Seven ways to go plastic free as a climber
words by Allan Evans
It’s recently come to my attention through some social media posts by Greenpeace that microplastics have been found in the human body for the first time in several studies over the past couple of years, from our blood to our lungs and most shockingly in the placentas of unborn babies. While the issue of plastic has been in my awareness for some time and I have made changes to reduce it, I feel these studies have highlighted a greater urgency for change, certainly within myself.
It’s also felt that while recycling and upcycling help in terms of plastics entering the environment at a slower rate, we ultimately need to look at alternatives. As even in reusing these plastics they are still entering the environment, through washing our plastic clothing, our helmets, ropes, and other plastic equipment scraping on rocks as we climb. I recognise this will take time, I certainly don’t want to start climbing with a hemp rope from the old days, but maybe we can look to the past and apply new technology to it, I’ll leave that to the scientists though.
These are some ways I have been able to or am going to reduce my plastic consumption as a climber and I thought they would be worth sharing:
1 – Bottles/Water
An oldy but a goodie, this is always on any list of reducing plastic. Let’s face it, it’s a no brainer. My personal preference on this is to go with a metal water bottle, reason being, if it gets dropped and lost then there’s less damage done to the environment. I use Sigg bottles which have a plastic top, I do feel this could be changed to metal and rubber for the screw part, so maybe they could be pressured to do so. I do also use a bladder which is of course is plastic, but far less likely to be dropped or lost.
2 – Clothing
Most technical clothing these days is made of plastic, it’s fast drying, abrasion resistant, easily made to be waterproof, or water resistant and of course one of the biggest selling points, lightweight. There are areas of technical clothing that I feel don’t need to be plastic, zips, toggles etc. I feel they are only done to so to cut costs, I imagine there can’t be that much of a weight difference? Does technical clothing always need to be made from plastic? Base layers, socks and underwear is one thing I have found it certainly doesn’t.
Merino wool outperforms its plastic counterparts in all areas for these items.
It is more comfortable, dries just as well, good warmth to weight ratio and where it excels, not smelling after days of wear. I also question if we always need technical clothing. In a mountain environment, most definitely, I’d even argue at coastal crags as well. General cragging, sport climbing and bouldering I’d say we don’t. Organic cotton and or wool for the win! If you do need some technical plastic clothing, then why not look at a brand that is using recycled materials. Let’s face it there is enough plastic out there for us to not be making virgin plastic. I should also mention one way to combat microplastics being released into the environment is by using a guppy bag when you wash your clothes, I recently learned about these through a story on fellow Dirtbagger Lily’s Instagram.
3 – Brushes
I’m going to be honest, plastic brushes infuriate me, I just don’t understand why? Especially when we know how harmful plastic is to our environment and now us! I have a selection of wood brushes, but my favourite is definitely my Sillygoat brush, they are worth every penny and I’m a big fan of the fact they can be re-bristled.
4 – Chalk
Some people really aren’t bothered about the chalk they use and there are plenty of brands on offer that deliver their chalk in eco-friendly packaging, with companies like Psychi taking it a step further and having chalk bins in gyms to save even more on waste, which is great. I’m unfortunately not one of those people and I’m a bit fussy, I love Friction Labs chalk and have used it for several years, I can no longer justify purchasing it anymore though. My latest chalk purchase came in a brown paper bag, Friction Labs please fix this!
5 – Clip Stick
May seem like a bit of an unusual item to add, however, I recently purchased a stick from Pongoose. There are a many reasons, I was impressed with the design; no moving parts to go wrong and so much less plastic than its biggest rival the beta stick and arguably better built, I have seen beta sticks lose their ability to hold solid gate biners, this would never been an issue with the Pongoose. Also made in the UK so keeping it local.
6 – Food
Much like water we can also reduce plastic by prepping for a day out and making food at home rather than stopping to get a meal deal on your day out. I’ll be honest this is one I have been guilty of a lot, but with a bit prep you will have a better meal that costs less, is better for the environment and yourself. It’s not even that hard to prepare your own protein bars or flapjacks.
7 – Skin Care
Rhino Skin has burst onto the climbing scene with a range of products, whereas most skin care brands have focussed on aftercare, Rhino skins have also paid attention to prepare the skin, which is great, what’s not great is their packaging, while all the other brands have used tins, Rhino skin are using plastic, not ok! I did purchase their performance cream a while ago, as I liked the anti-perspirant aspect, I still have it, it’s been used sparingly in the summer. If you have a particular issue like sweaty hands I see the appeal, but most of my skin care is when its thin or cuts. I have used various creams/balms that have come in tins. My new favourite though is Cloud Balm, made locally in Staffordshire using beeswax from hives they keep and in eco friendly packaging.
This leads me onto my closing statement, in today’s western society it’s near on impossible to avoid plastic, in our house we did the big plastic count set up by Greenpeace to understand exactly how much plastic we are consuming.
We actively avoid plastics as much as we can. Even with that, the plastic we are using in a week feels high.
The results of the count were shocking and can be seen in the link below. Greenpeace now have petition against the government to implement change, also linked below. I feel trying to avoid it isn’t enough and we need to start pressuring companies to use alternatives and pressure the government to make legal changes. There are so many alternatives that exist, many have existed for a long time and new technologies are available, it’s time for companies to step up and take responsibility, as do we the consumer and pressure them to act and take responsibility for their actions and their impact on our planet and our health.