Eco Gear

By Chandra Orr

February 6, 2009 6 min read

NOTE TO SPECIAL SECTIONS EDITORS: FROM THE COOLMAX(R) PUBLICIST: COOLMAX(R) ALWAYS USES A REGISTRATION SYMBOL AND MUST BE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, AND THE NEW FIBER MUST BE WRITTEN AS COOLMAX (TM) ECOMADE (TM). THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION. -- CREATORS NEWS SERVICE

ECO GEAR

Play nice with nature by using earth-friendly items

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Gearing up for a weekend in the woods? You don't have to sacrifice functionality to play nice with Mother Nature. In fact, some of the coolest new gear for outdoor adventurers is on the cutting edge of earth consciousness.

From solar-powered lanterns to eco-conscious activewear, manufacturers are going the extra mile to deliver high-performance outdoor gear with an environmental edge.

"The eco-friendly trend is strong in the outdoor industry," said professional hiker and backpacker Andrew Skurka, who also serves as the brand ambassador for COOLMAX(R), makers of high-performance earth-friendly fibers and fabrics.

"Manufacturers and outdoor consumers generally have stronger, more personal connections with the earth. It's where we seek solitude, meaning and simplicity -- and we therefore have more at stake when it comes to the earth's health. We're more motivated to reduce our impact," said Skurka. He was named the 2007 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic Adventure after completing two monumental long-distance hiking firsts -- the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop, which combines five long-distance trails in the western United States, and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route, which goes from the Atlantic in Quebec to the Pacific in Washington state.

Reducing your individual environmental footprint starts with small steps -- ditch the premium water in disposable bottles in favor of reusable bottles made from recycled plastics or reduce your dependence on throwaway batteries by switching to solar power. The little things add up to big results in the long run.

"Eco-friendly products are an opportunity for consumers to reduce their own environmental footprint and to reward companies via their individual purchasing power, which cumulatively we hope will reverse some of these local and worldwide impacts," Skurka said. "The best thing a consumer can do is to buy long-lasting, truly eco-friendly products from a reputable green company."

Here's a look at some of the latest innovations:

BIODEGRADABLE BAGS

The first-ever fully biodegradable plastic bags have just hit store shelves. It's not an excuse to leave your trash in the woods, but if a stray bag should blow loose from your pack, you can rest easy knowing it won't be a permanent scar on your environmental record.

Made from recycled post-consumer and post-industrial plastic, Perf Go Green trash and food storage bags contain a special additive that begins to break down the plastic within two years, leaving no harmful residue or toxins behind. When discarded in the presence of soil, microorganisms, moisture and oxygen, the bags decompose into simple materials found in nature: carbon dioxide, water and biomass.

Perf Go Green bags (www.perfgogreen.com) are available at Walgreens and CVS stores nationwide. Prices start at about $5.

ECO-FRIENDLY FIBERS

Bamboo, soy, hemp, organic cotton, biodegradable rubber and fibers made from crab and coconut shells -- there's no shortage of green options when it comes to clothing for the active, outdoor lifestyle.

One of the latest advances, COOLMAX(TM) ECOMADE(TM) filament fiber, is made from a whopping 97 percent post-consumer waste -- and, as the name implies, it's made to keep outdoor enthusiasts cool during any wilderness adventure.

Recycled plastic bottles are cleaned, converted into polymer, melted and extruded into fiber. The fiber is then spun into yarn for use in high-performance activewear. The process uses of about 14 20-ounce bottles to produce an extra large men's T-shirt -- a better alternative to them sitting in landfills.

The fabric is lightweight, breathable and designed to wick moisture away from the skin for maximum comfort. Look for COOLMAX(TM) ECOMADE(TM) fiber in performance sportswear, outerwear and tops at specialty retailers nationwide.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Solar items such as stoves that cook food with concentrated sunlight and portable campsite showers that heat water are nothing new in the world of outdoor gear. Sun-powered radios, flashlights and camp lanterns are also standard fare, but the latest advances in solar technology take this niche to a new level.

The PiSat Solar K-Light combines an unbreakable solar panel with 16 high-intensity, energy-efficient light emitting diodes, or LEDs, for unbeatable light. Approximately the size and weight of a can of soda, the K-Light is ultra-portable, water-resistant and designed to withstand even the harshest conditions. It can be used as a lantern or flashlight.

For every hour of charge, it will provide one hour of light on the low setting and a half-hour on the high setting. You can even charge on the go -- just clip the solar panel to your pack as you explore the wilderness and let the sun do the rest.

The K-Light is available at pisatsolar.com for $69.95 plus shipping.

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