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  • Writer's pictureMeg Carney

3. How to Identify Sustainable Product Materials

Hello and welcome back to the outdoor minimalist podcast. I'm your host Meg Carney and I'm an outdoor and environmental writer and the author of the book Outdoor Minimalist: Waste Less Hiking, Camping, and Backpacking, set to be released on September 1st 2022. The outdoor minimalist podcast has a goal to give listeners actionable ways to waste less while they're hiking, camping, backpacking, and more during every step of their process. Your impact outdoors starts long before you hit the trail and goes beyond Leave No Trace ethics. You'll learn how to identify sustainable outdoor brands, how to ask hard questions regarding sustainability, and begin to shift and evolve your mindset to integrate minimalism into all of your outdoor pursuits.

So on today's episode of the Outdoor Minimalist podcast we will be examining how to identify sustainable product materials. When we talk about sustainability of gear we can think of it in a few ways. Environmental sustainability is likely what comes to mind for a lot of people. So how a product is made pollutants that it may put out and the general environmental impact that that product has from extraction to disposal. Then we also have the sustainability of an item in our lives. So is it sustainably used is it something that we will be using on a regular basis. And then sustainability in regards to durability. Can that product sustain the amount of use that you're putting it through?

These are all great considerations when we're shopping for outdoor gear but where's the best place to start? As I've mentioned in past episodes, knowing your needs is one of the best places to begin. Beyond that being able to identify companies and brands that use sustainable product materials and a sustainable production model, can help you narrow down the brands you'd like to invest in and buy from.

Sustainable product materials is a huge topic and I doubt we can cover all of it in one episode, but to help me try to do that and to dive deeper into the products that we all love in the outdoor industry and how to identify sustainable product materials I would like to introduce Mary Swanson.

Mary is the CEO and co-founder of Lava Linens. Together she, her mom, Sheila, and her sister, Caitlyn, created durable luxurious adventure towels powered by flax and hemp, two of Earth's most impressive fibers. Lava Linen's aim is to be as sustainable and responsible as possible, not succumbing to the pressures of fast fashion nor the norms of the outdoor industry while still creating a high performing valuable piece of outdoor gear.

Meg: Okay, so welcome, and thank you for taking the time to chat with me on the Outdoor Minimalist podcast. I know I did a brief introduction there for everyone, but before we start, do you mind sharing more about your background in the outdoor industry and a little bit more about Lava Linens?

Mary: Yeah sure so happy to be here. My background is actually in public health. I spent about 12 years working in uh working for non-profits and in government in that realm which covers both the human side as well as the environmental side of the world.

So that kind of brought us into like Lava Linens and its creation in that in addition to working within the public health realm just as a my own interest was spending a lot of time outside and doing a lot of traveling. In 2016, I had planned to go on a trip and I had just tossed out a microfiber towel and I said never again because I just was not happy with the way that they were performing.

I hadn't realized that it would be so difficult then to find a towel other than microfiber for this upcoming trip. So that's when my mom and I, my mom who has a degree in textile design, she and I got together and we started researching alternative materials that would perform better, not get stinky, would really absorb a lot of water, would dry quickly, be really packable, and it just happened that linen was the ideal material.

So we made a couple, and I took them on the trip, and in a really short time, we realized that these were just really great towels. And so I called her up, and then I called up my sister Caitlin too and asked if they wanted to be a part of bringing these towels to other people in the outdoors. So that was 2016. We were really you know looking solely at the performance qualities of the material but then the more we got into the textile itself and the growing of the flax that creates linen, we started to learn about all of these environmental aspects that were really positive as compared to other materials that we're so used to like cotton and then like microfiber and the other synthetic materials.

So that's when we decided like yes, let's bring the towels to others who really enjoy the outdoors and want to keep it clean and just want really good products that are going to last a long time, and let's make sure that we set really high standards for ourselves from the start because we know we'll feel pressure to kind of modify our standards over time. Let's set really high standards around sustainability and quality. Then 2018 we became Incorporated and started selling our towels to others.

