Arc'teryx Gives Back
Credit: Nancy Fedoruk/Arc/teryx

Gear manufacturers look for ways to waste less material, especially pricey stuff like Gore-Tex. Some stitch scraps into original designs. Others push efficiency. Vancouver, British Columbia-based Arc’teryx turns its waste fabric into shelter for the city’s homeless.

Would-be Arc’teryx sewers train for making the company’s high-end jackets and pants by stitching end-of-the roll Gore-Tex waterproof and breathable fabrics into poncho-style jackets known as the Bird’s Nest Project. The draping design provides plenty of protection from the elements and is compact for easy storage during dry weather.

“It’s wonderful to be able to find a way to use our skills to positively affect people who may experience the outdoors not as a choice, but as a harsh reality they face every day,” says Shannon Oehlschlager, a product developer and lead on the project. “It allows us to have a way to train our new sewers that creates something useful and helpful to our community.”

The program started in 2009 when a group of employees wanted to do something with the leftover fabric. At first it was a volunteer project. Employees across the company would make the capes on their own time, creating and donating anywhere from 100 to 700 capes annually. The trainee aspect was added more recently. This year Arc’teryx expects sewers-in-training to make more than 200 capes. Other staff will sew even more at a volunteer event. A network of organizations that work with the city’s homeless population will then hand out the capes during the fall. 

“Staying dry in Vancouver’s winters is a daunting task for those who choose to only venture out in the rain occasionally,” the Vancouver Police Department said in a statement. “Imagine how difficult and how health-threatening it is for those among us who have no choice.”