Talking Green program focuses on SmartWool’s approach to sustainability |

Talking Green program focuses on SmartWool’s approach to sustainability

Suzie Romig/For Steamboat Today

SmartWool employees Jaime Keiser and Denise Anderson clean up trash from the river during the 2015 Yampa River Cleanup, which was also the company’s annual service day last year.

SmartWool employees Jaime Keiser and Denise Anderson clean up trash from the river during the 2015 Yampa River Cleanup, which was also the company's annual service day last year.

If someone buried wool in an active compost pile, little would be left below the dirt in six months.

"Wool is a natural fiber that biodegrades over time. If we buried a 100 percent wool garment for six months, it would lose a substantial percent of its wool mass to bio-deterioration," explained Anne Duane, quality assurance manager at SmartWool, which is headquartered next to Steamboat Springs Airport.

Making clothing composed mostly of natural fibers is one part of the corporate sustainability efforts at the company, which was started locally in 1994 and has since grown to a global brand, selling in 37 countries worldwide.

Duane will discuss the sustainability successes and challenges of SmartWool as part of the "How Green is Your Sweater" educational program for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's next Talking Green, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday upstairs at Aurum Food & Wine, 811 Yampa St.

With 67 employees at its global headquarters in Steamboat, SmartWool is an industry leader in active outdoor Merino wool apparel, ranging from well-known athletic socks to clothing for men, women and children.

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Duane's talk will cover the SmartWool approach to corporate social responsibility as she conducts a walkthrough of the supply chain from farm-to-finish goods. The program will include how SmartWool leadership measures the impact of what they do, efforts to collaborate on corporate social responsibility across the industry and sustainability work that happens behind the scenes at the corporate level.

SmartWool leadership encourages its workforce to minimize the commuting footprint whenever possible. Last year, the company's alternative commuting program incentivized more than 600 employee trips between home and office to save 17,000 miles of car driving, Duane said.

At the April Talking Green, YVSC will debut the new online Reuse and Repair Guide found at The repair guide lists businesses in Routt County that repair or accept donations of reusable items, ranging from blue jeans to electronics and from exercise equipment to vacuums.

The Reuse and Repair Guide is a companion piece to the annual Yampa Valley Recycles recycling guide, and consumers are encouraged to repair and reuse first before recycling, YVSC Executive Director Sarah Jones said.

YVSC will highlight a few of the local reuse stores with a fashion show featuring models and outfits from thrift clothing stores. Audience members can get into the act by wearing their best, well-loved outfit that has been repaired or patched, and the wearer of the best outfit will win a prize.

Previous to her job at SmartWool, Duane was employed in various positions in the supply chain for top brands including Polo, Ralph Lauren, Coach and Reebok. She has been actively involved in apparel product development, raw material planning and quality assurance for more than 20 years, primarily in New York and Boston.

Duane has learned more than a few interesting facts about clothing and carbon emissions.

"The global warming potential, or CO2 emission, over the life cycle of a pair of socks is approximately equivalent to driving a car for 18 miles," Duane said. "Fifty-one percent of the footprint is from the farm stage, including the sheep's digestive process, 28 percent is due to the industrial supply chain stages of manufacturing and transportation, 19 percent from consumer usage, including doing laundry and 2 percent from end of life disposal."

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