Meg: That's really awesome that um I guess the company was born kind of out of like a necessity in your own life and then it kind of expanded to be something a lot larger and more impactful. I think that that's really interesting just like origin story. And you mentioned that you use materials like linen and flax because they are more durable and they're they're different than what we're used to. I feel like a lot of times when I'm looking at clothing or textiles I see more on the sustainable side like organic cotton or hemp or even Tencel like those types of materials. I don't often see linen when you think of linen you're thinking of like bed sheets I feel like.

Mary: Right and even in the U.S we use the term linen as more of a very broad term that includes a whole lot of different types of textiles, including cotton. When really linen makes about up about three percent of the textile industry as a whole but they're all kinds of really awesome qualities about it. And then I think that especially in the outdoor industry we've really bought into the idea that synthetics are the ultimate, and that's what we all strive for is making a better synthetic product. And I think that was very true for a long time and that that's where the research was and that's yes like think of rain jackets and I couldn't think of a better material than synthetic for that.

But when we're talking about like clothing like t-shirts and pants, there are some natural fibers that are really appropriate and really nice for those kinds of products. But because we're in that mindset of synthetic is key we've got like this idea that's synthetic is key for every type of outdoor item. When maybe that's not necessarily the case.

We as a company look to the fashion industry a lot. They are ahead of the outdoor industry in this in this idea of identifying better materials and better plant materials. So really exciting things happening over there with all different plant-based textiles. One is like orange leather they're finding ways to to create all kinds of leathers from different fruits and mushrooms that's really exciting.

Meg: I think I saw like a cactus leather one time.

Mary: I have not heard of that and I'll have to check it out. There is um from agave fibers now I believe that are being woven with some others that create a really beautiful material and one oh banana silk is another so all kinds of really fun things happening in the in the fashion industry that I think are very applicable to to what we do in the outdoors and the kind of gear that we need. So we are one of those companies that are really looking towards them to them to identify what those materials might be and then bringing them over.

Meg: yeah and it makes sense to kind of have more of a standardized vision when it comes to textiles I think I mean regardless of the use in the outdoor industry we really want a durable material and something that will keep us safe while we are outdoors as well. Like you're talking about the rain jacket. We should want durable textiles across the board. Like the clothing that we wear in our daily life so using the same materials throughout textiles makes a lot of sense to me.

Mary: yeah right and especially when we know that the majority of the energy required for the life time of a product is spent in the production of that product. So the longer we can keep that one product in use the better it is for the environment. Versus you know throwing it out every year and getting a new whatever item.

Meg: yeah that makes sense and I think that that is kind of a good lead-in to some of the topics that we can talk about when it comes to identifying sustainable product materials. So even in your process of developing the Lava Linens towels it seems like there was a lot of thought put into the types of raw materials you wanted to use and the sustainability of those materials. In this conversation we're going to focus specifically on textiles since that's where Mary is focused in her career, so we're not going to Branch out into other types of materials outside of fabrics just so everyone is aware. As far as like inputs two and types of raw materials flax linen is one that I don't know a lot about but some of the most common materials used in outdoor gear that I've seen anyway are often synthetic, so like the polyester and acrylic fabrics that are all kind of like petroleum-based fibers. I guess nylon would fall into that category as well. But then there's also like the natural ones like conventional cotton, and then wool, down, and leather that are all animal based. So choosing from all of those like really commonly used ones how did you land on flax?

Mary: so first it was really that initial research of what is what's a really appropriate textile for a towel? So it has to be really good at absorbing ideally also wicking so spreading the material across the material because that helps it dry quickly. It needs to be really packable, and then it needs to be antimicrobial so it doesn't get stinky over time. Obviously durability is really key because you want the product to last a long time and you want to be able to use it really hard in the outdoors.

So it just happened that linen was was the ideal material, but then the more we learned about it the more we recognized that it it outperformed on the sustainability side as well both microfiber which is what we're so used to in the outdoors as well as cotton which we're used to using indoors. If we look at microfiber we know that linen, so flax and hemp are really very very similar fibers with very similar qualities, and they are the two strongest natural fibers or plant fibers. They also happen to be really good at absorbing moisture and actually they absorb more water per ounce of fiber than cotton does.

