When it comes to sustainability, Level6 is on the level. The company is implementing several key environmental initiatives to help protect the world we paddle in. This year alone it’s cut the use of nearly 20,000 plastic bags by using single bag liners on its shipping boxes; switched packaging to recycled cardboard; started rolling and tying its casualwear with extra fabric cut offs; launched its 1% for watershed conservation initiative; and more. It’s also looking at introducing recycled fabrics in its casual and hardgoods line for 2022. Paddling Life caught up with Design and Production Manager Addison Dark for the skinny on the sustainability efforts.
Paddling Life: How important is protecting the environment to Level6?
It’s always been a part of our mandate as a company to take action and protect the outdoors. Since the launch of our online store we’ve had our 1% for Watershed Conservation initiative, which states: As a company and as industry leaders, we recognize that we have a responsibility to conserve our watersheds for all to enjoy. Every year we take 1% of our direct retail sales and donate it to various watershed conservation organizations across North America. Our livelihood depends on having clean and navigable waterways to explore and experience.
Tell us about your efforts regarding plastic bags?
In 2019 we really noticed that we were collecting far too many plastic bags with the delivery of our products, and it was time to take decisive action. As an outdoor apparel and gear company, we found it wasn’t an efficient way to be giving back to the environment we love and respect. So we decided to remove as many plastic bags from our product as possible and launched Our Pledge to The Environment and our Manufacturing Code of Conduct as a part of our company mandate. It states that we will continually strive to find ways to minimize our use of single use plastic packaging. Where possible, we use 100% recycled cardboard, compostable bags for individually wrapped items, single bag liners for bulk shipments, and rolled clothing items tied with recycled fabric. It’s our perpetual goal to mitigate our impact and lead the watersports industry toward a brighter and more environmentally sustainable future.
How about your overall carbon footprint?
We plan to assess our carbon footprint and look into working toward becoming a carbon neutral business. We would do this by using a company like treecanada.ca to calculate and offset our footprint by the planting of native trees in Canada, as well as installing solar panels on our new building. We’ve already taken small steps like replacing all lighting to LED, using motion sensors so lights turn off and automatically, and using efficient commercial heating and cooling units. In the office and warehouse we recycle as much as possible and try to be a paperless operation. We use the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiatives) as our framework for our product sustainability standards. We do our best to follow this model across all our supply chains and will continue to work with factories that follow good labor practices.
Tell us a little more about your packaging initiatives, using single bag liners on your shipping boxes…how long have you been doing that and much has that helped?
One of the main reasons we were using plastic bags to begin with was to protect the products during shipment. The change in humidity from land to sea can cause moisture, which can damage the products. We realized we could still protect the product by using one large bag to line the box, rather than each product being individually wrapped. This small change alone has saved us from using 10 times the number of plastics we used before. From there we started coming up with more creative ways to package our products. Using recycled cardboard allowed us to have more creative packaging as well as giving our customers a way to recycle the packaging afterwards.
How about rolling and tying your casualwear with extra fabric cut offs?
We have a new technique where the factories use left-over stripes of fabrics to tie the garments together. Rolling up our garments not only prevent sour use of plastics but prevents leftover fabric from ending up in the landfill. We also realized that this was a more efficient way to package our product for large shipments; we were able to package more products in the same size box. All of the factories we work with have been very supportive and helpful with our new sustainable initiative. From giving us new ideas to sourcing more sustainable materials, our factories have been helping us every step of the way.
You’re planning to introduce recycled fabrics in your casual and hardgoods line for 2022…how hard of a manufacturing step will that be?
We’re fortunate that many of the manufacturers overseas have been adapting their resources to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly as well. This has been the on-going trend for the last few years, and we’re starting to see the benefits. As a result, factories have been willing to help us create and test new environmentally friendly fabrics. In 2022, we’re looking to roll out our new eco-friendly apparel line with materials made from recycled plastic water bottles, and continue to work on eco-friendly waterproof/breathable fabrics.
What can other companies do to help?
This year alone we’ve cut over 20,000 plastic bags from our production. We are all in this together and it’s as easy as just asking what the alternatives are. Taking a bit of time to find alternatives and being able to accept the extra cost of being more environmentally friendly is something we just have to do as an industry. Some of the costs can be passed along to the customer, but it’s also our responsibility as an industry to commit to a sustainable future.