Better Businesses
We love when companies decide to be innovative with everyday accessories. That’s why, when Jelt Belt reached out to us, it was a hard ‘YES’ to working with them. This is a team committed to building a product that increases functionality and fashion and decreases their carbon footprint….our favorite. When we received the interview back, it just solidified how much we love this business. They’re not some cog in the corporate machine…they’re a family of adventure enthusiasts who love making a difference and love making people smile. 

  1. Who is Jelt Belt and how long have you guys been in business?

I launched the company in February 2014, out of my super quaint office in downtown Bozeman, Montana. I always knew I wanted to be an inventor. I knew I needed a belt to keep my crack from showing, but I refused to wear traditional leather belts. I believed that if I had this problem, other people did, too.

I remembered the groovy elastic belts I wore in the 70’s and 80’s with the stripes and the gold, interlocking buckle and I decided to reinvent that type of belt with modern technology. Jelts have a low-profile buckle, a grippy inner gel and are made out of recycled water bottles. There are no metal parts, so if TSA doesn’t see your Jelt, you can wear it through the metal detectors! (I was tired of stripping in the airport security line.)

  1. Where did the idea to build a business around belts come from?

I created the Jelt belt out of pure necessity. As a frazzled working mom, I discovered a need for a functional belt to keep my skinny jeans from sagging and my kids from cringing. I also live at the base of the Rocky Mountains, so naturally I have a passion for the outdoors, which made it easy for Jelt to evolve from being a comfortable, flat belt to wear with jeans to the perfect belt for hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, traveling and everyday fashion.

  1. In what ways are Jelt Belts environmentally responsible? Are materials sustainably sourced?

I wanted to make sure Jelt would stand out from any other belt on the market. Not only is it modern-retro, with a nod to 80’s fashion, but it is also made from 100% recycled water bottles, has a patent-pending buckle design that won’t show a bulge under fitted shirts and an inner gel that grips to pants, whether you have belt loops or not. The packaging is made from 100% recycled cardboard, which very few companies do because, like most environmentally products, it’s more expensive.

  1. We see that manufacturing is being moved from China back to Montana?! What was the motive behind this and what does that journey look like for your company?

As of late 2016, we made a heart-felt decision to move our manufacturing from China to our home state of Montana. The Jelt Extreme launched in December as our first belt to be manufactured in Montana.

I have a personal commitment to giving back to our communities and strive to help people live a more productive life. That’s why we chose to work with the Montana Correctional Enterprise (MCE) Program at the Montana Women’s Prison. This privileged program guides incarcerated women through an application and interview process, which is required for program participation. These women develop a strong work ethic, new job skills and grow their confidence, which will make them a more marketable employee in the future. The money they earn goes toward their restitution, child support, and finally, into a savings account for use when they are released.


  1. So, $1 for every belt sold goes to organizations supporting wounded veterans, tell us about that partnership and what the inspiration behind giving to this specific cause is.

The best part of the Jelt brand is that we are both environmentally and socially responsible. We give money to a ton of local charities who provide services to people who are in the most need.  We donate a large portion of our profits to organizations who support veterans, youth and families. When you buy a belt, Jelt will donate $1 to Warriors and Quiet Waters, an organization that takes combat-wounded veterans fly fishing as a means of rehabilitation. But, that’s just the beginning, we also donate to Thrive, Big Sky Youth Empowerment, 4-H, the YMCA and to the Bozeman Schools Foundation. I am interested in giving to charities that service children and their families. They are the core and backbone of any community. If there is a non-profit in Bozeman that we don’t donate to, it’s because they haven’t hit us up yet. (I will be bombarded if you print this, but, oh well!) 

      6. What activities do you recommend we use a Jelt Belt for?
Jelt is the ideal crossover lifestyle belt, which means it can be worn with anything. It’s an active belt for hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding and golf. Yet, it’s perfect for everyday jeans. Some of my female customers wear their Jelts “Retro-style” with a skater dress or “Zen style” to keep their yoga pants up.

       7. What are some of the teams’ favorite belts? Favorite feature of the Belt?

We are a hodgepodge group who all have their favorite Jelt depending on the season or their mood. People can’t help but dig the American Retro Jelt, but our top seller is the Black Granite. ( My VP, Amanda, wanted to chime in that her favorite Jelt is Glacier all year round!! )


     8. Digging those Trucker Hats! Are they environmentally friendly as well?!

Oh, yeah! We get those from an artist out of Washington. She accesses trucker hats that are surplus, then hand prints her custom-designed wood block print of our logo onto each hat. The hats are as unique as our company and, like a snowflake, no two hats are alike.