Our cotton towels are really thick and plush and so that's what helps them absorb as much water as they do but the fibers themselves are not as absorbent. If we stick with comparing cotton cotton is not antimicrobial whereas linen and hemp are. Linen and hemp also are really good at wicking the moisture and spreading it out and then they have hollow fibers which helps the air move through and helps the textile dry a lot lot faster than than cotton.

If we go back to microfiber comparison linen and hemp are both much much stronger than microfiber. They're plant fibers so they are biodegradable, and then they work better. They're far more absorbent they actually like you know they glide on your skin instead of getting stuck as they're as they're soaking up the water.

So that that's so that's the performance side but then if we look at the environmental side of things so cotton requires 60 more water to grow than linen and hemp. It also requires about five times more energy to manufacture and it requires typically unless you go with organic cotton a lot of pesticides. Whereas hemp and flax do not require those pesticides, and we make sure that ours are pesticide free and they hold that Masters of Linen certification which assures that.

Then if you compare flax and hemp to to microfiber, natural fibers they they're biodegradable and really that and not petroleum-based.

Meg: yeah and then they wouldn't shed those like microplastics when you're washing them each time either.

Mary: right and they so we don't see those microplastics but all of our synthetic gear sheds microplastics when used and washed. The thought is there were a few different resources that have cited this that one garment will shed up to 12 credit cards worth of microplastics every year. So that is assuming that it's washed regularly and worn regularly.

Now I we're finding scientists are actually studying this and trying to identify where the microplastics are or are not um and there's a recent article I believe is the National Geographic that talked about their sampling of snow and every single sample of snow at Everest base camp included microplastics. Their thought is because so much of our gear is synthetic and we're hanging out at base camp before we go up the mountain that microplastics are really accumulating there. So they're finding them all over the world places that humans are and then places that humans are not because they're traveling in the microplastics or traveling in the water and in the air. So we're doing a really good job right now we're spreading these microplastics that we can't necessarily see but but we have them I mean we're we're shedding them on every piece of clothing we have and every piece of gear whether it's indoor or outdoor. And they're showing up in our planet all over.

Meg: in the most remote places that you'd never imagined that's crazy. Something I guess maybe this is kind of embarrassing I don't really know but um I didn't really know that much about the like flax material um when I was writing the book I did research it a little bit but until I met you and heard about Lava Linens I didn't know that much about it. I think a lot of times when we're looking for sustainable products it's really whoever has the most um I guess public view and the most listeners to like hear about um like we hear about organic cotton and organic hemp because that's kind of what has pushed on to us as consumers.

So what are some other ways that like companies can reach out to more consumers to kind of like spread their message or like where have you had more success? Because I think more people would gravitate towards a company like yours if they were more aware of like the benefits and the fact that it performs so much better anyway.

Mary: yeah that is the struggle um and because we're a small company I think we're still figuring that out. A lot of where we feel like we can make a difference is raising awareness. A lot of that happens through one-on-one conversations in person Then we make sure to offer a 60-day return policy no questions asked because flax is a newer less familiar material for people in the US. So whether you totally understand what we're saying on our website or um through our social media you have the we're giving you the opportunity to test it out see what you think on your own. It it is something so new and not many people are talking about it and so it's good to have questions about does it really absorb or does it really dry quickly or does it even does it really work better than microfiber am I going to like it.

So I think that's one key is giving individuals the opportunity to try it out themselves. Another is through our ambassador program. Our ambassadors are people who really like to learn new things and then share it with others. We've had really nice conversations with our ambassadors when they've been testing them out and saying "oh my gosh what I didn't know that this was something whatever quality it was about linen and I find it really interesting," and then they go and share it with others.

I think the other thing is that our we're out there like yes towels are our place to start to get people to start thinking about plant fibers as an alternative to some of our synthetic outdoor gear. Our company, we aim to be a whole lot more than that. We want to push the outdoor industry into that space of let's let's start using plant fibers for more things and to really raise awareness on a much greater level than just selling a few towels here and there.

Meg: no yeah that is really helpful because I think that plant fibers are gaining traction like you said in the fashion industry so to try and get people in the outdoor industry to kind of make that switch because mentally I think we always gravitate towards synthetic because we feel like well that's moisture wicking or it's more absorbent or something like that. There's always a reason that people want a synthetic fiber, but because more people are worried about plastics I think that it's a good time to kind of like move towards that switch.

