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Introduction to PFCs

Nikwax is committed to maximising enjoyment of the great outdoors with minimal environmental impact, which is why we have never used harmful chemicals in our water-based products. Since we were founded by Nick Brown in 1977, we have always championed a culture of transparency and public scrutiny around PFCs – long before they were on the world’s safety radar. In this month’s blog we delve into what these toxic fluorocarbons are, and why we should all be concerned with them.

What are PFCs?
PFCs is the name given to the broad family of products called perfluorinated compounds: man-made substances containing linked carbon and fluorine atoms (they are also called PFAS, which stands for polyfluoroalkyl substances). The chemical bond between carbon and fluorine is one of the strongest in organic chemistry, making it very attractive for use within different industries. PFCs can appear in all sorts of products – from carpets and clothing, to food packaging and personal care products, and firefighting foams. They are excellent at repelling oils and water and have been used extensively on non-stick pans for example, and on outdoor apparel as a durable water repellent coating.

Why are PFCs so problematic?
Despite their many useful applications, it is precisely their (chemical) repelling properties that make PFCs so hazardous. The strong bond between carbon and fluorine is persistent and can take thousands of years to break down – if it even breaks down at all. As a result, PFCs are often nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’. These forever chemicals are demonstrably harmful to the environment and our own health, which is why Nikwax, as an outdoor brand, has never included them in our cleaning and waterproofing products.

Literally thousands of substances fall under the PFC banner, leaking into the environment via industry air emissions and wastewater discharge, as well as via treated home goods that enter landfill. Some PFCs can also travel easily through soil and water, increasing the risk of groundwater contamination. As they take so long to break down, over time the amount of PFCs in the environment will increase and bioaccumulate (build up) in crops and livestock, which means humans are also at risk of ingesting them. In the UK, the Environment Agency* has found extensive evidence of PFCs in groundwaters, rivers and coastal waters, which has led to widespread contamination of our freshwater and marine life. Early evidence even suggests it can damage the human immune system and impact fertility and you can learn more about this by taking a look at the PFC page on our website here.

© Rijk van de Kaa, Unsplash

How is Nikwax helping to make a difference?
Quite clearly, we all need to be mindful of the choices we make. Over 45 years ago, we chose to prioritise clean chemistry over quick-win PFCs, ensuring our aftercare products are always safe for use in the home, and are always safe for the environment:

·        They are PFC-free

·        They are water-based and degrade into harmless compounds

·        They do not use aerosol propellants, which contain Greenhouses gases

Since 1977 we have been world leaders in the provision of high performance yet low impact cleaning and waterproofing products for outdoor gear, and we are committed to their safety for many more years to come.

*Source; EA report: Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): sources, pathways and environmental data Chief Scientist’s Group report August 2021 chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1012230/Poly-_and_perfluoroalkyl_substances_-sources_pathways_and_environmental_data_-_report.pdf

 

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Nikwax Small Grants Scheme

At Nikwax we take our environmental impact very seriously and are always looking for ways that we can better our working practices, improve our sustainability and protect the natural world around us. Therefore, we feel it is important to encourage others to care for the environment and do their bit to protect it for future generations.

One way that we can help is by helping others! Apart from regularly working with local schools to educate the children on science and sustainability, Nikwax also seeks to assist communities focusing on environmental matters. For 3 years now, Nikwax has been providing grants to small community projects to aid them on their journey of environmental responsibility and conservation. Previously we have helped fund an outdoor mud kitchen at a nursery, create sensory gardens at primary schools and supported many other projects.

This year, Nikwax will be making available three grants of £1000 for such projects and we are looking now for those new groups to help.

If you know of a group that needs some assistance to get their environmental idea up and running, then all they need to do is download and complete our online application form.

Click here for more information and the link to the form.

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A Printer’s Tale

Our guest blog this month is courtesy of Gareth Dinnage, Managing Director of Seacourt Ltd, a Queen’s Award winning environmental printers. Read on to find out how Seacourt became the world’s first ZERO waste to landfill print company and for Gareth’s top tips on how you can become more eco-friendly to make a positive impact on climate change.

