Embracing the Blue

Winter’s here—what to wear? The environmentalist in you wants something functional that’s made with a minimal impact. But your inner fashionista demands some style as well. Luckily several manufacturers have risen to the challenge.

winter wear jacket

One major development in outdoor clothing is the wider adoption of the bluesign® standard whereby third party analysts size up the ecological footprint of each step in the textile manufacturing chain. The bluesign® standard takes into account all input streams—from raw materials to chemicals to other resources—and measures them through a sophisticated “input stream management” process. Anything deemed harmful can be screened out.

Helly Hansen out of Norway, long known for outfitting extreme athletes, has committed to moving the majority of its product line to fabrics that meet the strict bluesign standard. To wit, new mountain-ready offerings include the Flow Down Parka ($650), which features mechanical venting that helps regulate interior temperatures while transporting moisture out, and the Ask X Warm Parka ($800), which combines extreme warmth with comfort thanks to its 700-fill European goose down held in by a buttery soft two-way stretch fabric.

winter wearAnother industry leader that has embraced the bluesign standard is Patagonia. For day-to-day wear around town when the mercury drops, their Men’s Better Jacket is crafted from bluesign-approved polyester fleece finished to look and feel like heathered wool. For women, the hip-length Better Sweater Icelandic Hoody ($159), also bluesign-approved, is perfect for the hipster environmentalist with its Icelandic-inspired pattern and recycled polyester material masquerading as wool—and it has hand-warming pockets to boot.

winter wear North FaceThe North Face allied with bluesign in 2010 and has saved the equivalent of 85 Olympic swimming pools of water, 38 tanker trucks worth of chemicals and reduced carbon emissions equivalent to taking more than 1,100 cars off the road for a year in the process. Check out the Super Diez Jacket ($349), a killer value when warmth-to-weight ratio is a concern, featuring 900-fill down with a nylon ripstop exterior in a durable and resilient design ready for everything from chopping wood to alpine summit bids. The North Face also sells winter hats designed from two different kinds of bluesign-approved polyester fleece. Its Ascent Beanie ($35, gray or black), a snug-fitting, thinly insulated cap for multisport use or use under a helmet, is made from bluesign-approved Polartec® Power Stretch.

New from Nau this winter is the Down Sweater ($235), which combines recycled polyester (derived from post-consumer PET bottles) and renewably sourced 800-fill goose down in a light and low-profile twist on the winter puffy. Nau’s Down Scarf ($65), also in recycled poly and goose down, brings the puffy concept to neckwear. To sweeten the deal for green-minded folks, Nau donates 2% of total sales to environmental and social/humanitarian organizations.

Seattle-based outdoor gear retailer REI has worked extensively with bluesign to green its textile sourcing. The Spruce Run Jacket ($169), which features a zip-off hood and arms for when the going gets too warm, matches up PrimaLoft® eco synthetic microfiber (derived from PET bottles) for insulation with a ripstop nylon shell and lining. Also from REI, the Recycled Fleece Grip Gloves ($24.50) keep hands warm with a midweight fleece that contains at least 50% recycled polyester fibers and a textured synthetic palm to keep things tactile.

Coal Headwear makes a wide range of hats from eco-friendly materials as part of its Considered line. The Mason ($50) is constructed using a cashmere/bamboo blend, while the 100% Merino wool Emerson ($35) wicks with the best of them to keep wearers’ head dry and warm during hot pursuits of any kind.  Stylish buyers delight: All have matching scarves offered in the same materials.

Luckily there are lots of ways to stay warm—and green—while looking good this winter, whether out on the slopes or cozying up inside.