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Why You Should Pay Attention to Chemistry on this Earth Day

It's up to all of us to do our part to take care of the earth. Photo: NASA

It’s up to all of us to do our part to take care of the earth. Photo: NASA

Chemistry is hard. That’s why most American students put it off until the end of their K-12 years. That’s why university professors allow cheat sheets. That’s why Nikwax employs a gaggle of white lab-coated PhDs on our research and development team.

Those scientists have dedicated more than 30 years to developing Nikwax formulas that produce effective and non-harmful chemical reactions for waterproofing and cleaning.

By “non-harmful,” we mean intentionally avoiding any chemical content or reaction that may be noxious to humans or the environment.

Nikwax is clear on our stance: we believe fluorocarbons have a deleterious effect on humans and the environment, so we don’t use them in any of our products. We have pages and pages of scientific resources on our website to support our belief.

External studies support our stance. Specifically, a 2012 independent scientific study that was commissioned by Greenpeace found perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), in every piece of name brand rain gear they tested.

The apparel industry uses PFCs for coating and finishing outdoor garments or sporting goods, or for the production of breathable membrane. The report calls these PFCs, which do not occur in nature, “environmentally damaging toxins.” What’s more, the report calls for more stringent regulation of all PFCs.

Conclusions from the 2012 study include the following:

  • There is an urgent need to ban PFCs from outdoor wear production.
  • The outdoor clothing industry must continue to develop safer alternatives [to PFCs] and use them in processing their products.
  • PFCs and other chemicals reach drinking water, food and ultimately human blood and breast milk from such various sources as manufacturing and household wastewater, dust and the disposal of textiles.
  • The outdoor clothing industry can go without using PFC and nevertheless manufacture items that meet most customers’ demands for functionality.

That last one really spoke to us. After all, at Nikwax, we’ve been saying that since our inception. We know it is possible to keep our clients dry and warm without dousing their outerwear with toxic chemicals.

Nikwax is 100% fluorocarbon-free, and we will always oppose the inclusion of fluorocarbons in water repellency formulations.

When it comes to chemistry, it’s okay to be confused by the scientific specifics. We don’t expect everyone to understand the chemical makeup of fluorocarbons and their varied derivatives. You may or may not understand the distinctions between the C8 and the C6 carbon chains.

We get it. But we fervently believe that as a product manufacturer we can’t pass the buck. It’s our responsibility to ask the hard questions and to take a stance when the answers show ever so clearly that we should.

That can be the difference between clean water and polluted water. Or between a sick family and a healthy one.

We leave you, on this celebration of Earth Day, with a quote from a chemistry professor, on the tumblr site Chemagical:

“In the sciences, all of these ideas were developed over decades. If this stuff were common sense, we would have had all of this stuff figured out before the 1800’s. These concepts can be difficult, and it’s a hell of a lot better to ask a question and sort out your (and possibly others’) confusion than to wallow in ignorance.”

Here’s to taking charge of our own health, and taking responsibility for the sustainability of our passions and the well being of the environments we love.

Happy Earth Day!

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Nikwax on the Road from Cape Town to Paris with GlobeRiders

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Nikwax ambassador, Helge Pedersen, is on yet another life list adventure. He’s currently motorcycle touring from Cape Town, South Africa, to Paris, France. Along for the 25,000-kilometer ride are three other riders, a supporting vehicle and several of GlobeRiders technical staff.

La Paz photo shoot and pelicansTo those who know Nikwax from the human-powered, outdoor adventure realm, our motorcycle contingent often comes as a surprise. We have a strong relationship with the motorcycling community; our cleaners and waterproofers are often key parts of their safety kit. Adventure riders wear durable fabric outerwear; apparel that can take a beating, keep riders warm and dry, and shed moisture in torrential downpours. That’s right—it’s not that different from your backcountry skiing kit.

Imagine heading out to play in the heat, the rain, the mud and the dust. Now imagine doing it at 70 mph. Your gear takes a beating.