Seacourt is very proud to be working in partnership with Nikwax; we share a common ethos on how business ought to be done – simply not compromising on environmental performance, challenging conventional thinking of what is possible, being an exemplar in our respective industries and showing that having sustainability at the heart of the business simply makes sense all round.

Seacourt_logo

The print industry is one of the most environmentally damaging sectors and is considered so potentially destructive for the environment that Det Norsk Veritas puts it in the same pollution insurance risk category as mining, oil exploration and the nuclear energy sectors.

Not only does our industry use large volumes of fresh water and highly contaminating chemicals, but it also consumes a huge amount of power with many factories running twenty-four seven. The majority of printers will be running on energy produced by coal, oil or natural gas – all major contributors to CO2. Most print companies will recycle their printing plates and waste paper, but the majority of the rest of their waste will be collected by commercial disposal organisations and no doubt end up in landfill.

It is easy to see that the industry as a whole contributes heavily to global CO2 production, airborne VOC pollution, water waste and pollution and general waste to landfill, but it doesn’t need to be like that. There is a different way, a better way…

Becoming a waterless printer in 1997 was the start of Seacourt’s environmental journey and has not only helped us save over 8 million litres of fresh finite water, but as importantly removed our use of environmentally damaging chemicals. In 1998 we gained ISO14001 and in 1999 became the second printing company worldwide to attain EMAS. In 2001 we were certified as carbon neutral and 2003 saw Seacourt switch to 100% renewable energies. In 2009 we finally broke the back of waste disposal and became the world’s first zero waste to landfill printing company!

We never sit still when it comes to looking after our planet and this year has been no different to previous. We have just reinvented the printing press with our world first revolutionary process LightTouch – combining Waterless printing with LED technology for the first time – and ensure that all our clients’ materials are produced with the lightest environmental footprint possible, anywhere in the world – which is why Nikwax sees us as the perfect print partner.

LightTouch has seen us take all chemicals and water usage out of the printing process – so all we have is VOC-free inks and nothing else… No water, no chemicals, no seal varnishes or set off sprays. We even use less ink as we no longer need to wash the press up daily. It’s all about doing significantly more with significantly less resource.

Seacourt_email_blue

In 2016 Seacourt will celebrate its 70th birthday and over the last 20 years of our environmental journey one single question has been constant, “Will this improve our environmental performance?”. If the answer is yes, we proceed, with financial implications being a secondary consequence to our core belief. If you know there is a better way, then why would you not peruse it?

Our journey has also brought many accolades and we are proud to have been recognised by the Queen for our industry leading approach with x2 Queen’s Awards for Sustainable Development in 2007 and 2011.

What can you do?

There’s no magic silver bullet to climate change, it’s the small incremental adjustments that will lead to positive change.

Here are my top 5 things that you can do that will make an immediate positive impact to our environment and also society:

  • Switching your energy supplier to 100% renewable energy, only takes a phone call or an email and the tariffs are much more competitive than they have ever been.
  • Buy a bike! Reduce the road miles in your car.
  • Home composting, get a composter in the garden for your food waste and garden waste – easy way to divert waste to landfill and produce some useful compost for your plants.
  • Ethical banking – if you have an ISA or savings account why not transfer to an ethical bank who are committed to funding social enterprises? Still get a great interest rate but you can be helping improve people’s quality of life!
  • Lastly – speak to your friends!

If you can do the first four and tell 5 friends about it and why, and they then adopt these changes and tell 5 of their friends, and so it goes on, then you have started something very powerful, making real positive change happen!

www.seacourt.net

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Nikwax grant sends environmental film maker to Iceland

In May of this year, I was able to travel with Risan Media to Iceland with the support of a Nikwax Environmental Grant.

I wanted to travel to Iceland to document parallel scientific research around climate change, renewable energy production and outdoor recreation on glaciers. I had been communicating with Dr. Tomas Johannesson from the Icelandic office of meteorology and I coordinated my trip in May of this year around the annual spring mass balance research by the Icelandic Meteorological Office and Glaciological Society on the Mýrdalsjökull volcanic glacier ice cap.

