With a degree in Human Environmental Sciences and years of experience traveling in remote areas, I know what the effects of plastic related pollution are on the environment and the communities living in it. Plus, since I was a teenager, I've always been interested in the complexity of environmental topics and really conscious about what consequences on the environment consumer choices could have.
The tall cliffs north of Nam Hinboun river in Laos. Picture taken by the author.
That said, when I started making bags, I decided to focus on durability. Materials, construction and every single part of the process were all defined with this goal in mind: making a product with the longest operative life, with a versatility that allows customers to have fewer bags.
Together with reducing waste and optimizing cuts, I still think that the biggest part of my commitment to a more environmentally friendly model, as a maker, is designing and developing products that last, no matter the materials in it, and that allow user to actually use them in more context, making him able to have less bags.
To get there, I started using standard Cordura® as it's one of the most proven-to-be-durable fabrics available out there and I stuck to nylon in general. I've been to expositions, fairs, visited dozens of weavers and I've never found a natural fabric, let alone a single solution marketed as “green”, ranging from greenwashed “recyclable” to real post-consumer recycled fabrics, that featured a comparable durability to the one i was aiming to. So, even if I was really frustrated by this lack of viable options, I kept using Cordura® for ATD products, plus some Xpac® laminates from Dimension Polyant for lighter duty items.
Then, I found out that who “invented” Xpac® as a soft goods fabric at Dimension Polyant, had developed for Challenge Sailcloth a 100% post-consumer recycled Polyester fabric with performances comparable to Nylon in terms of abrasion resistance, a really similar hand and he also laminated it with an X-ply layer and a foil, both also recycled, to add tear resistance, full waterproofness, dimensional stability and structure. The fabrics were called Ecopak® and I asked for some samples.
I've found at least three or four options I really liked amongst the samples i received, and started testing them. The foil felt slightly more abrasion resistant and, most important, the X pattern is thinner and protrudes less from the outer face fabric, minimizing abrasion and delamination compared to similar fabrics.
On the environmental side, every yard contains over 20 plastic bottles, it is CF free and its production generates no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). CO2 emissions from manufacturing this recycled polyester are claimed to be 50% lower than Nylon and 38% lower than virgin polyester film: it should be basically comparable to organic cotton emissions.
I decided to choose their 600d laminate for the first run of the ATD2 backpack, even if it costed more to us compared to previous options and more products from our catalogue will feature Ecopak fabrics of all weights in the future. This is part of a bigger commitment: apart from what is already in stock, I'll be using more and more recycled and/or biodegradable raw materials, also exploring other fibers and fabrics brands, aiming for a really greener production that does not sacrifice anything in terms of durability.
ATD2 in Seoul, picture by JT White (@jtinseoul)
Cover Picture was taken by the author in 2021 from the Barma Refuge in the Alps