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Design

What Matters and Why

Photo: Sterling Lorence

Our Goals:

  • To measurably reduce the environmental impact of MEC-brand products and influence our wholesale brand partners to do the same in their supply chains

We make and sell gear and clothing for all kinds of people-powered activities, including cycling, hiking, camping, running, yoga, climbing, snowsports, and watersports. In 2012, we sold over 12 million individual products. We know that products represent MEC's biggest environmental impact. Our goal is to lessen that impact as much as possible.

We do that by choosing environmentally preferable materials where possible, and by working with Bluesign AG to further reduce the environmental impact of our supply chain through the responsible management and selection of chemicals.

We also know that we can have greater impact if we collaborate with others in our industry. As an original member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), we're working with other retailers, manufacturers, NGOs, government agencies and academic experts to develop the Higg Index. The Index provides a single, universal approach for identifying opportunities to reduce environmental impact in the apparel industry across the entire supply chain. By collaborating with others and taking a unified approach, we'll be able to achieve lasting positive change in the apparel industry.

How We Do It

Our Product Design Charter highlights our principles of design and product integrity at MEC:

  1. Quality – Products of the highest quality
  2. Function, Form, and Fit – Products that function well for their intended use, are classic and appealing in form/design, fit the intended function, and look good
  3. Value – Products that deliver outstanding value
  4. Social Responsibility – Products sourced with consideration for the well-being of the people making them
  5. Footprint – Products developed with an effort to lower their environmental footprint

Product Life Cycle at a Glance

Eco-index Graphic of the life-cycle and lenses Eco-index Graphic of the life-cycle and lenses

From an environmental perspective, we take a lifecycle approach: our efforts start at the design table and move upstream. Every stage of a product's life cycle has an environmental impact: raw material feedstock, processing, manufacturing and assembly, packaging, distribution, use, and end of life. At each of these stages, we aim to consider energy and GHG emissions, water, waste, and chemistry/toxins, as well as land-use intensity and biodiversity. The Higg Index, which we're currently piloting, will help us assess our impact at each of these stages. We're in the process of determining how we can integrate the learning from the Higg Index into our design, development, and production management practices. This is an evolution that will take time, internally and externally as part of the broader SAC.

Our Environmental Impact

To reduce our environmental impact, we currently focus primarily on MEC-brand products, particularly textiles, and will expand to other areas as our influence and experience grows. We believe we're succeeding when we:

  • Increase longevity: gear has to perform and last for many years
  • Substitute harmful chemicals and materials with more benign alternatives
  • Use more efficient, closed-loop processes and fewer resources to make products
  • Close the loop to recycle end-of-life products and materials into another high-value use