Mark Hyland, Board Chair for Defend Our Health Speaks on PFAS in REI
April 28, 2022
I’ve been an REI member since 1973 and I still have some of my first favorite purchases, like this cotton anorak, I bought before I was even an REI member. It’s traveled around the world, including Antarctica, and doesn’t contain PFAS/PFOAS.
I appreciate REI’s commitment to sustainability and their Opt Outside campaign. However, I’m surprised they have made only modest commitments to tackle the issue of PFAS ingredients in their products.
PFAS is a huge problem in my home state of Maine where multi-generation dairy farms have closed forever due to this “forever chemical”. And I can only wonder how much PFAS in local dairy products we’ve consumed as we often opt to support local farmers and farms with our choice of purchases. This is such a significant problem here that Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), has detected high levels of PFAS in some deer harvested in the greater Fairfield area and is issuing a do not eat advisory for deer harvested in the area.
As a state, we are doing all we can to phase out PFAS in products sold here, monitor exposed communities and clean up the contamination where possible. In unanimous votes, supported by Democrats and Republicans, our state has stepped up to the plate to address the PFAS crisis.
Retailers need to do the same because the only way we can avoid more contaminated communities and health damage is to stop using PFAS — to replace it with safer alternatives. REI is the perfect company to help lead the outdoor sporting industry to innovate away from PFAS. However, in a recent retailer card, REI received an “F” while their competitor Patagonia received a “B”. Patagonia has made a commitment to phase out all PFAS in all products by 2024 while REI has made little progress.
Why would this be? REI and Patagonia share similar values and attract a similar customer base. And REI is doing quite well, ending 2021 with $3.7 billion in sales — an increase of 36% compared to 2020. They clearly have the resources to take this on and may in fact lose members to Patagonia if they don’t grasp this leadership opportunity.
In a few weeks, REI will hold its member meeting which they host every year to “provide an opportunity for co-op members to hear from the board of directors and senior leadership team.” This member urges REI to address the PFAS issue directly in this meeting and urges a commitment in keeping with their commitment to “put purpose before profits and act in the long-term interests of our members and community.”
The bottom line: PFAS has very serious environmental health impacts, contaminates our water, and builds up in our bodies and in breast milk. REI is uniquely positioned to take on this issue, act in our long-term interest and join Patagonia in phasing out PFAS in outdoor gear.