In order for your gear to bear the burden as opposed to your skin, taking precautionary care of motorcycle outerwear is critical.  If not properly cleaned, dust and dirt can damage the fibers of technical outerwear. Sweat, dust and dirt can also mask the durable water repellent finish, causing garments to attract water rather than repel it.  We recommend cleaning with Tech Wash and using TX.Direct to add water-repellency (spray-on or wash-in, depending on the manufacturers washing instructions).

Currently the Globeriders team is nearing Kirundo, Burundi. The weather there may be warm, but there are rain showers in the forecast for the next week. We hope Helge and crew are staying as dry as possible on the road!

If you’d like to live vicariously through Helge, or if this GlobeRiders’ African odyssey spurs your own trip planning into high gear, follow their adventure on the GlobeRiders Live!Journal web page.


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The Nikwax Spring Break Checklist

2palmsIt’s that time of year again: spring break! After drifting drearily through the murky winter months, it’s finally time to get out and go somewhere exciting. You know you want spring adventure, but where to go? Head to the mountains for some spring snow? Catch surf and sun in some tropical country? Wherever it is that you decide to go, we’ve got your gear covered. Here’s our handy checklist to help you prep for your trip:

 Mountain adventures:

  • Re-waterproof your ski skins. You won’t know your skins need this until they fail. Hit ‘em up proactively.
  • Substitute your big, insulated ski jacket with a shell and a light insulated layer for layering versatility. Wash both in Tech Wash to get ahead of the game.
  •  Consider wool for your base layers in the volatile spring weather. Wool is an effective thermo-regulator, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. Plus, since warmer springtime temps mean more sweat, wool is naturally anti-bacterial and won’t stink as much as synthetics. Bonus: Nikwax has a special Wool Wash that will preserve all of these awesome qualities.

 Tropical adventures:

  • Pack enough sunscreen to cover every inch of your lilywhite body. While you’re at it, find your sunglasses and a sun hat. Your eyes and head need as much protection from the sun as the rest of your body.
  •  Go get yourself an ENO Hammock. These super packable little hammocks hang very nicely between two palm trees.
  • Bring a tube of Nikwax BaseWash Travel Gel. It’s packaged to be TSA compliant, and it will come in handy to keep swimsuits, swim trunks, and your other travel clothes from smelling sour. Bonus: no washing machine needed! With the travel gel, you can do your wash in the sink.

General camping and biking adventures:

  • Set up your tent BEFORE you go. Did you lose some stakes? Snap a tent pole? Pack the rainfly when it was wet? Figure it out before you’re racing against nighttime and an incoming storm. While you have that tent up, consider spraying it with Tent & Gear SolarProof. We know you aren’t praying for rain on your vacay, but it never hurts to be prepared for it.
  • Air out your sleeping bags. Though it’s recommended that you store down bags by hanging them up in the open air, who has that kind of space? Pull them out and shake lightly to loft the down. If needed, wash them with Down Wash and Down Proof. The combo will add loft and water repellency, and leave your bag smelling sweet after a winter of exile.
  • If cycling is on the agenda, it’s time for a tune-up. If you rely on professionals for regular maintenance, hit them up before the spring break rush.
  •  They call it “mud season” for a reason. Even if you’ll be exploring a relatively dry area, the shaded areas will likely still have some snow or mud. Waterproof your shoes and boots now, so spring break happy hour can legitimately live up to its name.

Like the wise Helen Keller once quoted, “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” Now get out there and have some fun, you crazy kids!


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For 2014: Our commitment to environmental stewardship continues

Increased temperatures resulting from a warming climate will cause an increase in sea ice melt.

Increased temperatures resulting from a warming climate will cause an increase in sea ice melt. Photo courtesy National Center for Atmospheric Research

While science without passion may be dull, passion without science can tilt dangerously toward ignorance.

As we enter our 37th year, Nikwax remains as dedicated as ever to backing our passion with science for the good of the environment and your family’s well being.

In November 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out its fifth annual report titled, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.” This report underscores the impact of a changing climate, and, we hope, will have the effect of increasing awareness of our responsibility to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Consider:

  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
  • The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
  • [There is a very high confidence in the reliability of models that] reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions.