  1. Besides created a super cool, eco friendly belt, what makes Jelt Belt a great company to work for?

Well, I’m so glad you asked. Not to toot my own horn, but if I must— I was honored to receive the 2017 Employer of the Year Award given to me by the Business Professional Women of Montana. This verified my hard work and dedication to my wonderful Bozeman community and to my commitment to give back to society as a whole. However, since I’m the boss, I probably can’t answer that question without bias, so here’s a quote from, yet again, my VP, Amanda Schultz:

“I love working at Jelt because the of the amazing Jelt team, company culture and  beautiful office in downtown Bozeman! It’s a treat working for a company with so much passion for the product, the purpose and the cause. I dig that our company values building a strong community and being socially conscious. An added benefit is Jelt has kept my pants up since 2015!”

My social media and PR director, Jessica Minalga, also “loves the connection Jelt has with the Bozeman community and how the company constantly celebrates the beautiful state we live in and the social and and environmental efforts happening within our local town.” Working for a startup that gives back and helping the brand grow has been very rewarding for her as well. 

  1. Any big plans for Jelt Belt for 2017 that you can let us in on? 

Well—I’m so glad you asked—

Our world famous Dark Denim Jelt is being manufactured at the Women’s Correctional Facility right this minute and will be available on our website around the 15th of April! Whoop whoop!

As far as other “plans”, they are currently top secret, so if I told you, I’d have to kill you, and that’s not my style. 


Better Businesses

Have you seen the videos of those crazy tents suspended in trees? We have, and we think they’re crazy awesome. Tentsile a young and innovative company creating portable tree houses. Tents are suspended between three trees to keep you off the ground while camping, backpacking, and traveling. The cool factor for these things is off the charts. We had the opportunity to chat with Tentsile and get a look on the inside of this (literally) tree hugging company. With an emphasis on the value of tree, this company is giving back to the forests while empowering people to spend more time in them.

Trek Tech: How and why was Tentsile founded?

