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MEC response on vegan products and labelling


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So I emailed Mountain Equipment Coop here is Canada to ask about veganizing their stores, both in terms of labelling vegan products and, because MEC has it's own line of products, about making more vegan products. For example, MEC sells a decent quality duffle bag, but the handle has a leather grip.


For those who don`t know MEC, it is Canada's most well-known outdoors shop (certainly for climbing). It is a 'co-op' in that you pay 5$ for life­. But MEC also has a very strong stance on sustainability, both in developing products and in their stores themselves.




Here is MEC's response (I was actually somewhat shocked):


Thanks for the comments. My name is Jeff Crook and I manage the Buying and Design departments here at MEC.


Sustainability is both a risk and massive opportunity for anyone who builds products. It is also very complex. We have been working hard to understand how we can manufacture and produce products in a more "thoughtful" manner. Right now our focus is raw material inputs and

manufacturing processes. In fact we partner with a Swiss company called Bluesign as we move towards auditing more of our raw material suppliers - audits for energy, water, toxicity as well as our usual array of social, labor and health & safety audits.


Our mission around Sustainability is to get more "good" elements into product and less "bad". For example; removing PVC from our products; only using Organic Cotton; increasing our use of Recycled Polyesters; trying to switch all our DWR chemistry to Carbon 6 molecules instead of

Carbon 8... These things take an enormous amount of time to understand and action. At the end of the day, people buy products from us because they need those products to do a job. We are very mindful of the fact that our members expect great performance and value from our products. Given that approximately 85% of the carbon footprint of an apparel product is energy embodied IN the product, we believe in building products for the long haul...this directly impacts our material choices. Getting the performance side of products right takes a lot of time but it is vital.


As an organization we are not pursuing a Vegan strategy in product creation. As you pointed out there are times when products come to fruition as vegan friendly but it is not something that we set out to do per se. Your comment about the leather on the duffle is an interesting

one. I have received comments from other members who want MEC to stop using synthetics as these are derived from crude oil, a non-renewable resource. They would prefer that we use only natural fibers and animal based materials. As a retailer and a brand MEC needs to strike

a balance between all the differing views that make up the MEC membership.


I really do appreciate you taking the time to send us a comment.


Good luck on all your adventures,





So here is my question, which I was coincidentally discussing with another friend, does anyone have an idea of the comparative impact of producing 'natural' (read: non-vegan) products vs synthetics?


I have typically taking a long-tail approach to it in discussing the impact of farming, but from an emissions, chemicals, toxins (from synthetic products) and the relative waste that ensues (both in off-shoots and the degradability of the product).

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Considering that synthetics come from byproducts of petroleum production and this company obviously uses oil for shipping and manufacturing and advertising, etc. It seems silly to insist that something is made of leather when synthetics are cheaper and I would say result in less toxic crap just floating around since it gets turned into something that is useful. The folks with the mentality that their lifestyle is very green and won't be if a handle on a bag is a certain material is pretty silly. And this is a duffle bag which probably wont get used much. And if the bag isn't leather why have a handle of that material since it supposedly lasts longer...does that mean you want the handle to last longer than the bag? Even today mabt items which actually get hard use and are increasing market share (items such as gun holsters and tool belts) are increasingly being made out of synthetic materials which tend to hold up well in all conditions and just have advantages over leather, but there are disadvantages too so how you will use the item is important. A duffle bag is probably just going to get stuffed with clothing which is not very heavy use and thus makes the leather handle merely cosmetic.

I guess overall I'm troubled with this notion that there is some kind of materialism which is eco friendly. It's all got a negative environmental impact. The folks demanding leather because it's more sustainable really just want luxury items they can feel less guilty about. That's all this is, is feeling less guilty and still being chic which is what mainstream environmentalism is today-just some hip fad.


I wish I had numbers for you about the comparative impact but I don't. From the MEC response it sounded like they are pretty much against doing away with leather. This is why ethics and principles, not fads and trends should come first in ones actions. Even if there was some comparative advantage to synthetics as far as pollutants, then MEC will come up with some other reason to not change. I don't fault the company for selling stuff the way their consumers like and it's good that you are trying to steer them in the right direction, but the customers who just want chic things aren't going to change their style just because something died and besides death is natural. It's good for the earth.

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