"There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.” Eldridge Cleaver
Kebby, Coeur’s founder, had just read a National Geographic article titled, “Newborn Hawaii beach is already polluted with tiny pieces of plastic”
Because The Big Island is the home of the Hawaii Ironman and Coeur visits every year and Kebby has raced there multiple times, this article was of immediate concern as the island has a very special place in our hearts.
Only a year ago, lava streamed from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, eventually reaching the ocean. Science lesson here: when that crazy hot lava hits cool seawater, it bursts into teeney shards of glass and rubble, aka sand. And brand new beaches are born. Pristine paradise, right?
Kaimu – a brand new black sand beach formed last year by the lava flow of Kilauea.
Wrong. Researchers tested these new beaches for pollution and they were covered in it. The culprits are micro-plastics, a new buzzword. Microplastics are particles smaller than a grain of sand that break off of larger pieces of plastic. They cannot be seen with the naked eye, but ocean and land researchers are finding them in abundance. We were horrified to learn that the main source of microplastics are particles that come from synthetic textiles such as nylon and polyester that break down in the wash.
That’s right, nylon and polyester. The same material that pretty much every sportswear brand (including Coeur) uses to make sports clothing. UGH! The fact that our clothing could be contributing to this major environmental issue is beyond distressing. That’s what started our internal debate. We had to be more conscious and we had to do something.
Sustainabilty and environmental consciousness have been part of our fabric since Coeur was founded. Kebby has always loved and been inspired by the natural world. In school, she helped out with recycling and water projects. In fact, every Christmas, she would ask her parents for a compost tumbler so she could make high grade top soil to use in the garden. She usually got silver and place settings instead, but the tumbler stays on the list to this day.
At Coeur, we have some pretty strong opinions that we love to talk about, if asked. What nobody likes is to be beaten over the head with a cause. It can cause a reflexive counter response and so, until now, we’ve shied away from talking extensively about our beliefs and efforts related to sustainability. That's in part because we don’t yet do them perfectly and other companies we admire (hello Patagonia. REI.) do and teach way better than we could. But after that article and its insanely powerful magazine cover, we had to get more FOR REAL about our efforts. Both for accountability and to hopefully inspire others.
The June 2018 cover of National Geographic.
So what now?
First, we want to acknowledge that we’ve still got work to do. We knew this even before the article about micro-plastics came out. We, like everyone, can do more to help the planet. While we do have one hybrid in our tiny Coeur parking lot, we have to admit that the venerable Coeur kitty-mobile runs on a traditional combustion engine.
We also still have to pick aluminum cans out of the trash and pop in the recycling bin on occasion. So, we know there’s more and we will continue to get smarter, but hopefully you get the picture.
Second, (for the record) we really dislike anything that sounds like boasting. The thing about bragging is that there is ALWAYS somebody better than you in something, so boasting can ring hollow. Especially on a corporate level, where so many promote it for profits. So the idea of bragging rubs us the wrong way. Now, we will brag about our Customers, TCB Members, and Ambassadors and we’re not shy about talking about our clothing. But for some reason, promoting you all and our gear just feels different and also very ok.
So, until now, we’ve been content to try and do our little part, but do it just as a matter of course. But this changed after seeing the article about the new Hawaii beaches. Now, we feel like we need a more public conversation so that it may convince others to join in and it may help shed light on options that everyone has to take action.
Plus, we talk about our values related to community, sportsmanship and encouraging others to adopt a lifestyle of health and fitness so much that the absence of anything related to the environment may suggest inaccurately that sustainability isn't a big part of who we are as a company. So, with all of that as context, please let us share what we’ve done, how we did it and what else is in the works. Then, if this resonates with you, feel free to add your voice and your actions to the cause.
Now, let's address the fabric question first. It's a tough one because spandex is such a good material for sportswear. It has great compression, it breathes and it's naturally water wicking. So there's a good chance that we're going to be using it for a while.
That's why, when we talked about what we can do on the fabric front, we are looking into recycled fabrics and have decided to start sending any product that we produce that isn’t perfect or won’t use to a company called Thredup (www.thredup.com).
They are the world’s largest fashion resale marketplace with over 35,000 brands and they make it easy to donate clothing. They also sell some great stuff at deep discounts. We're also working on a way for you to send us your used gear in exchange for smackaroo loyalty points, so stay tuned. Until then, think about sending your used clothing to them when it makes sense. All you have to do is print out a label and ship the gear to them. For some items, they'll even pay you for the clothing!
Also, we want to let everyone know that we are testing fabric that comes from recycled plastic bottles. If it passes the tests, our plan is to use it on our next round of swimsuits and then expand from there. We also use a water cooler instead of plastic water bottles in the office.
We also want to remind our customers that our shipping bags and boxes are made 100% from recycled material and that they are multi-use and can be used to return garments. Hopefully, you’ll love our new fabric and the sizing will be perfect, but if you do need to send something back, please try to use the Coeur bag it was in when it arrived at your door. It has a second seal strip on there for this purpose!
Next let's talk about carbon footprints. When we decided to measure ours, we elected to use Carbonfund.org. Admittedly, part of the attraction to Carbon Fund was that they have a good list of Blue Chip customers but also, they made the process very easy. Just enter some information into their online tool and in a few moments, you have your number. By the way, we ran the calculation and determined that our office footprint was 8.26 tons of CO2 per year.
Once we had the data, we went ahead and purchased 20 tons of offset to cover the past couple of years. We did this through a company called Terra Pass. (https://www.terrapass.com).
There seem to be quite a few companies offering carbon offsets and we wanted to make sure we did our best to use a company that did what they say. Terra Pass is certified by Green-e (www.green-e.org) who is a well regarded validation company who helps you be sure you're working with sustainability partners who are legit.
So that's what we've been up to so far. We've got more in the works and we're committed to continuing to do our part because we love this planet very much. This isn’t political. It isn’t “crunchy.” It is very real.
And as luck would have it, we're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. We find it very telling that almost universally astronauts launch as scientists, but when they see Earth from space, they also become environmentalists. In fact, the photo below (called Earthrise), which was taken from behind the Moon by the crew of Apollo 8, is credited with kick-starting the environmental movement. Frank Borman who was a crew member said that seeing our planet from space was "the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life." His crew mate Jim Lovell went on to say "Our home world is simply 'a grand oasis'
We agree wholeheartedly. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the collective beauty of nature is special beyond our ability to explain and we hope you'll continue to join us in this effort.
Thanks for reading!
Your (planet hugging) friends at Coeur.