Tentsile: Tentsile was founded in 2010. Our Tree Tents were originally conceived as portable treehouses that you could take with you anywhere. Our unique designs were created to fit between three trees, and to keep you suspended off the lumpy and uneven ground for a dry, cozy, comfortable night’s sleep. Alex Shirley-Smith began making prototypes of the Tentsile Tree Tent in 2010. The prototypes we larger, heavier and more expensive to produce. Over 10 different models were made before we settled on the Tentsile Stingray, and then we moved into production. Tentsile was built around a love for trees and the Great Outdoors. We respect the environment, and seek to protect and conserve it, so that future generations may enjoy it as much as we do. In partnership with WeForest and The Eden Projects, we plant 3 trees for each tent sold, and in doing so have helped to restore deforested regions of Ethiopia, Zambia and Madagascar. So far we have supported the planting of over 46 000 trees.  TT: How can using a Tentsile product benefit the places we travel on? TS: When attaching your Tentsile Tree Tent to the trees, you avoid damaging the flora and fauna on the ground below. Using our tents on your travels has a lower impact on the natural environment in which you are camping. We are proud partners of Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics, and encourage all of our customers to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when travelling, to ensure minimal impact on the environment.TT: Does using a Tentsile product harm the trees they are tensioned off of? TS: No, our tents do not harm the trees when used correctly. We have many guidelines highlighting the correct use of our tents and the best practice for minimal impact on the trees, which can be found on our website and Youtube channel. In March 2017, we will be releasing our new No Trace Kit, which aims to give additional protection to trees to minimize any potential damage. TT: In what ways is Tentsile aiding environmental sustainability efforts? TS: Tentsile is committed to protecting the environment and preserving / regenerating the World’s forests. In addition to our tree planting programs outlined above, we also work with local environmental initiatives who are protecting / conserving woodland and wildlife around the world. For example, we work with ARC Amazon, based in the Peruvian Rainforest, whose dedicated team of biologists and scientists, along with the help of volunteers, are studying the local wildlife and ecosystems, whilst also protecting this small area from deforestation by illegal logging. Another example; we supported Stephen Belcher, a European wildlife expert, who was doing research into the rarely seen & extremely endangered, Javan Rhino. Using our tents, Stephen managed to sleep right in the middle of the Rainforest and get the first ever HD footage and images of the Javan Rhino in its natural environment. We post regular updates from partner organizations in our blog and newsletter, so that customers can follow their progress. In doing so, we hope to engage our followers in an open dialogue about the environment and climate change. TT: In what ways is Tentsile aiding social responsibility efforts? TS: We have partnered with several organizations in the past few years to support their humanitarian efforts. We tend to work with projects who are in need of gear to help them navigate across difficult terrain – for example, in areas where there has been a natural disaster. In 2016 we partnered with Adventurers for Change, who travelled through Nepal to distribute emergency aid and solar lighting to rural villages that were affected by the earthquake the previous year. We donated 11 tents so that their team of volunteers could reach the most remote and isolated regions, close to the epicenter of the earthquake. TT: What types of trees do you plant, are they native to the area?   TS: The projects we support work from Forest Management Plans based on best practice forestry.  The objective is to work towards the mature native forest or woodland, that would occur naturally in the landscape.  This relies therefore on the use of native tree species.  Seeds are often collected from existing forest areas and propagated in community and home based tree-nurseries.  Once established saplings are planted out into the areas under management. Trees are selected for different purposes.  Pioneer species may provide shade for other species to follow.  Some species have leaves which are used as animal fodder. Others are leguminous, meaning they help enrich the soil through nitrogen fixation.  Species selection, positioning, density and their contribution to ecological integrity and livelihood improvement of the local people is a complex process. Another forest restoration method is to work with what nature already provides.  There may be a high density of new seedlings within the forest.  Crowded together, competing for light and water, not all will survive. Using techniques of assisted natural regeneration, these seedlings are transplanted to the periphery of the forest where they have better access to light and the forest area expands. In Zambia’s copperbelt for example, we work with WeForest to supports farmers to restore the native Miombo woodlands that are disappearing from the region. By employing assisted natural regeneration of Miombo woodlots (plots of native woodland on farms) and introducing activities such as bioenergy and honey production, that rely on healthy standing woodlands, local communities develop new income streams lifting them out of poverty whilst restoring their forests.  Some of the species in use in this project can be found here.TT: What makes working for Tentsile worthwhile? TS: It’s exciting to be part of a company that is genuinely passionate about the environment, and better still, doing something about it. At Tentsile, we are not just about tents. Instead, we hope to inspire people to spend time amongst nature, to embrace the wilderness and wander off the beaten track, and above all to protect and conserve the Great Outdoors. To know that you are empowering people to do that – that’s what makes it worthwhile. TT: What are some of your employee’s favorite places to use a Tentsile? TS: They include the Redwoods, East Africa, & the forests of Romania!TT: Can you describe some of your goals and projects for 2017? TS: We have just revealed our New Year’s Resolution – to get 1,000,000 people in the trees in the next 5 years! We want people to join our global community and be a part of the Tentsile Tribe, so we invite them to ‘#BecomeOneOfTheMillion’. To meet our objective, we’ll need to make sure there are lots of healthy forests too, so we’re aiming to plant 1,000 000 trees in collaboration with our partners and a network of Outdoor Brands. We’re continuing to develop our online Tentsile Community – a space for Tree Tent experts and novices alike to share tips, secret camping locations and more. We will be launching the world’s first Tentsile Eco Experience Camp in Finland later this year, and have a number of other similar sites in the pipeline too. Tentsile will be popping up at several Festivals throughout the year, including Euphoria Festival in Austin Texas (April), where we’ll be setting up an entire Tree Tent Village. TT: Are there any other organizations you’re partnering with that the consumer can get on board with? TS: We partner with many Brands who share a passion for innovation and smart design – for example, Oru Kayak, LuminAid Solar Light, Biolite, Cotopaxi, and Goal Zero to name but a few.TT: In your efforts to increase a tree’s value, non monetarily, have you been able to see a change in society’s value towards them?   TS: We are beginning to – certainly within the Tentsile Tribe! Feedback from our followers suggests that they really value and support our tree planting efforts and are excited to discover a product that helps them spend more time amongst the trees, with a smaller eco-footprint than ever before. But there’s still a long way to go; until we’ve replanted the World’s lost forests, and stopped illegal logging for good – we will not rest!