The trip was incredible and I was able to film throughout the country and was afforded a very special opportunity to interview Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland.

Before heading to Iceland, I also garnered the support of Bergans of Norway, Fitwell, Swany, Sierra Designs, PraNa, Giro, Voile, Mountainsmith and Seagate from the US. I was fortunate enough to gain a sponsorship with SNO Glacier water, the only nitrate free glacier and high in oxygen water from Iceland. I was also able to establish partnerships with some supportive Icelandic companies such as Icelandair, Geysir, Hotel Laxnes, the Blue Lagoon, Einstök, Heydalur, Hotel Hraunsnef, Hotel Isafjordur, Bergmenn Mountain Guides, Húsabakki, Hestar and West Tours.

I flew from Denver to Reykjavik, picked up my car rental and headed off to film at the Blue Lagoon geothermal springs. I enjoyed the mineral waters and filmed there and along the southwest coast.

The next day I visited the Hellisheidi geothermal plant for a tour and interview regarding the process and capacity of geothermal energy production there, and was amazed that they are able to heat Reykjavik by piping the hot water to the city.

Next up I met with the team of scientists from the Glaciological Society and Meteorological Office. I loaded up the super jeeps on 38” wheels and headed south along the coast. There, the ocean meets farmland with sheep and horses, tall cliffs and waterfalls. We headed up a gravel road north towards the ice cap with three vehicles. Once on snow, the team would deflate the immense tires so that we would have traction as we climbed the almost 1500 meter ice cap that covers the Katla volcano.

The team broke into three groups and began conducting research at different locations. The vehicle I was in traversed bumpy snowdrifts following the GPS to the research location that they have visited annually. The team began drilling ice cores into the flat, snow-covered ice cap and carefully measured the cylinders of snow and firn in length and mass in order to calculate density.

I had a great time filming on the ice cap and it was suggested that I join a scientist the following day on the neighboring Eyjafjallajökull outlet glacier. The research that day consisted of steam drilling into the ice for ablation poles that are used to calculate glacier ablation/melting and ice velocity. I enjoyed hiking on the ice with crampons and have previously done some steam drilling on the Gulkana glacier in Alaska with a team from UAF, so the technique was familiar.

Hot springs in Iceland
One of Iceland’s fantastic natural hot springs

I then drove North mostly along the coastline and travelled along the winding roads of the West Fjords to Heydalur. The historic guesthouse has many horses, a stocked trout pond on the stream that meets the fjord, natural hot springs and an indoor greenhouse.

Then I headed to the historic town of Isafjordur, which is situated below steep snow-covered peaks. I was able to interview and enjoy a sea kayaking session with the talented sea kayak guide, Halldór Sveinbjörnsson, in the waters of the inlet there.

The following day I arrived at Husabakki near Dalvik and settled in at the hostel to prepare for a day of split boarding from sea to summit with Bergmenn Mountain Guides. We had a group of 8 or so with two guides and skinned up spring corn snow on peaks rising from the ocean outside Akureyri. It was a bit cloudy but the snow was good and thrilling to ride straight down towards the ocean.

Todd and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Todd meets with Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

My last day in Iceland allowed for filming throughout Reykavik and a visit to the presidential residence, Bessastaðir, for an interview with Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The President is very intelligent and kind and responded to my questions in great length. I asked him of his youth growing up in Isafjordur, where I had just been. Most of our conversation was focused on his perspectives and initiatives on climate change impacts in Iceland and the Arctic. He discussed his cooperative initiatives between countries of the Arctic and the Himalayan region with these issues. He also elaborated on the concept of the Himalaya as the Third Pole in regards to the volume of ice that, with climate change, is impacting the livelihoods of billions of people.

The President established the first Arctic Circle Conference in 2013, which was attended by 1,200 delegates from over 40 countries. He suggested I attend and I registered with Risan Media to attend the conference. It looks like I will have an opportunity to lead a presentation and to show a Risan Media Iceland video at the conference as well!

