the packaging. Once we have all this information, we can find a packaging material that will limit the associated environmental footprint while protecting the product. For example, not all packaging options can handle a humid environment. There are some interesting options on the table so check back soon for an update.
Microfibers – What You Can Do
The release of small microfibers into the environment is a big issue in the textile industry. We’re looking into various ways to limit this, but there are also things you can do at home. For example, every time you wash your clothes in the washing machine, they release these ultra-fine fabric strands. Are there items you could wash less regularly? Can you wear that top for one more run before you wash it?
Clevercare.info has some helpful guidance on how you can change your laundry habits to reduce the use of water and energy as well as limiting the release of microfibers. You can also use special washing bags to help prevent microfibers getting released into the water cycle.