We cannot debate the earth is in a warming trend. The only conceivable debate – which seems to be driven more by politics than science – is how human behaviors are affecting the rate of change. To this, the IPCC report finds:

  • Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since [the last IPCC report in 2007].
  • It is extremely likely [emphasis provided by IPCC] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to- decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform.
  • The global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation.
  • It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.
  • Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

We quote these findings as the deep snow mecca of Lake Tahoe in California is experiencing temperatures in the 50’s and historically low snowfall. Many Washington ski areas are trying to scrape by on fewer than 20-inches of snow. We concede these are but two microclimates and other regions may be at normal snowfall levels. But the inconsistent and dramatic weather patterns year-to-year are impossible to ignore.

It’s a new year and another opportunity to make a difference. As a responsible manufacturer of a global product, we acknowledge that we are part of the problem of increasing carbon emissions and a host of other environmental implications. In accepting responsibility, however, Nikwax remains steadfastly committed to minimizing negative impacts on the environment and human health.

We are:

  • The only major outdoor aftercare company to have never used aerosols or fluorocarbons.
  • Dedicated to making products that are fluorochemical-free, derived from nature-based ingredients, not tested on animals, and biodegradable.

Inherent to our philosophies and, more importantly, our practices as a company is that our environmental ethos has been central to our mission since 1980. For three years (1977 founding – 1980), Nikwax was focused solely on creating the most effective product. With our expanding consciousness regarding global environmental concerns in that time period, we made the deliberate decision to maintain our commitment to quality while only adopting formulations and practices that would not put human health or the environment at risk.

We are passionate about protecting the wild lands of the world and allowing future generations to enjoy them in the same (or better) state of health and well being. Our dedication to producing a product that is safe for your family and non-toxic to the environment is as strong as ever.

Call us fuddy-duddies, buzzkills or science geeks. We’ll take them all – so long as we can be part of the solution to protecting our natural world and encouraging your enjoyment of it.

To a healthy and happy 2014!

Further resources:

IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis


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Nikwax Guide to Winter Glamping

Whitepod-14

If snow caves have no place in your lexicon of outdoor adventure, you’re in the right place. Don’t get us wrong. Many of us here at Nikwax are avid winter campers. But there are just as many for whom “no camping after Labor Day” is as hard and fast a rule as the “no whites after Labor Day” dictum was for our grandmothers.

Alas, missing out on the night sky for four months out of the year is unacceptable. The derisive chuckles aimed at “glampers” in the heat of summer turn to piqued interest as the winter solstice wanes. Perhaps those pleasure pusses are onto something? Luxuries like heat, feather beds and fully functioning wood stoves seem far less superfluous when the Arctic jet stream bulldozes its way into your weather pattern.

Winter camping? Not so much. Winter glamping? You bet! In the spirit of appreciating the great outdoors from a heated and well-apportioned indoors, here are a few ideas for winter vacation spots that will have you reveling in the beauty of nature without fear of frostbite or freeze-dried beef stroganoff.

Whitepod, in the Swiss Alps. If an opening image of a dome-shaped tent high above the clouds in a snow-covered Alpine valley doesn’t sell this place for you, try the first three tabs of the website: Sleeping, Eating and Having Fun. If you’re up for making a few turns, this luxury eco-resort is smack in the middle of the Alps.

Heli-assisted ski touring. The beauty of a helicopter assist is that your trips begins deeper in the wilderness. Even though you’ll be powering your own adventure from there on out, you can relax in the promise of never crossing another person’s track. Lodges range from rustic to 5-star, but either way you’re living in wintertime wilderness luxury.

10th Mountain Division Huts. Colorado’s 10th Mountain Huts range from rustic to very nice. Since you pack in your own food, libations and sleeping bags, the “glamorous” aspect comes from the romance of your very own cabin in the woods for a night or two.

Bon voyage!


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Waterproof Your Gift Wrap

Wrapped_gift_water-drops

What’s the latest in chic gift giving? Double duty, reusable wrapping paper, naturally. Do you think Martha or Oprah or the Gwyneth-diva, herself, would EVER be caught in a rainstorm without a sumptuously wrapped hostess gift? Naturally not!

We want to shield you from the looks of disdain when you show up on a sleety December night for the office Secret Santa party toting a sopping, ink-bleeding box of ugly. Why? Because we love you.