Better Businesses

Better Businesses: DownTek

We saw a lot of innovative and sustainably driven businesses at Outdoor Retailer this year, but a few truly impressed Trek Tech. One of which is DownTek. Not only does their company model make for an exceptional Better Business, but their product has significantly influenced the outdoor industry and enhanced the outdoor experience. For years, down has been praised for its warmth to weight ratio. However, the biggest problem with down, until recently, is its inability to hold loft and keep you insulated once wet. We saw for ourselves at Outdoor Retailer DownTek’s incredible solution to this problem. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to chat with Caroline who works with Sustainable Down Source and DownTek. and ask her some questions about the industry changing DownTek. img_3742
TrekTech: What is DownTek and what is its relationship to Down Décor and Sustainable Down Source?
DownTek: DownTek is a brand of water repellant down sold by Sustainable Down Source. Sustainable Down Source is a division of Down Decor. Down Decor has two divisions, Sustainable Down Source and Down Decor Home Textiles.  Thanks to the recognition of DownTek and DownTek ZeroPFC, the bulk down division of Down Decor grew significantly and in the last year became an entity of its own, rendering the natural transition to Sustainable Down Source. While still a division of Down Decor – including shared headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio – SDS now serves as a bulk down supplier of regular down, DownTek, and DownTek ZeroPFC to the outdoor, fashion, and home textiles industries.  Down Decor Home Textiles, meanwhile, focuses on cut and sew and filling (pillows and comforters, both down and synthetic) for home textiles. img_3649
TT: There’s so much hype around DownTek! In what ways is it better than ‘traditional’ down fill?
DT: When regular down is exposed to moisture, the water molecules cling to the filaments of the cluster, weighing it down and forcing the cluster to collapse. Once collapsed, down loses its ability to insulate because the pockets of air that provide insulation are gone. Air pockets on the down clusters of DownTek™ Water Repellent Down do not collapse. The DWR treatment creates surface tension on the filaments of the down clusters that forces the moisture molecules to bead up and roll off the down, leaving each cluster free to continue trapping warm air, thereby maintaining the ability to insulate even when exposed to water. IDFL* developed the ‘shake test’: a global standard for the measurement of how well DWR down performs when subjected to water. They put 2 grams of down in a jar along with 400 ml of water and place the jar on an oscillating machine. Then they check the level of saturation at various time intervals until the down is completely submerged – meaning the clusters have completely collapsed and the down is no longer able to insulate. Whereas untreated down lasts anywhere from 25-60 minutes before becoming completely saturated, DownTek™ Water Repellent Down lasts anywhere from 800-1000 minutes. This is with the down being in direct and constant contact with water for that length of time.
TT: In what ways is your company striving to be environmentally ethical?
DT: Sustainable Down Source is taking a number of steps to be environmentally ethical. We are collaborating with industry groups to address environmental concerns and help develop solutions. Besides being RDS certified, we are also part of SAC, ZDHC, and a bluesign system partner. We also use the Higg Index to measure our sustainability efforts – meaning we can gauge our progress and identify areas in need of additional attention. Below is a summary of these affiliations.
  1. SAC /HIGG Index
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a unique and extraordinary alliance comprised of :
  • Companies of all sizes from all sectors of fashion, manufacturing, and retail
  • NGO’s dedicated to environmental, social, and trade issues
  • Sustainability experts
  • Affiliated trade organizations
This unprecedented collaboration has resulted in an equally unprecedented plan for sustainable production in the apparel, footwear, and home textiles industries. Central to the plan is the Higg Index, a suite of assessment tools that allows brands, retailers, and manufacturers to measure the environmental, labor, and social impact they are making at every step of the supply chain. These self-assessment tools enable members to evaluate areas of risk, areas of strength, and areas where improvements can be made. SDS is a proud member of SAC and has implemented use of the Higg Index at both facilities in the USA, with plans to begin modules for assessment of our Taiwan and Nanjing facilities in 2016. By using the Higg Index, we were able to quantify our impact in a way that was not previously available to us. As a result of our findings we have undergone facility renovations for cleaner air emissions and minimized use of electrical power, as well as implemented employee engagement and health initiatives, and developed a rigorous recycling program to minimize the amount of waste to local landfills. SAC is making a significant impact on the sustainability efforts in manufacturing and retail and SDS is excited to be part of a coalition comprised of individuals who understand that large scale and lasting change can only be achieved by working together. For more information visit: http://apparelcoalition.org
  1. ZDHC
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical Programme has identified and fulfilled the need for a comprehensive list of restricted substances that includes in-depth research to identify potential hazards and audit protocols applicable cross-industry and throughout the supply chain to eliminate the hazards once identified. The audit protocols are an important feature to the ZDHC Programme as they provide a uniform and consistent process for identifying areas of risk and implementing the appropriate steps to eliminate the presence of harmful substances from every step of the supply chain. Another central aspect of the ZDHC Programme is a focus on water management. Water efficiency and wastewater discharge quality are both integral to sustainable manufacturing. In 2016 ZDHC released the Wastewater Quality Discharge Guideline, which provides a unified standard by which the manufacturing supply chain can gauge their degree of compliance and identify areas in need of improvement. SDS is a contributing member to ZDHC and is pleased to be part of the Roadmap to Zero. For more information visit: www.roadmaptozero.com
