Pacaya: Apparel for the Outdoors
When thinking about the planet’s most polluting industries, transportation and agriculture are the first to come to mind. Some might be surprised to learn that the fashion industry is also one of the top five polluting industries in the world. Apparel and textiles are responsible for one-fifth of the world’s water pollution and 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. These two facts alone are dwarfed by the number of chemicals – many of which are carcinogenic – and the dismal labor conditions that are required to keep fast fashion in business.
Story by Lawryn Fraley
The Beginning of Pacaya
The land, water, climate, indigenous communities, and biodiversity are not only victimized by the fashion industry but also greatly loved by outdoor recreation enthusiasts. This community requires materials that are waterproof, durable, and flame retardant to create equipment unique to every outdoor activity to be used only a handful of times a year. This creates an ironic and devastating dilemma: the people most passionate about nature and the environment are a part of the problem by creating a demand for these goods.
This dilemma was made apparent to Pacaya Founder Ben Brummel at a young age while living with his family in Guatemala. He was surrounded by a culture that was both dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of nature but also to its preservation. When returning to the states, Ben noticed this gap in the apparel industry and began working on a solution that would eventually become Pacaya. Ben’s solution, “sustainable outdoor apparel and gear that promotes advocacy within the environment and supports, through research, sponsorship, and health”, will be an ethical and intentional alternative to the majority of the outdoor gear market.
A Peak Behind the Curtain
Not only will each Pacaya product be linked to an environmental cause, but provide consumers with the opportunity to learn about the cause and give back. This relationship between the good and the cause will further bolster Ben’s goal of achieving a comprehensive circular economy. Pacaya will begin its journey towards a circular economy with organic and natural material sourcing, fair trade labor, Blue Sign and B Corp certifications by the end of 2023, and sustainable packaging. Eventually, Pacaya will offer a repair service for its goods in order to reduce the need for replacing items.
Ben is partnering with Natural Fiber Welding Inc to begin exploring a new technology called CLARUS that can manufacture stronger, more durable, and recyclable fabrics out of natural fibers that could compete with traditional synthetic fibers. With this new technology, Pacaya and Natural Fiber Welding could redefine the outdoor apparel industry.
From Innovation in Action and Beyond
Not only was Pacaya one of only 19 teams to become finalists in the 2022 Innovation in Action final showcase, but was also awarded an Honorable Mention award for the panel of judges. Ben came into Innovation in Action searching for a foundational basis for brainstorming, interviewing, and self-motivated research, but he finished with much more than that, “IiA allowed me to understand my vision was achievable and I could go a step further. There are always going to be ups and downs, but I learned that my passion is real and not a phase.”
Moving forward, Ben plans to take Pacaya even further with goals to provide consumers with 100% recyclable materials, fully synthetic and recyclable polyester, and a dying process requiring fewer chemicals and water waste. Ben also has hopes to incorporate the newest wicking technology into Pacaya’s apparel that uses silk particles. All of these goals are meant to reduce the introduction of toxic waste and the creation of forever chemicals into the environment.