Anyone who is anyone is waterproofing their gift wrap.

After all, in a world that puts no pressure on us to be perfect or ideal parents or domestic divas/dudes or wildly successful businesspeople, what’s another 24-hours and 15 bucks to ensure your beautifully adorned package can withstand a little torrential downpour?

We know there’s nothing you’d rather do with that excess time and money!

Very simple steps to waterproofing your festive gift wrap:

  1. Buy festive gift wrap. Don’t worry. The paper you choose is only supposed to represent your level of class, taste, sophistication and socioeconomic standing. No pressure.
  2. Return home and begin a gourmet, five-star meal that your family can eat picnic style. The dining room table will be dedicated to waterproofing printed snowmen this eve.
  3. Cover aforementioned dining room in old sheets or black plastic. Nikwax may be biodegradable and non-toxic, but we are not messy. If the temps are warm enough, you may contemplate setting up shop outside for ease.
  4. Using  Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On, spray one side of the wrapping paper to achieve full, ample coverage. Now, channel your inner, angst-ridden artiste and smooth the TX.Direct with a clean paint brush.
  5. Allow to dry.
  6. Make a martini.
  7. Enjoy the martini.
  8. Flip paper over and repeat steps 4-7.Once both sides are dry, water flicked onto the wrap will bead up – just like your favorite outdoor gear.
  9. Wrap that present and walk through rain, sleet, snow or hail with the glory of your ultimate green fashion on display.
  10. Smile with self-satisfied smugness… and make darn sure nobody rips that wrap when they open the present.

You are the ultimate environmentalista. It only takes time and money. And, who doesn’t have both of those in spades?

Happy Holidays,

Your fashionable green-loving friends at Nikwax

P.S. We may be joking around in this post, but Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On is sincerely an effective waterproofer for paper. If you think you can teach your kids not to rip through gift wrap, this may be a legitimate option to reuse it for many years to come. Better than a holiday-themed landfill, at any rate. Even better, paint your own affordable butcher paper before waterproofing with TX.Direct Spray-On. Now you’ve got an afternoon of fun, gift wrap and frame-able art. Happy Holidays!


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Survive the holiday season with your sanity intact

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The true spirit of the holiday season has very little to do with your gourmet capabilities, hands-y TSA agents or social calendars bursting to near implosion. Alas, these are the pressures we willingly and not-so-willingly hoist upon ourselves for a seven week period every year’s end.

Dear readers, please release yourselves from your own expectations. You’re perfect to us just as you are.

In the off chance that’s not enough, we present our solutions to managing common holiday stressors.

Stressful: Travel.

Solution: Download an audio book you’ve been itching to read, and map out a potential mid-way stopping point (hotel, camping, friend’s couch). Let all your people know that you have a Plan B, in case of flight delays, traffic or if you hit a reindeer-drawn sleigh en route. The simple act of having a back-up plan reduces the pressure to “get there.”

Stressful: Overeating.

Solution: It’s not even the tighter waistband that’s worrisome; it’s the lethargy from a cookie-based diet that wears you down. Don’t bother focusing on what not to eat in the midst of the holiday bounty. Instead, continually refresh a huge salad packed with yummy nutrients in the fridge. Pack it for lunch or eat a small filler salad before you go to a party. Enjoy the holiday foods with the comfort that you’ve nourished yourself well.

Stressful: Gift-giving.

Solution: Everyone has a different philosophy and a different budget, but we’re always fans of offering experiences instead of stuff that people will eventually grow out of. Travel? Photography class? Tuesday night standing date to hike your favorite trail together?

Stressful: The party you dread attending, but have run out of excuses not to.

Solution: Read snippets from your favorite authors every day for a week before the party. Work the room with sparkling conversation and ideas that don’t revolve around the weather, work or fruitcake recipes.

We hope our tips will help you stay in the true spirit of the holidays, surrounded by family, joy and the happiness found in giving. We also hope you’re surrounded by warmth – courtesy of Nikwax, good friends and a crackling fire. Above all, if you’re present in the moment, trust what you’re giving is enough.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

Nikwax