I love waking up cuddled inside a sleeping bag. An orange light permeates everything around me, I feel warm and cozy, and I know I am free! This is what I imagine when I think about trekking. It is a beautiful experience: every morning a zipper away from nature. Stepping out of the tent is glorious. Letting the outdoor smell of sap, flowers, or wet earth fill your lungs. Breathe in and breathe out – no worries, no second thoughts, just the path ahead. There is no better time to feel at one with your surroundings. Nature has a therapeutic quality that somehow makes us better. For those who live in the city, as I did before having the opportunity to escape to the countryside, it is a precious experience.
Just before packing up, I am already thinking about my gear. It is crucial to take the right equipment; boots, jacket, backpack, sleeping bag, mat, tent, a few pots, a canteen, portable water tablets. Everything has to be light enough that I won’t regret carrying it after a few miles. It is also important to make sure things are waterproof. I remember my parents buying a cheap waterproof jacket for me. They did not know what that meant, and neither did I. After the first fifteen minutes under a torrential rain in a forest somewhere in Maine, I realized how important it is to invest in good waterproof outdoor gear. I did have a great time but I spent many days wet, cold, and uncomfortable. My only consolation was the beautiful scenery, my senses, and the great company.
Since that moment I have always saved money to buy the best gear possible. Fortunately, I always tend to make my equipment last as long as possible, so it is very rare that I have had to think about buying something new. Not buying very often does not mean that I do not read about new gear or go window shopping to see it first-hand. I must admit that like everyone else I have my favorite brands. Just thinking about them makes me feel free. My brain has already made a connection between my favorite brand and being one with nature, being free, and ultimately being my real self.
When thinking about my favorite outdoor gear I never question the materials used or the chemicals that have been applied to waterproof them. I have just come to realize that some of the companies I thought were defenders of good practices, the same ones who make the gear that made me dream of the outdoors, were not what I thought at all. My outdoor persona grew up with them and now somehow I felt used. What a disappointment! I had never heard of PFCs before. According to The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,
“…PFCs are a large group of manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. For example, PFCs may be used to keep food from sticking to cookware, to make sofas and carpets resistant to stains, to make clothes and mattresses more waterproof, and may also be used in some food packaging…”
“…PFCs break down very slowly in the environment and are often characterized as persistent. There is widespread wildlife and human exposure to several PFCs, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Both PFOA and PFOS are byproducts of other commercial products, meaning they are released into the environment when other products are made, used, or discarded.”
How do people get exposed to PFCs? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventsion (CDC), it is not yet clear, although people are most likely exposed by consuming PFC contaminated water or food. Significantly though, the CDC mentions that exposure may also occur by using products that contain PFCs.
I immediately thought that the companies using PFCs to waterproof their outdoor gear must be trying to do something drastic to reverse this problem, but there is nothing further from the truth! Well, kind of. According to Green Peace, one of the companies will get rid of them by 2020! Great, they will wait 4 years! Another company will increase the production of PFC free gear by 3-6% a year. Are they kidding? Do they really even care? According to the CDC, “Only limited animal studies are available, and not all PFCs have been tested. Some animal studies show that some types of PFCs can cause tumors, damage to the liver and other organs, and developmental and reproductive effects.” The scary part is that according to the CDC, PFOS and PFOA, as well as another PFC, perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), were detected in approximately 98% of the population!
Fortunately, we have the power to change this course of events. There is no better way to drastically stop the use of PFCs in apparel then to simply only buy products free of them. This has been the driving force when creating Jolly Dragons with my wife. – products made free of chemicals or products I would not want my children to touch!
About the Author
Werner Price is a teacher and an entrepreneur who believes that a better world is possible. He became aware of sustainability, fair trade and organic farming while traveling to south east Asia. He is currently leading the foreign language department in Sandwich MA, and taking the Jolly Dragons Brand to the next level.