THE UPSIDE OF DOWN
Synthetic insulation is tough stuff. It’s also an environmental time-bomb. Thanks to the sustainable products in Pearson’s new autumn-winter range, warming your body needn’t mean cooking the planet.
By Louise Waugh.
At Pearson, founded in 1860, we look back with pride, but we’re also excited about the future. However, the sizeable environmental challenges facing the world mean the next century and a half will require some clever thinking in the way we design and manufacture products. That’s why, by 2023, we’re committed to making all our apparel 100% sustainable.
Reducing the carbon footprint of our products is all very well but what happens when those products are no longer required? Technical, outdoor apparel relies on durable materials. That means complex, synthetic polymers engineered to withstand the weather. Once discarded, they don’t shed those properties that made them so useful in the first place and remain able to endure even the harshest environments – witness the decades-old tents and apparel strewn on the upper reaches of Mount Everest.
The North Pole, meanwhile, may be free of such detritus but faces an even more sinister threat in the vast amounts of microplastics (fragments less than 5mm in length) now inundating its waters. Borne on ocean currents, in 2020 microplastics were, depressingly, also found for the first time in Antarctica.
Impending environmental catastrophe might seem a rather far-fetched way of framing Pearson’s commitment to sustainability – bear with us. As the weather turns colder, Pearson is launching its new seasonal range. Front and centre is the new Adventure Insulated Jacket, also known as Field Day.
Synthetic insulation enjoys a bad rep for good reason. Even if disposed of responsibly, in landfill, its polyester fibres can maintain their structure for decades; for centuries in the worst cases, that’s longer than Pearson has been in business. As for the number of biodegradable insulation products available, you can count them on one hand.
We think the solution is to not create the problem in the first place. So, the insulation we use in the Field Day jacket is the not-so-snappily titled ‘eco²sy®’. Designed for exceptional comfort, it’s as light as traditional synthetics and just as warm. The crucial difference is that it’s made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and coffee grounds. And while it provides all the performance benefits you’d expect (breathability, waterproofing and windproofing), once the jacket has come to the end of its life, the materials can be recycled and used again.
(The jacket’s main fabric is also made from 70% polyester.)
Across the range, Pearson’s sustainable insulation stems from some unlikely sources.
Our Road Insulated Jacket, for example, is also known as Test Your Mettle, a name inspired by William Shakespeare, who employed the word ‘mettle’ in Henry V. The story of a soldier king, our Road jacket also has military connections – it uses Polartec® Alpha®, an insulation originally created for US special forces.
Hailed as ‘active’ insulation, Alpha® offers class-leading performance by limiting the cold air that penetrates the garment, while releasing heat generated by the wearer. The more heat, the more effectively Alpha’s ‘hydrophobic’ yarns transport moisture away from the body. So far, so tech. The clincher for Pearson, however, was the fact Alpha® is made from 100% recycled PET plastic. That’s ‘polyethylene terephthalate’, one of the most widely applied, single-use plastics on the market. And one of the undisputed bad guys in the battle against plastics pollution.
Like the Adventure Insulated Jacket, its Road counterpart also uses recycled fabrics elsewhere on the garment, notably on the front and arms. And, lest we forget, the new Pearson autumn-winter range also includes our exceptional bikes. Created for all types of cycling, their green credentials are harder to measure but, as sustainable transport, simple to understand. Yes, there’s a carbon footprint associated with their design and manufacture. However, not only is a bike journey carbon neutral, but the more journeys you make the more you offset – and thereby reduce – that original footprint.