What is the ecoSensitive® Program?

The ecoSensitive Program demonstrates REI's long-term commitment to take responsibility for the entire life cycles of our REI-brand and Novara products, from design to manufacture to end-of-life. These brands are unique to REI—designed, developed, and sourced by our cooperative.

The history of ecoSensitive

Since 2005, we've been working to better measure the environmental impacts of the product life cycle. Our biggest discovery: the environmental impact embedded in the products we make and sell is greater than the operational footprint of our retail stores, distribution centers and headquarters combined. This fact hints at the enormously complex and difficult task presented by product stewardship.

In 2007 we created the ecoSensitive label to foster product stewardship. This eco-label provided targets for designers to integrate more recycled content, organic content and renewable materials into our private brands. It also helped us to communicate with our customers and to further reduce our environmental footprint.

In 2010 REI developed a new product stewardship vision: to understand, disclose and actively address the environmental and social impacts of products in all phases of the product life cycle. With this vision, we reevaluated the ecoSensitive label with the intent of expanding its application.

Why transition from a label to a program?

As we reexamined our private eco-label, we began to understand its shortcomings. By addressing materials alone, we were missing opportunities to measure and reduce our impacts at other points in the product life cycle. We had also contributed to the proliferation of eco-labels in the marketplace—a growing challenge for consumers. And perhaps most importantly, we had unintentionally limited our focus to the 25% of our products that were capable of reaching the label's strict requirements.

Realizing these limitations, we decided to broaden ecoSensitive from an eco-label to a program. This evolution shifts our focus to all REI-brand and Novara products and to the full product life cycle. The ecoSensitive Program now provides REI with a framework to understand, disclose and actively address the impacts of our private brands.

We continue our collaboration with dozens of companies, nonprofit organizations, and universities in developing a universal framework for measuring product sustainability. We strongly believe that this type of pre-competitive collaboration is essential for expanding sustainability across the entire industry.

How to learn more

Product stewardship is one of our greatest challenges and one of our most exciting opportunities. We are excited to share our journey with you! To learn more about the REI and Novara brands, please explore these pages. We also encourage you to see what we are doing across our retail operations through Stewardship at REI.

Why collaborate with our competitors?

Collaboration is critical in accomplishing our vision of understanding, disclosing and actively addressing the environmental and social impacts of products at all phases of the product life cycle. Our competitors possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in sustainability. We continually learn from our interactions with other brands.

Out of these interactions comes a shared approach to sustainability built upon a framework for measuring and reporting product sustainability. The REI and Novara brands are working with other brands, academic experts, and nonprofit organizations in a pre-competitive endeavor to establish a common language for product stewardship. We believe this will positively influence not only our own operations, but the entire supply chain.

The Eco Working Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition

We are actively involved with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Eco Working Group, a coalition of more than 150 outdoor industry brands, suppliers, manufacturers and other stakeholders working to create a shared methodology for measuring and reporting product impacts.

In 2010, the Eco Working Group introduced the beta version of the Eco Index, a tool to help companies understand and measure the impacts of products at all phases of their life cycles.

More than 100 companies throughout the supply chain tested the tool, including REI. Testing showed the Eco Index to be effective and helpful in communicating environmental performance and aiding designers in their efforts to better identify opportunities for product improvements.

Success with the tool has encouraged other companies and groups outside of the outdoor industry to evaluate it for their use. REI, Patagonia and other outdoor companies are currently working with major retailers and brands such as Target, Levi, Gap, Nike, and Walmart in a group called the Sustainable Apparel Coalition that will result in even more widespread use of the Eco Index framework.

How are we applying these tools in our business?

Based on the Eco Index, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition has developed a new tool to measure product impacts. The REI brand is piloting it with an evaluation of our Sahara hiking apparel. The Sahara collection's supply chains span multiple continents and involve a wide range of suppliers. We're working with our supply chain partners to benchmark our performance and to identify opportunities to expand the use of this new framework.

Next on our to-do list: We'll incorporate the Sustainable Apparel Coalition framework tool into our product line management software. This step will significantly increase our ability to measure and manage product sustainability during the design and development process.

Applying life-cycle thinking to product sustainability

Understanding the impacts of products in all phases of the life cycle is a complex and difficult task. Our supply chains span the globe, and we source thousands of product components, from fabrics to bicycle cables, each season. In order to fully understand our environmental footprint, we need to consider a wide range of impacts such as water consumption, land use, toxins and air emissions.

Our primary tool for this work is the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index, which REI helped develop and test. The Eco Index enables users to benchmark a product's environmental impacts throughout the product life cycle and across multiple lenses.

Fostering transparency

Our plan is to use the Eco Index to develop reportable indicators and metrics for our ecoSensitive® Program. In the meantime, we are reporting on key efforts and results of the work in progress. Our commitment is to learn and understand the impacts of products and then disclose that information in ways that are accurate, meaningful and relevant to our members. This process has begun in a limited way by sharing the pros and cons of materials chosen for our ecoSensitive program.

