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A new year’s resolution for REI: ban toxic PFAS

The new year is here. It’s a time to reflect about the world around us and ways we can improve. And there is one New Year’s resolution we would like to suggest to REI: stop leaving a toxic trail of PFAS pollution.

Grist recently published a fantastic story about our campaign urging REI to ban toxic PFAS called, “As the outdoor industry ditches ‘forever chemicals,’ REI lags behind. The article delves into REI’s continued use of PFAS in many of its products. Our Mind the Store director, Mike Schade, said, “It’s ironic that a company like REI…is selling products that are contaminating some of the most beautiful and wild places.”

REI commits to action on PFAS, but is it enough?

But this story also has another quote that stands out.

“In response to Grist’s request for comment, REI said it was ‘in the process of eliminating all remaining PFAS from our own products.’”

This is a step in the right direction, and is the first time REI has committed to eliminating all PFAS from their own products. Unfortunately this doesn’t go far enough to match the PFAS contamination crisis facing our country. It doesn’t address all of the brand-name products REI sells laden with PFAS, includes no timeline, nor details on what chemicals will replace PFAS and whether they are truly safer. Without clarity on these key pieces of information, we cannot celebrate.

What does REI need to do?

As we stated in our recent blog, REI should take full responsibility to reduce their chemical footprint and take the following steps:

  • Know and disclose what chemicals and materials are in the products and packaging it sells
  • Assess the hazards of all ingredients using tools such as GreenScreen® or ChemForward that are utilized by governments like the state of Washington and other major companies 
  • Set clear, ambitious public goals with timelines and quantifiable metrics to end the sale of all products and packaging with the most hazardous chemicals, including all PFAS used in both durable water repellents (DWR) and plastic membranes
  • Choose the safest solutions and invest in filling data and technology gaps

Consumers have a right to know what our jackets, our boots, and our gear contains. Together, these will help to ensure we use products that are safe for the environment and safe for us all.

Momentum building for REI to act

The recent story from Grist comes at a time when pressure is mounting on REI to ban toxic PFAS. Since we launched our campaign last year, more than 150,000 REI customers and members have taken action. This fall, advocates took action at REI stores coast-to-coast in 18 states, from Alaska to Vermont. 

The negative impacts of PFAS on the environment and our own health are increasingly well documented. They have presented us with an ongoing crisis that requires immediate action. Our environment, our communities, and our families need PFAS to be eliminated from our products. REI workers inside retail stores shouldn’t be exposed to PFAS in indoor air on the job. The communities who live near production facilities using PFAS shouldn’t be exposed. 

States like California, New York, and Washington are taking action to ban PFAS as a class from clothing and other textiles. REI has even voiced support for the recent legislation in California. More recently, 3M, one of the largest PFAS chemical producers in the world, announced it will cease producing all PFAS by 2025. 

The specifics on the “what,” “when,” and “how” matter, especially when protecting our environment and our families. Safer, affordable solutions exist. We can stop the production and sale of PFAS. This year is a chance for REI to lead and adopt a new year’s resolution to eliminate and safely substitute PFAS in all of the products it sells. We need REI to take action. For the sake of the environment, for the sake of the workers in your stores, for the sake of its members, and for the sake of our communities. 

That would be a new year’s resolution we could truly celebrate.