A lot of times when like my friends or family or really anyone asks me what I would look for in a product like I had a friend message me the other day and ask me is organic cotton sustainable or is all cotton like not good. The main thing I told her is like well what company are you looking at and are they transparent in their messaging? Can you understand everything that they're saying does it seem true and do they have certifications that you understand? I think as a consumer that's been the main thing that I gravitate towards because I just I can't know everything about fabrics. You know?

Mary: no and it it starts to get really complicated even with the certifications and so I think I really appreciate the suggestion of looking at whether the company is transparent or not. I think I've shared this in other places too but that for smaller brands certain certifications don't make a lot of sense for us. They're really time consuming, they're really expensive, and so they're just not realistic. That doesn't mean that we're not meeting those the standards in which we would qualify for those certifications.

So just because you don't see blue sign or some others behind a product doesn't mean that it's not a sustainable product and that's where you kind of have to be able to dig deeper and to be kind of a yeah consumer that that knows a little bit more assess things yourself. Which takes a little bit more work and takes some time but yeah transparencies are really good really good thing to look for.

I think going back also to what you had said earlier about how we are so used to cotton and synthetics so for us as a company it took us a really long time to find the linen that we use for our our current towels. We were looking for a very particular weight and feel and level of softness and because linen already makes up so little of the entire textile industry. To find the right mill of amongst those mills a few mills that exist really in comparison to cotton and synthetic meals that took that took a long time. Whereas if we were making a microfiber towel, oh my goodness, it would be so much easier. There are so many mills out there producing that textile. And same with cotton. Cotton is so such a common material that it's really easy or it's easier to start a company and go with a cotton product than a linen product or even a hemp product or products that are made of other kind of lesser known natural fibers. So I think because they're so common that kind of perpetuates that the commonality of the the products out there.

Meg: I think a lot of times in the environmental movements whether you're in Industry professional or consumer like accessibility does mean a lot. If you're a small business just starting you might have to sometimes gravitate towards those easier options and that's kind of unfortunate.

Mary: it is and so I've seen a lot of really positive things happen within the last few years around alternative fibers. They seem more accessible than they used to be. More mills are using them, they're advancing through the r&d phases more quickly, and I think actually one of the best examples is within the shipping material industry.

The options now for like recycled, recyclable, compostable shipping materials are so much greater than just a few years ago. Now we can look at like four different companies that we really like and choose the best fit for us for our shipping product or shipping materials. Versus like three years ago I feel like we had to we really found one company and it was like okay whatever they produce we have to make it work for us because they're the only option. So there is definitely a push and there is recognition that companies can still profit so that we can stay alive while still being responsible. I do think that is getting easier.

Meg: well that is definitely a positive thing to hear. I mean I don't work in manufacturing of anything so it's hard to kind of like understand what's going on behind the scenes. When I'm thinking about like how to choose the right piece of equipment or gear or clothing for outdoor recreation a lot of it has to do with the durability and a lot of that has to do with the actual material that's used. So I'm kind of wondering as a consumer how can we understand like a life cycle assessment of a material?

Mary: that's a good question. Yeah it starts at the material extraction. So if it's a synthetic product then that means the extraction is the oil that's producing it. If it's a plant fiber product then it's the extra it's the growing of the plant and harvesting of the plant.

So there's the extraction and understanding really where where does the product start and then there's the processing of it and all of the inputs that go into that. So whether it's chemical or manual. Flax for example requires a lot of manual labor to to get to the fiber outside of the woody stock of the flax plant. To get it clean and then woven. So that whole process and then the actual manufacturing of the product. Once it's turned into that textile what does it take to create the product, how is the product being shipped from point to point to point?

So for example our linen comes by boat from France. It takes a month to two months. It takes kind of a long time but it's a much smaller footprint than shipping or than flying. bolts and bolts and bolts. So that we get it within a week instead so we opt for the slower shipping by sea.

Then you look at the use phase which I think is really important because that's not always considered. How is the product used, is it versatile, can you use it for a very long time, or do you have to replace it? Then whether it's repairable or not. So is this something that you can continue using because if you rip it damage it you can fix it to the point where it still performs well.

