Get Green or Die Trying: The Future is PFC-Free
One day in July 2017, the shake machine, which tests water resistant properties of hydrophobic down, had been going for 2,000 minutes. Samantha Lee, a then 21-year-old intern at bulk down supplier Sustainable Down Source (SDS), knew she was onto something. So far, the test results indicated that 33 hours of rain wouldn’t rob the feathers, which had been treated with a eco-friendly Durable Water Repellent (DWR), of their insulating properties.
But there wasn’t time for Lee to celebrate. Just as she realized she might have found the answer to a question that’s been plaguing the outdoor industry for years, a lightning bolt struck the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, setting part of the building on fire and causing some of the company’s electronics to go haywire.
Everyone evacuated, including Lee, who forgot her lab notebook. She texted her manager, Caroline Zapf, chief sustainability officer for SDS, which produces hydrophobic down under the name DownTek, something to the effect of “Well, the good news is, the shake machine’s still going and has surpassed 2,000 minutes. Bad news: the building’s on fire.”
It’s a story with a happy ending—or, perhaps, a beginning. Lee had scored big.
She had created a DWR treatment that performed extraordinarily well: it was third-party tested to withstand 33 hours of constant rain, compared to DownTek’s original formula, which was only rated for 16.7 hours. More remarkably, it contained zero PFCs, (short for perfluorocarbons), the harmful and non-biodegradable chemicals that the outdoor industry had heavily relied on to make apparel water resistant up to this point, but performed just as well if not better.
Read the full story at OutsideOnline.com.