The support from Nikwax enabled me to have diverse experiences in Iceland and to document further material for The Risan Film Project. You can find further information on the projects at www.risanmedia.com

To find out more information about Nikwax Environmental Grants and to apply, visit https://www.nikwax.co.uk/en-gb/environment/campaigning.php

 

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Nikwax becomes ‘Sustaining Member’ of EOCA

Nikwax is proud to be a member of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), and our commitment to the cause was further underlined by becoming one of the first ‘Sustaining Members’ at OutDoor in Friedrichshafen, Germany this July.

EOCA is an organisation that uses its membership fees to fund and support environmental causes around the world. 100% of fees from EOCA go towards the support of its projects. In the past 18 months, EOCA has gone through tremendous growth, increasing by 53%, which will be carefully managed so it can be sustained over a long period.

The new Sustaining Members have pledged an extra €10,000 to the association in terms of support per year for the next three years, which is on top of their annual membership fees.

As a result of the new initiative, EOCA will now be able to create a second funding round per year, therefore increasing the money being put back into the environment every year.

Nikwax founder Nick Brown, who is also EOCA Vice President and Advisor, said of Nikwax’s EOCA membership: “Nikwax is involved with EOCA because we believe that conservation is a crucially important part of building a sustainable future for our business and our stakeholders. The Outdoor Industry depends upon the naturally wild environment for its very existence, and so it makes total sense to help conserve it.”

Alongside Nikwax, the other companies to become Sustaining Members were: OutDoor (Messe Friedrichshafen), Pertex, KEEN Footwear, ISPO (Messe München), Patagonia and the European Outdoor Group (EOG).

The declaration was signed at the recent OutDoor international press conference in Friedrichshafen, where Nikwax was also one of the exhibitors with an indoor stand and an outdoor footwear care clinic. Nikwax CEO, Nick Brown, held a press conference at the show to discuss the new Nikwax Fleece and Nikwax Windproof PFC-treatment-free Fabrics, fielding questions from those present on the newest technology on the market.

For more information on the new ‘Sustaining Members’ of EOCA, click here.

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Once famous for Cheese – now famous for Challenges!

What have a sleeping giant Wild Boar, a mystical standing stone and menacing hills shrouded in a swirling ethereal mist got in common? Game of Thrones perhaps? Why no! – we’re merely Waxing lyrical about features of interest that our army of walking warriors enjoyed as they braved the elements to walk, jog and even run the Caerphilly Challenge Series ‘Wild Boar’ 2014.

A fantastic Saturday in May saw the running (by some) of the third Challenge, a not for profit community event part funded by Ramblers Cymru’s ‘Lets Walk Cymru’ and organised by a partnership of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Caerphilly County Borough Council and many others.

Caerphilly Image 2

Welcoming a record number of all-comers with our ethos of challenges for people of any ability, routes ranging from 1, 5, 9 and 14 miles, up to a boot-bustin’ 22 mile yomp through some of Caerphilly’s wild and rugged Rhymney (pronounced Rum-nee, we’re in Wales y’know) terrain were on offer, along with some amazing support and goodies thanks to our friends at Nikwax!

Keen outdoor enthusiasts from all over the UK – not only South Wales, but also the Midlands, West Country and Ireland – rocked-up at the very un-Saturday time of 6.00 am, to be greeted by enthusiastic staff and free massages (not from our really enthusiastic staff by the way, from experts of course…) set to a soundtrack of foot-stomping, walking-themed, bangin’ tunes! Could there be a better motivation for our bleary-eyed, hardy Challengees nervously anticipating their various challenges ahead?

Caerphilly Challenge WalkingWell, maybe the promise of an energy boosting cream tea, winning a box of Nikwax delights and a further free massage at the finish!

The relentless weather proved to be no deterrent to our intrepid ‘Boarers’, with the first 14 miler returning in 2.5 hours. However ‘’shower-proof’ was no deterrent to relentless weather either, as some of our more soggy strollers found out!  If ever there was a reason to invest in supporter Nikwax’s products, then this was proof – no pun intended of course ; -)

Thankfully the goody bags that went home with our booted ‘Boar-bashers’  included a fantastic complimentary wash of TX.Direct, whetting (and waxing) the appetite for next year’s event.