Then finally it's the end of life. Does the product go to a landfill at the end? Is it able to be recycled in any way whether it's 100 recycled recyclable? If you can recycle about 50 of it some you know there's that whole range. Is the product biodegradable?

I think that was one two three four five six seven steps um which is a lot to ask the consumer to kind of think through. So hopefully you can find those companies that are transparent about every step and what goes into the the making of it. But really right durability is key because that means you can keep it for a very long time um and then is it biodegradable or recyclable in any way or not is another key. Then I think the third is what is it made from. Then from that you know very beginning point what does it require a lot of pesticides, does it require a lot of water, does it require a lot of oil or not. Yeah but what questions do you have about that whole cycle?

Meg: well I think that I have a pretty good understanding of that cycle but I guess that's a part of the transparency that I come back to a lot is like well how can we really know what we're buying if we don't understand the whole life cycle of this product in the production system? That takes a lot of research on the consumer end and usually when there's that many steps to acquiring a product then you just won't acquire that product and you'll get whatever is most convenient to you.

Well we already talked about the transparency but then also having certifications that are clear and I guess not divisive is really important but there's so many certifications that I would consider categorizing as greenwashing so it is just kind of it's confusing to know which products are actually sustainable and which ones are just being labeled as sustainable.

Mary: it is and so even for us and then under for us to understand even all of the certifications or tools that are used to assess the environmental impacts or the sustainability as a whole are complicated. It takes us a long time to truly understand what it is they're assessing and where our product fits into those.

So yes there are there are some certifications that are doing a better job than others. For example one certification that we make sure that all of our linen has is the Masters of Linen certification. So that guarantees no GMOs, no pesticides, no irrigation. The plants only use water from rain and not um they're not watered and water is not pulled from under our ground aquifers or lakes or rivers.

Then the other is that the entire supply chain from farming the flax to creating the textile is traceable and happens within Europe and that guarantees safe working conditions and appropriate wages. So that's one that we really like another that we that we are part of is climate neutral. So yes we all have a footprint of some sort but climate neutral helps us assess what our footprint is, helps us identify ways that we can decrease it each year, and then also helps us offset any carbon that we did emit over that year.

They in particular do a good job of vetting their offsetting partners. That's where my public health and kind of global health experience comes into play. Just understanding actually the harm that we can cause by misunderstanding the appropriate ways to help without causing actual more harm. I won't go into any of that but climate neutral happens to just be for us a really good fit in that way.

Then I think again so it it comes down to transparency and so is the company transparent. The other is are you are you buying this product to last like do you do you expect to use this for a very long time or not and then if not where is it going to go when you're done with it? If it's just gonna head to a landfill that's not great. I think an easy way to go for the consumer might be to ask if you yourself are going to use it for a very long time or not.

So as a consumer I personally always ask when I see a product like a product would like to purchase it: am I going to use this a lot and am I going to use this for a very long time? Because I feel like that's where I can have a big impact over time is just decreasing my consumption overall and then making sure that whatever it is that I do purchase I keep around and in use for a long time. Because we know that the biggest impact, the biggest environmental drains of a product is is during that production stage.

Meg: no that really does encompass a lot of like minimalist, mindfulness, any of those types of concepts and like applies it to consumerism. Which is kind of like it seems contradictory but it is really important as far as environmentalism goes. So like being able to reduce your consumption is important but having the realization that you're going to consume because you're human but then being able to rethink your actual need for that product and how exactly you'll be using it I think is impactful like regardless of how sustainable that material itself is. There's a lot of intention that goes into that thought process and I think that can really lead to people wanting to discover more and research more and understand companies a little bit deeper.

What I found is once I find a company that is kind of encompassing all of these sustainability practices and being really transparent about it is I tend to be pretty loyal to those companies. So like I don't need to really branch out too much more because I feel like I found a really good place to buy those types of products that I've been seeking.

Mary: right yep and that's exactly how I feel personally and I would say the same thing with my mom and sister who also run the company and you know guide its direction every day. That is what we aim to be as a company as well and and hope that yup people trust us. Because it because we know that it's complicated. It's not easy for us either as consumers to really you know to be able to look at a product and know right away whether it's a smart buy for us or not and it does take a lot of research.