  1. Bluesign
As a bluesign® system partner, SDS is committed to applying the bluesign® system which unites the entire textile supply chain to jointly reduce its impact on people and the environment. The Input Stream Management ensures that approved chemical products and raw materials are used in all steps of the manufacturing process. Substances posing risks to people and the environment are hence eliminated from the very beginning. On-site inspections verify the proper application of such chemical products and raw materials in controlled processes and ensure the responsible use of resources. bluesign® system partners are responsibly acting parties of the textile supply chain committed to applying the bluesign® system. They aim to continuously improve their environmental performance and are focused on a sustainable future. For more information visit: www.bluesign.com
  1. “We employ a proprietary application method instead of a bath treatment, thereby eliminating waste run-off.” This sounds fascinating! Can you expand and explain what this means?
We protect our affluent waste water run-off from harmful substances so that these elements do not end up in the environment. bags-of-down3
TT: Can you define ‘ethically sourced’ down. – What does RDS mean? Why is this term important?
DT: The Responsible Down Standard is a rigorous certification process that ensures the ethical treatment of birds. While down and feathers are a by-product of the meat industry, it has been the down and feather industry that has taken the lead in ensuring that birds being slaughtered for their meat are not force-fed or live plucked and that at each step in the supply chain the Five Freedoms are respected and enforced. RDS certification follows the chain of custody from farm to final product, with each step in the supply chain undergoing annual audits. Upon passing the audit, each facility is awarded a Scope Certificate that verifies compliance with the expectations set forth by RDS. In addition to the Scope Certificate, Transaction Certificates (TC’s) are also issued with each sale and purchase of RDS down and feathers as it goes from slaughter-house, to processor, to bulk down supplier, to factory, to retail- providing a verifiable paper trail and reinforcing the integrity and traceability of the program. Long before RDS was established as the standard for ensuring the ethical treatment of birds, SDS (then Down Decor) voluntarily underwent annual, third party audits to ensure that no live-plucking or force-feeding occurred in the supply chain. SDS is fully committed to the ethical treatment of birds and we only buy down and feathers from verifiable sources. While it is a very small percentage of the world’s down supply that comes from live-plucking, it is nonetheless a serious issue and requires serious attention. SDS is proud to be RDS certified and to offer RDS certification for our regular bulk down, DownTek Water Repellent Down, and DownTek ZeroPFC.
TT: Zero PFC, ‘perfluorocarbon-free water repellent down’, can you explain this in lamens terms?
DT: From the beginning Down Decor realized the importance of clean chemistry and DownTek was developed with no long-chain carbons (which persist in the environment), instead using a C6 short-chain carbon (which has a half life of 15 minutes and is deemed safe by the EPA). By 2014, the outdoor, fashion, and home textiles industries were making a clear shift towards more sustainable business practices, including greater focus on chemicals management, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility. While C6 DWR is still considered safe for use, Down Decor developed DownTek ZeroPFC, a carbon-free DWR option. Instead of carbons, ZeroPFC uses lipids to create water repellency. The DWR performance is not as strong as with original DownTek (see explanation of ‘shake test’ below) but is still significantly greater than that of regular down.
TT: How can we, as consumers of down products, educate ourselves more on the issue of sustainably sourcing down? Why is sustainably sourced down so important?
DT: The RDS website (www.responsibledown.org) is very informative regarding sustainably sourced down. Sustainably/ethically sourced down means that measures and audits have been put in place to eliminate any threat of force feeding or live-plucking of the birds. It means that the birds are treated humanely from hatch to slaughter. It’s important to keep in mind that birds are only slaughtered for their meat. Ducks and geese are a primary food source in Asia and Eastern Europe, much like chicken is in the USA. If everyone in the world quit eating ducks and geese then there would no longer be a down industry. Down is only a by-product of the meat industry. The total monetary value of the bird that comes from it’s down and feathers is less than 9%. Despite the meat industry being the primary money maker in the slaughter of birds, it has been the down industry that has led and shouldered the cost of the movement to ensure that birds are treated humanely throughout their lives, leading to a humane slaughter.
TT: What are some of the companies using DownTek?
DT: LL Bean, Big Agnes, Marmot, Enlightened, EMS, Reecho, Mountain Designs, to name a few besides several fashion brands.
TT: Does DownTek have any new products or tech coming out that you can share about with us? What are DownTek’s goals for 2017?
DT: Sustainable Down Source is always working on making our products better. We cannot release the details of our current project, but we are excited about the possibilities.
*International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL). IDFL is a third-party testing facility that provides a wide range of tests.  