REI designers and merchants will make choices for improved environmental performance based on the Eco Index guidelines, indicators and metrics. We intend to be able to report on progress based on this approach over time.

We will continue to invest in the development of environmentally preferred products and reliable metrics. As we are better able to identify and quantify the environmental impacts of products, we are committed to sharing that information. We will focus on collaboration with other members of the OIA Eco Working Group and support the resulting tools that emerge from that collaboration.

Our search for more sustainable materials

We strive to source materials for REI-brand gear and clothing from recycled, renewable, and organic-certified sources. Given the technical nature of our products, we're often challenged to find sustainable options. Nevertheless, we're committed to working with our suppliers through the Eco Index framework to continually reduce the environmental footprints of our products and supply chains.

What is bluesign®?

In late 2008, REI became a member of bluesign technologies ag. The bluesign standard is an independent textile certification based on an approach called “input stream management.” This method excludes problematic substances from the manufacturing process and results in an entirely safe finished product, regardless of how many intermediate steps or manufacturers are involved.

The bluesign standard is based on 5 principles:

  1. Resource productivity – providing maximum quality using minimal resources
  2. Air emission – closely monitoring emission limits
  3. Occupational health and safety – safeguarding workers by using strict safety limits
  4. Water emission – feeding the cleanest possible water back into rivers, lakes and seas
  5. Consumer safety – providing products without health risks

REI considers the bluesign standard to be the strongest global solution available to proactively address environmental health and safety in manufacturing.

In 2010, we began using bluesign-approved Polartec fabrics in all of our REI-brand long underwear. As a result of this switch, we boosted our use of bluesign fabrics by 422,000 yards in the following year.

We will continue to expand our use of bluesign-certified textiles in the months and years ahead.

Sustainable packaging aspiration

At REI, we're mindful of the need to reduce our environmental footprint in every package we develop. We design, create, manufacture, deliver, use, recycle and/or dispose of all the packaging for REI-brand and Novara gear and clothing in ways that respect the planet and people.

Our approach: We minimize packaging, maximize the use of post-consumer recycled materials and use materials that are recyclable; we also design our packaging so that the individual parts can be separated for recycling. And we work with suppliers who use renewable energy to manufacture our packaging materials.

Our 5-year plan & commitments

We've been working on reducing our packaging and incorporating recycled content for many years. Since the development of the Outdoor Industry Association's Eco Index Packaging Guidelines in 2007, we've increased our efforts, and sustainable packaging is now one of REI's key commitments.

To continue our progress, we've set four targets:

  • Reduce our REI-brand and Novara product packaging by 25% by 2015
  • Use only recyclable or compostable packaging by 2015
  • Increase the use of sustainable raw materials in our packaging
  • Put clear labeling on our packaging that explains its recyclability

Making progress on our packaging goals

More than 90% of REI-brand and Novara packaging is now recyclable—a figure that's verified by internal measurement tools.

It may not be immediately obvious that the packaging on any given item has been reduced. At first glance, our hangtags, for instance, might look exactly the same. But simply by reducing the thickness of the paperboard a fractional amount saves 10 tons of paper each year. In 2010, we increased the recycled paper content in our hangtags from 10% to 100% Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper.

Next up: Watch for the new label that identifies the reduced packaging on some REI-brand and Novara products. We're working with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to pilot an enhanced disposal label that will consistently provide factual, transparent recycling information to our customers and members.

How can you maintain your favorite gear and clothing?

REI offers a wealth of options to assist our customers in servicing their products. By extending the useful life of a product, you can help reduce its environmental impact and save money. We encourage you to learn more about our offerings below.

  • REI Bike Shop Services Keep your bike in top shape with basic tuneups, overhauls, custom wheel-building, or fit service with our highly trained bicycle technicians
  • REI Ski & Snowboard Shop Services Maintain your equipment with binding inspections, tuning, waxing, base structuring, and other repair services
  • REI Fabric Repair Services Get a free estimate for repairs, alterations, laundry services, seam sealing, and down re-lofting
  • REI Non-Fabric Repair Services Find guidance for repairing your favorite pair of shoes or your custom tent poles
  • REI Replacement Parts Search our wide range of replacement components to keep your gear in tip-top shape
  • REI Stores Swing by one of our 100+ stores for personal assistance

100% satisfaction guaranteed

We stand behind everything we sell. If you are not satisfied with your REI purchase, you can return it for a replacement or refund. Items must be returned within a year of purchase, except items purchased from REI-OUTLET which must be returned within 30 days of purchase.

Reducing energy consumption from laundering

Our research indicates that laundering is often the most energy-consumptive stage of a garment's life cycle. Washing and drying a garment dozens of times consumes a significant amount of energy. Save energy when you wash certain products at a low temperature and line-dry them. Look for guidance on the labels of your REI-brand and Novara gear and clothing.