Then I think the other thing is that because we are so inundated with synthetic materials whether they're made from virgin fibers or recycled plastic bottles or that it would feel quite like daunting or hopeless to decide that I am just not going to buy you know anything that is synthetic because it's impossible right now. But where there are opportunities to say no to synthetic and yes to something better that's where we you know opt to go for now. Then say okay fine I'm going to buy this tent and I'm going to use this tent a lot and it's the only one that I'm going to use for a number of years and if I rip it I'll send it in and have it repaired and you know keep that one item in use for a very long time instead of replacing it regularly. I think that's responsible and it's realistic right now.

Meg: yeah because you can still get the benefits of using that synthetic material because that's the one that's performing best that we know about right now. It kind of does fall back onto the consumer then to buy a durable product and one that can be repaired. But in that like same mindset it is kind of unfortunate that a lot of that does fall onto the consumer um but also it is encouraging that like companies like Lava Linens and then other ones that are using um durable plant-based fibers I almost said synthetics. Are kind of like raising awareness to be forming same if not better than the ones that you're used to and they also happen to be the most sustainable option. So if we could get more companies on board with those types of materials then I think that there could be an expansion in the outdoor industry.

Mary: yeah and I so as a consumer to I look for um smaller brands when I'm trying to buy responsibly. Just from experience they are the ones that are kind of tend to push the envelope and have are a little bit more agile and they're able to to modify their their processes more quickly because they're not massive. Generally you will you will start to see this from smaller companies first and that's who I would look for look to and I think it's unrealistic to really expect the big players right now to be leading that effort. It it takes a lot of time and energy and priority for the really big companies to make changes to their supply lines right now.

Meg: yeah like if all of a sudden the North Face was like we're done using synthetics I feel like that would be almost impossible to like change unless they had like three years to kind of like revamp all of their products and their production line and their sourcing.

Mary: yeah and well and then the other rights of the sourcing is really challenging because then you're talking about sourcing in such a massive scale. So right now you know we're able to work with smaller mills and manufacturers who are doing new things and that's kind of what they're all about. But then the bigger you get and the bigger manufacturers are really focused on churning out a whole lot of very common materials because that's that's what they've figured out. That's what they have the equipment for and that's where the the money is where the orders are coming from.

So look to the smaller brands for the for the fun new exciting things and I think then the more that the smaller brands are able to do and raise awareness than the more the larger brands will feel the push. Then kind of help us all get there together.

Meg: yeah I agree I think that I definitely generally towards tend to gravitate towards smaller brands and also like companies that are more local and do work within the community I tend to gravitate towards those ones as well. I think a lot of times when it comes to like the demand of products a lot of it falls down to like accessibility. If you don't know about an option and it's not accessible to you like maybe you don't have internet or you only really buy your clothing at big box stores like Walmart or something then there's not really an option I guess for consumers other than like what's right in front of them.

I think that the push towards well I shouldn't say push but like as more people gravitate to shopping online it has kind of helped people understand more about companies and like what they stand for. I find a lot of the company information from the website and how they produce all of the materials, and what their footprint is, what their certification are.

Mary: yep and I would agree that I do think it really helps that more people are going online. I don't tend to do this but I know of a number of people who they will see something new in the store and they immediately go to that brand's social media to check out more about what they're all about before they'll make that purchase. So even in that way like even even when you're shopping in person that online presence really matters.

Now that people are shopping online more it is in some ways becoming more difficult to be found if you don't have the marketing dollars. So that's something we always are having to work through because we don't have the marketing dollars to like really be out there always just like other small brands don't. And so again it just requires that time and yes I think accessibility is difficult and I think the other thing like we recognize with our products they're expensive to start. Our towels are something that that will last for many many many years. But linen made from flax is a premium textile it takes a lot of energy to make but then once you have it made it is really durable and it's going to last a long time. But you do have to have that money up front to be able to afford that product.

As a small company when we're ordering small quantities of textiles our margins are not huge they're nothing like the big brands and our product is still expensive. I think that that's just another thing that I hope consumers are aware of in that we all just kind of how we're all structured a little bit differently based on our size and then like based on the quality of the material and the accessibility of the material itself. Then looking at the longevity of the product also but it's all it's complicated.