Bringing us Cheesily to that very subject… 

Saturday May 9th 2015 is set to see the Caerphilly Challenge Series return to its spiritual home, Twmbarlwm (pronounced tum-bar-lum, another free Welsh lesson for you guys). Whether its a 1 mile stroll along the Monmouthshire Brecon Canal or tackling the challenge of the 22 mile Twmbarlwm Trek, yet again we will be throwing down a walking, jogging or running Challenge to suit you – no matter how fit you are!

A £10 entry fee, with £8 early bird and further £2 off for under 18’s – checkout the website for updates on when to enter:

www.caerphillychallengeseries.co.uk 

So come on Nikwax fans, are you ready to ‘Take on the Trek’ in 2015?

This Guest Blog was written by Gavin Jones, Caerphilly County Borough Council.

 

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GREEN CHEMISTRY WINS NIKWAX ITS FOURTH QUEEN’S AWARD

Nikwax has today received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development. The award is the UK’s highest accolade for business success and celebrates the consistent development of products and approaches to management that are commercially successful and have major benefits for the environment, society and British economy.

If you’ve ever noticed your coat soaking up water in a rainstorm and you feel cold and clammy, you’re a potential Nikwax customer. Nikwax manufactures water-based waterproofing solutions that revive the waterproofing performance of outdoor clothing such as rain jackets and walking boots. Our products offer an easy way of restoring the performance of your rain jacket in a washing machine at home, by running a normal cycle and using Nikwax TX.Direct in place of washing powder.

In contrast to industry norm, Nikwax is the only established water proofing aftercare business in the world never to have used aerosols or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). The whole Nikwax range is non-flammable and is free of the harmful raw materials commonly used in the waterproofing of outdoor clothing.

We have always identified environmental and social responsibility as a priority. From the company’s inception in 1977, Nikwax has been driven by the passion and commitment of founder and current Managing Director, Nick Brown, to protect our outdoor surroundings.

Nick said: “We must stop to think about the fuel we burn to arrive at our walk, the energy and materials consumed in the clothing used to protect us from the elements and the wear on the pathway.  We may be destroying the very hills that we care so much about. Restoring the waterproofing of your outdoor clothing is in itself a sustainable act; using far less energy and money than replacing equipment.”

You CAN lead with green

Nikwax has a stringent restricted chemicals policy that prohibits the use of flammable and aromatic solvents and potentially persistent materials – chemicals widely used by other companies producing water repellent treatments. We have continuously campaigned against the use of PFCs, knowing that these chemicals persist in the environment, can bioaccumulate and are linked to serious negative health impacts. PFCs have been linked to serious negative health impacts such as damage to the immune systems of children, compromised female fertility and an increased incidence of cancer. For more information on this please see our environmental pages here.

For over 35 years Nikwax has been developing alternative waterproofing solutions, and our products – such as market leading TX.Direct – have consistently been shown to outperform the competition, both practically and commercially. Nick’s determination to avoid aerosols could have posed a risk to the business at a time when going green was against the grain, but the challenge to produce innovative solutions has allowed Nikwax to constantly sit at the forefront of waterproofing technology.

To deliver sustainable processes, Nikwax harvests rainwater for use in the manufacture of our core products, has invested in a solar generation system that virtually provides the entire electrical usage of its main office unit, and is carbon balanced though the World Land Trust, matching all offsetting donations with an annual donation to preserve standing rainforest. Our waste reduction initiative has seen the company’s proportion of waste recycled go from 16% in 2006 to 71% in 2013, with a target this year of 80% and a five year goal to become waste and landfill free.

This award is testament to our continued commitment to sustainable development over many years, but for us it doesn’t stop there.

Nick said: “Taking the ethical route rather than the easy-money road is a difficult decision for some, but the minimising our environmental impact was always the way for me. I feel immense pride when I see our product on the high street and know they are going some way to preserving the environment around us – it’s a win for the customer and conservation.  The Queen’s Award is a great endorsement that says, yes, you’re doing alright, keep going”.

 

Photo: Nick Brown, Nikwax Managing Director