Don’t trash your playground with gear that destroys the environment. Companies are making cutting-edge products that take advantage of natural materials to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Result: High-performance gear you don’t have to feel guilty about using.
Zeal Ace Sunglasses ($169)
Why They’re Cool: Made from Cotton; Biodegradable
The world’s first biodegradable sunglasses are the result of an international collaboration: Italian craftsmanship, Japanese lenses, and U.S.-grown cotton. To make the Ace frames, Zeal collects cotton linters—the tiny fibers that surround cotton seeds—pulps them, then turns the mush in to an injection-molded resin. Pair the frames with lenses made from a plant-based bonding agent, and you’ve got shades that won’t clog the landfill if you decide to throw them away. But don’t worry: they won't break down in the sun.
That’s not all Zeal is doing for the planet. For every pair of shades it sells at zealoptics.com, it plants a tree to counter damage caused by pine beetles.
Patagonia R3 Yulex / Nexkin Front-Zip Full Wetsuit ($549)
Why It’s Cool: Made from a Southwestern Plant
Most wetsuits are made from neoprene, a petroleum by-product. But Patagonia found it could achieve that same warmth, durability, and comfort by making its wetsuits out of Yulex. Yulex, which is 60 percent guayule, a tough desert shrub native to the American Southwest, keeps Patagonia’s wetsuits durable, warm, soft, and supple.
Patagonia still uses some neoprene in its wetsuits (about 40 percent), and it adds a windproof Nexkin coating to minimize evaporative cooling and increase durability on the chest where surfers need it most. The Front Zip’s torso and thighs are micro-grid poly lined for warmth, while extra-stretchy recycled poly in the arms and legs allows for unrestricted movements on a wave. Bonus: Yulex is hypoallergenic.
Looptworks iPhone 4 & 5 Bohe ($55)
Why It’s Cool: Keeps Waste Out of the Landfill
The easiest way to be green: reuse waste without remanufacturing it. That’s what Looptworks does with its Bohe iPhone Wallet. The company gathers scrap Italian leather from the accessory industry, then up-cycles it into limited edition bags and cases. The Bohe holds three credit cards, your cash, and your smartphone. Thanks to a camera lens portal, it won’t interfere with your photos.
The North Face Denali ($180)
Why It’s Cool: Made from 100 Percent Recycled Waste
North Face’s iconic Denali fleece is now made from Polartec Power Grid, which uses 100 percent postconsumer discarded water, soda, and milk bottles as its base materials. Buy the black/gray color to be extra eco-friendly: instead of dyeing the finished fabric, Polartec buys black and gray yarn and combines it with matching cutting-room floor scrap, saving water and reducing chemicals. In 2015, Polartec will have turned one billion bottles into fleece.
Manduka LiveON Yoga Mat ($58)
Why It’s Cool: Infinitely Recyclable
Made from 100 percent recyclable, super cushy foam, Maduka’s closed cell LiveON Yoga Mat won’t absorb moisture, microbes, or bacteria. Its extra grippy surface keeps you from slipping, and it stretches and rebounds better than other spongy EVA mats. It’s infinitely up-cyclable: the foam doesn’t lose integrity when you recycle it. After you’ve saluted the sun so many times you’ve worn your LiveON out, sent it to Manduka or PLUSfoam and they’ll turn it into a new mat, flip-flops, or a wetsuit.
Green Wax ($7.50)
Why It’s Cool: Biodegradable; Non-Toxic
Most ski wax contains a lot of perfluorocarbons. And when you schuss over the slopes, those chemicals can end up in the watershed. The founders of Green Wax, which is non-toxic and biodegradable, minimize pollution during production by making the stuff in small batches to ensure quality and consistency, using recycled packaging, and ditching extrusion machines, which force plastic through a shaped metal piece. The wax itself is petroleum- and PFC-free. Best of all, it works.
NSP Coco Mat SUP (From $1,325)
Why It’s Cool: Made from Coconuts
Most stand-up paddleboards are made from a fiberglass shell over a buoyant, epoxy-coated material such as carbon fiber or PVC (poly vinyl chloride) foam. NSP decided it could do one better. After biking past piles of discarded coconut husks en route to work at an Asian surfboard factory, one of NSP’s designers realized he could use the husks instead of foam and carbon.
To make the boards, NSP cleans coconut husks, separates each individual strand of fiber, and layers it with epoxy. Because the husks don’t absorb the epoxy like carbon fiber or fiberglass, Coco Mat boards are up to 25 percent lighter than their competitors. The husks allegedly eliminate 40 percent of the toxic materials in surfboard construction. Available in touring, surf and race models.