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There’s a Way to Keep Your Ski Jacket Waterproof Without Harmful Chemicals

The company that makes fabrics for The North Face, Arc'teryx, and many more just raised the bar for sustainable ski apparel manufacturing.

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Good news: There is now a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment that doesn’t include harmful chemicals that can contaminate drinking water.

Polartec, a company that produces fabric for brands including Arc’Teryx, Flylow, The North Face, Stio, Nørrona, and a number of other recognizable ski apparel brands, announced last week that they now only use non-PFAS DWR treatments.

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these are the types of chemicals that have been used in non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics since the 1940s. Like microplastics and DDT, PFAS don’t break down organically and can accumulate in organisms—e.g. humans—over time. These chemicals are most likely to contaminate water sources near facilities that use PFAS treatment, including clothing manufacturing plants.

By eliminating DWR treatments with PFAS, Polartec is helping reduce the environmental impact that the apparel industry has on communities worldwide. According to the World Bank, 20 percent of wastewater comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. More generally, the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of global carbon emissions, which is greater than international aviation and maritime shipping combined.

“Achieving non-PFAS treatments within our product line is an important milestone in our commitment to sustainably made performance fabrics,” says Steve Layton, Polartec President, in a press release. “It’s the latest step on our journey to an even more sustainable Polartec.”

Related: How Well Does Sugar Cane Perform as a Technical Skiing Fabric?

Polartec’s new non-PFAS DWR treatment will be used on all of its products, including NeoShell and Windbloc fabrics that are common components in ski outerwear. The technology will also be found in a number of popular Polartec fleece products.

“Trial results have exceeded even our expectations,” said Mike Rose, Polartec VP of Product Development, speaking about the new non-PFAS DWR treatment. “There is no loss of performance from a water repellency or durability standpoint.”

The innovation is just the latest step for the brand that has been making moves to become more sustainable every year since it was founded thirty years ago. Polartec was the first brand to turn post-consumer plastic into performance fabrics and continues to innovate the process of using recycling in its manufacturing process every season.

Consumers can expect to find Polartec products in a number of outerwear lines in the coming season and beyond.

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