Writer: Travis Poulin

Stainless steel water bottles are rugged, versatile and should last a long time – maybe even a lifetime – but Klean Kanteen was seeing an unusually high number of premature customer returns for a particular reason: paint chipping.

The company was finding that consumers were returning or repurchasing vessels when the paint coating would chip, and this was concerning to them.

Klean Kanteen believes their products should not need to be replaced at the rate they were observing – if ever – so they looked to their sustainability team for a solution. The result was their new Klean Coat finish – a durable, chip-resistant coat that is environmentally friendly.

“We knew we could do better,” said Danielle Cresswell, sustainability manager at Klean Kanteen. “We were alarmed by the premature replacement of some of our products and wanted to make a better coating for our bottles that was environmentally safe and be able to prove it.” To put it simply: Klean Kanteen wanted a chip-free coating and they wanted to know what, exactly, was being used in the finish formula and the effects these chemicals have on the environment.

Cresswell and the sustainability team began attending Outdoor Industry Association workshops on sustainability to develop a solution. The workshops teach companies good, better and best practices to move toward more sustainable products. Cresswell and her team found that there was a sustainability tool that could get Klean Kanteen on the right track: Clean Production Action (CPA) – a company that designs and delivers strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products.

“We had to flip our process of material qualification with our suppliers by requiring them to provide us with all the chemicals used in the coating materials, and determining if this met our environmental standards,“ Cresswell said.

Cresswell said she hopes to see more outdoor companies using environmental assessment tools. “We hope this will become a movement. Participation in education on these issues is key. We learned through participation in workshops and it resulted in our new coating finish. I think most brands want to move toward environmental sustainability, and I understand it is hard to figure out where to begin, but with tools like CPA it can be accomplished by anyone. These practices are not going away. We are a small company and we figured it out and I know others can too.”

Cresswell said she believes CPA’s process is a great standardization for sustainability. “Once you figure out how to produce environmentally friendly products what do you do with it? This becomes the next piece and the GreenScreen assessment can prove manufacturers are producing what they say they are.”

Lead photo courtesy Klean Kanteen