As we continue our quest to learn about the great things outdoor and adventure companies are doing in conservation and environmental protection, we are constantly in awe of the steps each company is taking to do their part.
We have seen some really amazing companies who each have their own “Conservation Personality,” meaning that each company takes a different approach. This is exactly what we set out to learn, and we are continuing that with each company we meet with. This week’s episode features a much larger company than we have featured previously: Cascade Designs.
Cascade Designs (CDI) is a very large conglomerate company that includes MSR, Therm-a-Rest, Platypus, SealLine, and PackTowl. CDI has manufacturing facilities in Seattle, WA; Reno, NV; and in Midleton, Ireland. Today, we are going to be focusing on their Seattle manufacturing, which includes MSR and Therm-a-Rest. It’s worth mentioning that the other brands under Cascade Designs are also doing great things, but since we weren’t able to tour their facilities, we aren’t going to focus on them in this episode. Hopefully we will have a chance to feature them another time!
Increased Production Equals Increased Waste… Or Does It?
One of the very first things that you’ll notice about Cascade Designs versus the companies we have featured so far on #KnowYourBrand is that CDI is a very large company with a lot of production. With such a vast amount of product comes a lot of waste, right? Well, not necessarily. CDI has done an amazing job of reducing waste and finding innovative ways to reuse materials in their manufacturing and distribution processes.
Cascade Designs runs a lean manufacturing facility, meaning that each and every process in their facilities is monitored to reduce waste. Now, without getting too business school on you, the principles of a lean manufacturing process include a “just-in-time” delivery as well as an increase in efficiency of raw materials and man-hours. By machining their own parts, CDI is able to manufacture only the number of pieces they need and no more, reducing waste from over ordering from suppliers. This also allows for a just-in-time delivery of the parts needed to assemble a specific product. Additionally, having the manufacturing in-house allows CDI to keep a close eye on the efficiency of each process. Reducing raw materials and man-hours wasted in the process results in a very lean process.
The great thing about a lean manufacturing process is that the principles themselves are rooted in reducing waste. Reducing waste and running a lean manufacturing process reduces costs for the company and also promotes an environmentally friendly process. It’s truly a win-win!
Quality Products Reduce Waste
We learned in our time with Cascade Designs that one of the ways they aim to reduce waste is simply by making a higher quality product. High quality products tend to break less and last longer, therefore not ending up in landfills near as quickly as lower quality products. Their rigorous testing of their products helps minimize failures and keeps products lasting long in the field. In fact, MSR hears from their customers that many still use stoves purchased in the 1980’s! That’s a great way to reduce waste!
Due to the high quality of materials used in production, CDI is also able to repair many of the products that do get damaged. Their expert team of technicians services and repairs products that a customer was not able to repair on their own with the included repair kit. In 2015, CDI’s technicians were able to repair and return over 60% of the products sent back to them with damage. That’s around 13,700 products that did not end up in a landfill! Because of their high quality materials and confidence in their craftsmanship, CDI also offers a limited lifetime warranty of all of their products.
In House Production and Recycling
The many very specific parts that are used in production for MSR’s products require a very customized process for machining. MSR produces these parts in house, giving them full control over the manufacturing process and ensuring they can keep a close eye on the environmental impacts of their processes. Additionally, all of the scrap metal that is created from these processes are sorted into individual metals and recycled.
Having their production in house also enables CDI as a whole to keep a watchful eye on environmental standards of their facilities. For example, CDI’s Seattle facilities are powered with a renewable energy mix provided by Seattle City Light. This is just one of the many ways that the company reduces their impact through their facilities and manufacturing processes.
Therm-a-Rest Scrap Foam: A Comfy Solution
Therm-a-Rest is also manufactured in the Seattle facilities for Cascade Designs, and the brand has their own unique ways of reusing scrap materials to reduce waste. One of the most common ways that Therm-a-Rest reuses their foam is by making pillows! Scrap foam punched out of the Therm-a-Rest mattresses is used to stuff Therm-a-Rest compressible pillows. Surprisingly, 100% of the foam in the compressible pillows is from scrap foam! Any foam scraps that cannot be used to stuff pillows are sent off to another company to be repurposed into carpet padding. So, even though not all of the scraps are used in-house, they are eventually used and not fed into a landfill.
During our visit with Therm-a-Rest, we actually got to see the engineers testing out a brand new machine to be used in the mattress production. This machine uses lasers instead of a blade to cut the foam into mattress shapes. The lasers on this machine are more precise and produce less waste, allowing for 10-20% more of the foam to be used and not wasted. That’s a huge reduction of waste! I suppose they’ll have to find stuffing for the pillows elsewhere!
Reducing Waste Through Packaging
One major contributor to waste filling landfills is product packaging. We’ve all seen it (and likely have done it); walking out of a store with your brand new *insert any product here* and immediately shed the packaging and toss it into the nearest trash can. Therm-a-Rest also saw this wasteful practice and decided to do something about it. Now, most of their mattress pads will no longer be packaged in disposable packaging. They will instead come in a reusable stuff sack with a simple hang tag for packaging. This is a great way to reduce a huge amount of waste.
The other brands under the CDI umbrella are following suit to reduce packaging as well. CDI is making a broad effort to reduce the amount of plastic clamshells used for packaging and instead using recycled paperboard and hangtags in as many of their products as possible. So not only is the packaging recycled but it is also recyclable. Now it’s up to you to do your part and ensure it ends up in the proper recycling bin!
A Global Company Making a Global Effort
Overall in our time with Cascade Designs, we were very impressed with the steps they had taken to ensure their manufacturing and distribution processes are as eco-friendly as possible. And they are constantly making improvements on those existing practices to become even more eco-friendly. Reducing waste and promoting conservation is a major part of the company standards, and we saw that in every aspect of their manufacturing process during our tour. We can honestly say that this is one large company that is making great strides for conservation and sustainability. And we appreciate those efforts.
Whereas we couldn’t cover every single aspect of Cascade Designs and their conservation efforts, we encourage you to check out their company at CascadeDesigns.com. If you have any further questions regarding Cascade Designs’ conservation efforts, let us know and we will be sure to follow up with them. We have been impressed with this company and we are happy that you now #KnowYourBrand!
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