Get the Koch Brothers Out of Your Gear

Would you want to go camping, hiking, biking, or trail running with the Koch brothers? Me neither. Well, then, why on earth would you want to do any of those things with the products they help make?

That’s the thorny question that may face many green-minded outdoor recreationists when it sinks in that a host of material brands used in their gear are controlled by the right-wing brothers David and Charles Koch, who have been widely outed as major funders of anti-environment politics and climate-change denial PR campaigns.

Like what materials, you ask?

Like the Polarguard insulation in your sleeping bag, the Coolmax fabric in your running outfit, the Lycra in your swimwear, the Supplex in your windbreaker, and — woe upon woe — the Cordura that’s ubiquitous in the gear world. I own duffels, backpacks, stuff sacks, fanny packs, bike bags, luggage, gaiters, and binocular cases made of the stuff.

Now, it’s no surprise to me that these materials are all made from petroleum, so I had an inkling they weren’t exactly the most sustainable products: Using “dinosaur squeezin’s” to make fabric and insulation is as problematic as using it to fuel our cars. But it pains me to think that the very gear that helps me journey out into inspirational natural settings is tainted because it’s part of a corporate machine that is quite literally and demonstrably destroying the very same natural world.

What’s the answer?

Well, for me, it’s going to start with taking a close look at the “ingredients” in any gear I consider buying and trying my best to avoid Koch-related components. I have considered replacing my well-worn canvas Duluth canoe pack with a lighter, more rain-repellent Cordura-based model — but hey, what’s the hurry? I’ve started to check out new bike commuter panniers as mine wear out, but I’ll look into rubber, hemp, and other materials before I’ll go for a straight-up replacement. And sorry, ladies, but my new body-hugging Speedo purchase is indefinitely postponed.

The sad fact is, you’d have to work really hard to keep the Kochs entirely out of your life — Daily Kos rounded up a full roster of Koch-controlled brands, and it’s dauntingly broad, from Brawny paper towels and Quilted Northern toilet paper to Georgia Pacific building products and Stainmaster carpet. But I’m one of those idealistic types who thinks that individual spending decisions really can make a difference, and if “outdoorsy” people aren’t going to go up against these modern-day barons, who will?

Some folks might claim that politics and commerce should remain separate realms, but the Kochs certainly wouldn’t claim any such compartmentalization. In fact, as The Nation recently reported, Koch Industries has aggressively moved to influence its own workers’ voting decisions in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which held that corporations hold political lobbying rights akin to human rights.

There’s been a bit of chatter about the Koch-Cordura connection — a question on an REI forum, mutterings in green circles after boycott-Koch lists were posted — but frankly I think a lot of people conveniently avoid thinking too hard about how their gear-store decisions are tied to the planet. (Just like their SUV and air travel and sushi habits.) PR-savvy Cordura, perhaps aware that a storm may be a-brewin’, is running a hip new “Most Durable Person” sweepstakes that’s being co-sponsored and hyped by the Gear Junkie, the gear fetishist’s top online enabler, who in a breathless 30th birthday post in 2007 called Cordura “the fabric of our lives” and “a mainstay miracle fabric.”

Describing it as “a commodity material used by hundreds of outdoors gear companies,” the Gear Junkie noted that Koch acquired the brand in 2004 from Dupont — meaning that nearly all of my Cordura gear, since it predates the sale, is 100 percent Koch-free. Which will allow me to sleep just a little better in my tent at night.

I’ve previously called for the outdoor gear industry to step up and start greening up its act. Many gear companies could start, it seems, by looking at their supply chains and seeing if anyone named Koch is involved.

Sources: Daily Kos, The NationREI, Gear Junkie  

This post was originally published by the UTNE Reader.

Related Stories:

How the Koch Brothers Fund the Climate Change Denial Machine

Koch Brothers Have Seven Homes, Seniors Struggle to Survive (Video)

Koch Bros. Now Buying Academic Support


Photo from mariachily via flickr
Written by Keith Goetzman, an UTNE blogger


Cheryl L.
Cheryl L5 years ago

Patricia S.: ----- Such a poor, lonely, misunderstood and ignored person. Go out somewhere and volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter or help disabled kids. All the things that Republicans don't want to spend money on. Doing good for others is marvelous for the soul. What you're doing here is just making you SICKER.

christopher murray

Let me pose this question: Would you shop at a store that denied employees on 9/11/02 the ability to have a moment of silence for the vicitms of the WTC and pentagon attacks? Would you support a store that says "The salvation army draws an undesireable crowd and will take away from money to be spend in ****** stores"?
If the answer is no, then quit shopping at Target. People rant and rave about wal marts crimes, but overlook the evil that is Target. I know firsthand, because I worked there, was briefly a department manager, and saw how much a company could say they care, but in reality, they really don't care.

Linda E.
Linda E5 years ago

Great article. It matters where we spend our money. Don't give it to the Kochs!
BTW, I really like your reference to "dinosaur squeezins."

Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

David C.
David Connally5 years ago

The current conservative trends, both political and judicial, are turning the US away from a democracy and towards an oligarchy. An oligarchy that wants to do away with the America I grew up with. Surely it is obvious to all that those who can buy politicians have much more power than you and I. The Koch brothers are even buying a university faculty (Florida economics).

We're being taken towards a USSR environment when academics had to toe the party line, and where some were more equal than others.

Someone spoke of Koch chartiable contributions. A blog written by a Koch supporter reports they've given $600 million, much to medical institutions. That sounds like a lot until you figure out that it's between 1 and 2% of their net worth.

You might compare that with Bill Gates who gave $6 BILLION to just one charity.

Also recognize that the Koch brothers support groups and policies that will benefit them personally, that will increase their wealth via reduced taxes, looser pollution regulations, lower worker wages and benefits.

Soros in contrast supports a party that would reduce his wealth, that wants to tax the very wealthy, that wants to regulate the hedge fund industry that is the source of Soros wealth.

Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

No, george soros is certainly not an idiot; however, he is a communist, marxist, and jew hater along with his dangerous group. They want to do away with our American as it still is but not for much longer!!!!

Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

Send a Green Star to Morgan Getham.

Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you".

You cannot currently send a star to Morgan because you have done so within the last week.

Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

Send a Green Star to john hall.

Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"

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Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

Send a Green Star to Robert R.

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Patricia S.
Pat S5 years ago

Communism + soros, et al = demorats