Better Businesses, Outdoors
Better Businesses: Sweet Aroma Coffee Although coffee shops may not be directly related to the outdoor industry, most of us crazy, outdoor, enthusiasts are fueled by that glorious liquid. With out coffee, we may not reach that summit, get up for that ungodly timed morning run, get on that wall at first light, or plow through that article for Trek Tech. We love coffee. We also love actively fighting injustices, and not just crimes against the earth. Trek Tech is stoked to announce Sweet Aroma Coffee as the next Better Business. Not only are they providing the public with great coffee, they’re avidly fighting something we all want to help fight, Sex Trafficking. Buy their coffee products and a portion of their gross profit goes to a partnered organization that directly works to rescue women from sex trafficking in The Philippines and Thailand. Coffee and crime fighting? I think TT can get behind that. We talked with Christin, founder of Sweet Aroma Coffee, and asked her a bit about her endeavor with this shop.

If you could sum up your company in one statement, what would you say?
Sweet Aroma sells coffee to fight sex trafficking because we believe these women deserve real hope for a bright future and a way out of the industry.

Can you tell us a bit more about the coffee side of the Sweet Aroma? (Where the coffee originates, your relationship with the supplier…etc.)
Our coffee comes from all over the world and it’s so delicious! We use two roasters, Mission Roasters Coffee and Spero Coffee. Both roasters have huge hearts for helping others. It was really important to us to find people who were like-minded and passionate about producing a great product. Our monthly subscriptions feature two different types of coffee—usually one is from Asia/Africa and the other is Central/South American. Our individual orders typically depend on what’s in stock that month and is usually featured on our website (Trek Tech checked up on these roasting companies and was pleased to see both are responsibly sourcing, giving back to their communities, and roasting some seriously quality stuff).

Where did the idea and mission to rescue women from sex trafficking originate?
I was traveling around the world on an 11 month mission trip called the World Race and this idea to start a coffee business that would help women leave the sex industry started forming in my mind. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but over the last year or so it’s become an online store where people can purchase a monthly coffee subscription or individual coffee bags and mugs and know that they’re part of a bigger story. We donate 35% of our gross profit to our partner, Wipe Every Tear. 10996145_934371493263932_3817749983821905761_o Why a coffee shop?
Coffee is such a unique way to build community and create awareness for injustice. We thought it would be amazing to combine two passions and start an online coffee company that provided excellent coffee and benefited women who have left the sex trade in search of a fresh start.

Regarding the sex traffic rescuing: how are you a part of the rescue and who are you partnered with?
We are partnered with an amazing group called Wipe Every Tear. They have people in the country who go into the bars of The Philippines and Thailand and form friendships with the girls working in the sex trafficking industry. Through prayer and a lot of trust, they form relationships with the girls and invite them to come to safe houses strategically placed in the cities. Once the girl decides to leave, they are taken to the safe house and given time and space to begin healing. Once they are ready, they start schooling (either high school or enroll in collegiate courses) and ultimately find jobs. They’re starting a new life and it’s absolutely amazing to watch the transformation.

How has your religious stance helped or hindered your company’s progress?
I believe it’s helped because we wouldn’t be where we are today without God’s provision. The love, prayers and support of those around us have been so important on our journey building Sweet Aroma. I believe this is a God-given dream and that it’s so much bigger than my team or me. We’ve learned so much and it’s been incredibly rich and rewarding to work with the different people that have blessed our paths over this last year.