Meg: yeah and it's kind of different for everyone and every company and just being able to have sustainable processes in place is really helpful. I know a number of smaller and larger companies that do like sustainability audits or something like that and it kind of reminded me of that in your carbon neutral certification that they did like a carbon assessment but this would be similar they look at the entire like process and then tell you if they're are more sustainable options and kind of what they would look like what they would cost. But the consumer doesn't see any of that and part of that could be communicated but I'm not exactly sure how that could be communicated just like you're working towards these types of things.

I did see on one clothing website recently that they recognized like we're not a certified B Corporation or we're not blue sign certified but we are working towards those things but we are a small company and they kind of explained why those certifications are good and what and how they would qualify. I thought that that was interesting because I was like I was looking to see if they were a certified B Corporation but they weren't. So I was like eh I don't know but then on a different page they explained why they weren't and when they planned to become one and what that would mean as a company.

I mean some people might not even know what that means I guess when I say certified B Corp. I think that that is one of the more reputable certifications I don't really know how intensely it's used but from what I've seen it seems like it does a good job encompassing a lot of different sustainability aspects like reducing inequality and poverty in like a healthier environment for workers as well as other types of sustainability aspects.

Mary: yes and actually B Corp that's one that we are looking into right now too. We don't have it because we are as small as we are at the moment but we're trying to put things in place now so that when we are ready to become certified it's an easy process. I think that's really smart of that other the company that you referenced and talking about what certifications matter to them what they're what they're doing now. It goes back to just kind of understanding the company as a whole values what what they're all about and then really importantly is their size. Yeah bigger companies it makes a lot of sense to to have those certifications and it's really feasible for them. Then there are others where it's just not you know like ours right now we're a smaller company. It doesn't mean that we don't value those same things or that we're not doing things as well. It's just that we're not to the point where that certification specifically makes sense for us yet and so again then it falls on the consumer and I'm sorry about that. So um yep just try to talk about everything to to kind of explain where we're at.

Meg: well I think that that is like a pretty good place for us to kind of stop I feel like we could talk about this at length in a lot of different directions and we could talk about every single certification if we wanted to but that would maybe be kind of dry. So if you want to just wrap up and kind of let the listeners know where they can find Lava Linens and how to follow you on social media.

Mary: sure so our website is and then within the next about six months or so you'll start seeing us in some of your independent outdoor retailer stores too

Meg: that's exciting

Mary: yes yep so working on getting out there um and yes really excited to be kind of more prevalent throughout all of the US and then our social media Instagram is @lavalinens

Meg: okay and I'll share those links in the episode description so you can find that easily there

yeah so thank you Mary for taking your time and to discuss this topic with me today

Mary: yeah thank you

Meg: so I just want to say thank you again to Mary for taking the time to have a conversation about how to identify a sustainable product materials. Because it is such a big topic it is a large focus of my book Outdoor Minimalist. How I was introduced to Mary actually was in writing that book so she kind of helped me identify certain things within textiles and she also helped me come up with a chart that is in the book that kind of breaks down how to identify those product materials in I wouldn't say easy to remember steps but I guess like steps to reference back to. So once you have the book you'd be able to go to this chart and look at that when you're looking for new products.

That includes

1) inputs to and types of raw materials

2) the versatility of the item

3) lifespan of the product

4) end of life or afterlife of the product

5) the product packaging shipping materials and promotional materials used and

6) other forms of sustainability in terms of worker safety and wages.

So this is a really big topic but it is one that is very important and is a huge focus of outdoor minimalism because as you can recall from earlier episodes if you've listened to them even in my discussion with Mary here today we reference back to reducing, refusing, and rethinking and so we're kind of moving through the stages of how you can actually apply these to your life.

So thank you so much for listening and remember if you like what you hear let me know leave a review and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. You can still find me on Instagram follow there for daily updates educational resources and to help build an outdoor community with a shared goal to create a better outdoor space for us to recreate.


Get 15% off Lava Linens towels with the discount code OUTDOORMINIMALIST LAVA LINENS WEBSITE: LAVA LINENS INSTAGRAM:

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