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If you haven’t heard, The North Face is going “green” with ThermoBall — one of the company’s largest lines.
ThermoBall is the line that hosts much of the company’s famously lightweight, super warm outdoors gear, but the first product to actually go eco-friendly is the ThermoBall jacket ($199-$220)— an award-winning lightweight down-alternative coat.
If the name ThermoBall sounds familiar, it’s because the line gained a lot of fanfare for its synthetic insulation. The round synthetic fiber clusters trap heat within small air pockets like down. This way, you get both the lightweight warmth and compressibility of down jackets with the wet-weather performance of synthetics. According to the company, Kansas State University showed the ThermoBall has the warmth equivalent to 600 fill goose down.
The ThermoBall Eco jacket is essentially the same as the original, except that it’s made from recycled polyester fabric and recycled Primaloft insulation made from plastic bottles diverted from landfills. And, like all gear from The North Face, it comes with a generous lifetime guarantee.
As of November 2018, ThermoBall Eco can be picked up in stores and online, though not yet at outdoor retailers like REI. You can find it on the site right now for both women and men, in either an adult hoodie or full-zip version in six colors.
The recycling trend is one we’re glad to see. Since nothing new is really as eco-friendly as not-new materials, recycled fabrics are a great compromise — they allow for innovative new styles with less toll on the environment, and, eventually, on us. Companies like Everlane, with its recycled outerwear, Girlfriend Collective, with leggings made from fishing nets, and Reformation, now offering a 70% recycled cashmere line, are just a few other examples. It’s a particularly popular trend in the outdoor industry, calling to mind REI and Patagonia’s many eco-initiatives and newcomers with strong social missions like Cotopaxi.
The North Face says it already offsets the environmental impact of shipping to its customers around the world, but reintroducing one of their most popular lines in recycled materials will pack more of a punch. The North Face estimates that material production and manufacturing — in other words, the making of their clothes — accounts for 60-80% of the company’s total environmental impact. It’s a natural next step for any company attempting sustainable change at scale.
And it’s not really new. The North Face started using recycled fibers across core products like the ever-popular Denali jackets as early as 1996, as well as in its reaction and Glacier lines. In 2018, it launched an entire Bottle Source collection made from plastic bottles cleaned out of national parks.
The new ThermoBall Eco is just its latest step towards phasing in recycled materials to its production line. And it’s a good choice — the ThermoBall garnered such fanfare before for its no-compromise mix of the warmth and compactness of down and the all-weather wearability of synthetics, and while the company (and supporters of more eco-friendly practices) hopes the new Eco version will do well this winter, it’s probably how good the jacket is that’ll drive people to pick the ThermoBall. A smaller environmental impact is just a big bonus.