How can we the public get involved and help?
Awareness is so key in the fight against sex trafficking. It’s so important to learn the facts and to tell others about what’s going on. Also, making sure the companies you shop with are “slave labor free” is a great way to make informed purchases. We’d love your support by drinking our coffee or using our mugs too! You can rest assured knowing that 35% of the gross profit goes to Wipe Every Tear. Or head to our site and learn about Wipe Every Tear and donate to them directly. 11004613_934057389962009_7966248974392254851_o What does the future hold for Sweet Aroma Coffee?
I think the future is bright for Sweet Aroma. We’re constantly changing, trying new things and looking for ways to partner with other organizations passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless. This past year has been amazing and I’m super excited about what the next year holds!

Better Businesses, Outdoors
Founded by engineers Dan Sedlacek and Mounica Sonikar and business student David DeBey, Washington-based company Uphill Designs makes sustainable bamboo trekking poles that are touted to be a strong as steel poles and as light as carbon fiber. We sat down with Dan and learned more about the company. Tell us a bit about the company’s name. Why did “Uphill Designs” become the name of your company? On the Pacific Crest Trail most Thru-Hikers have trail names. My brother had to leave with stress fractures in his feet after 1,000 miles of hiking. When he did, he named me “Uphill” because of my love for steep, uphill climbing. Hiking uphill is about hard work and embracing every step, and that’s why we named our company Uphill Designs. Why start with the trekking pole? We believe that the best way to engineer is to identify the ways in which technology can enhance what nature has given us. Mounica and I conceptualized our trekking pole while working on our masters theses. She studied bamboo and I was researching natural cork. We found that bamboo was much stronger than aluminum and as light as carbon fiber, yet, most of the current trekking poles are made from these materials. After studying the properties of bamboo and cork we felt that they were a perfect fit for the hiking gear market. What does the sustainability look like in your production of the poles? We are obsessed with using the perfect natural materials in our poles. Even the small amount of plastic we design with is biodegradable or recycled. Our metal comes from recycled sources and our cork handles are up-cycled champagne corks. Our adhesives are not only non-toxic, but they loosen when soaked in hot water. This allows for either us, or customers, to repair a set of poles rather than buy a whole new product. Overall, sustainability to us means that our products are over 95% natural or upcycled materials that are built to last and can be easily fixed. pole11 When you say, ‘biodegradable’, what does that mean? How long does the product last for? How long before it biodegrades? Most people feel ‘biodegradeable’ materials means they break down quickly, like food, but in reality, ‘biodegradeable’ simply means that our product is capable of being decomposed by bacteria over the course of time. Our poles will last a lifetime under normal conditions without degrading, but if you do lose a pole on the trail, they will degrade naturally without giving off any unnatural toxins. Your website mentions that Uphill Designs gives back to the communities that support it, how do you give back? What does that support look like? We are committed to being a leader in the hiking community. We give a percentage of our revenue to support the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Our long-term goal is to sponsor trail-maintenance crews, especially in the neediest sections of trails in Washington State. We are inspired by the trails we hike and it is our duty to be environmental stewards for future generations. Will you stick to trekking poles or are there plans to design and develop new gear in the future? We are wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign and are seeing incredible support for our poles. Right now we are fully-focused on taking our first product to as wide an audience as possible. Getting our poles in people’s hands will open the door for natural hiking gear that really feels at home on the trail. Long-term we will definitely come out with designs for new, gear. What are the areas of growth, improvement, and opportunity for Uphill Designs? We are the first collapsible bamboo pole in the market and were funded in just 2 weeks on Kickstarter. In order to fuel this excitement, we need to grow the relationship with our customers while reaching an even-wider audience. In particular, this period after our Kickstarter campaign will be a critical time for Uphill. We will be managing logistics at a much larger scale, increasing production by 10 times, as well as establishing long-term relationships with our 3rd-party suppliers and shipping partners.  Anything else you feel like sharing with Trek Tech about Uphill Designs? If you or someone you knows loves the outdoors, we would love it if you helped spread the word. Our Kickstarter ends on December 20th, and continued pre-sales will be offered through our website at www.uphilldesigns.com. We’ll see you on the trail!

Better Businesses, Outdoors

Whether by giving back to the local community, constantly researching ways of being more environmentally conscious, or diligently working to keep healthy working conditions for their factory employees, Arc’Teryx is always seeking to do thing right. Wendy recently interviewed Joanne Mayzes, Corporate Social Responsibility manager and Executive Assistant to the President to see just how the company strives to make a difference.