Giving back: Gretchen Bleiler
Gretchen Bleiler has a lot on her plate. One look at her schedule will have you wondering how she finds time to sleep, but somehow Gretchen manages to devote much of her time and energy to giving back. The environment, and climate change specifically, is the issue closest to her heart. Whether it is co-founding ALEX (a reusable bottle company) or bringing environmental specialists to speak at her Snow Angels Invitational event, Gretchen has approached many aspects of her life with the environment in mind.
Climate change is hugely important to Gretchen because she believes that it is one of the most important issues facing us today. In her decade-long career as a pro snowboarder she has seen the effects of global warming first hand. But instead of being complacent Bleiler is empowered by the idea that “we can all be part of the solution through our everyday decisions and actions.”
After winning silver at the 2006 Winter Olympics, Gretchen received a lot of media attention. She siezed the opportunity to talk about the environmental changes she has and continues to notice being in the mountains year round. She also used her exposure to encourage other people to be aware of and to take action against climate change.
Gretchen doesn’t just talk the environmental talk; she also walks the walk. She is part of stopglobalwarming.com’s online march against climate change and is a member of the Surfrider Foundation and NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council). The organizations help Gretchen stay informed about environmental issues, voice her opinions to the government (via letter) and actively give back by participating in beach clean ups and the like. “Getting involved on a legislative level is so important because it’s our leaders who are passing or not passing the laws we need to clean up our ways,” she says.
It should come as no surprise that Gretchen’s signature board, the K2 Eco Pop and her signature line with Oakley are eco-friendly. Gretchen says she feels fortunate to have sponsors that not only support, but also share her environmental goals. The Eco Pop is made with as few materials as possible, which means less harmful plastics, resins and toxins. It also has a textile top sheet instead of the common plastic type, which leave a larger carbon footprint. Also, 100% biodegradable and 100% wind power produced K2 wax is used on all of the brand’s boards.
The jackets and pants in Gretchen’s signature collection with Oakley are made from 100% recycled and 100% recyclable material. Gretchen best explains the process, “the garments are made from used materials and then when the customer is finished with the piece they can send it back to Oakley. It’s then returned to the factory, broken down again and made into something new.” In short, no material is wasted.
Gretchen is one of the founders of ALEX, an acronym for Always Live EXtraordinarily. A small group of individuals launched the reusable bottle company this past August. According to Gretchen the idea behind ALEX is “making sustainability simple so more people get off disposables.” ALEX has achieved this by making a bottle that opens up in the middle, this makes it easy to clean, so that your beverage doesn’t taste like dish soap or last week’s smoothie. It’s also easy to store and simple to combine the large bottle and the small bottle in order to make a medium sized one (26 fl oz). ALEX bottles are functional, so consumers hold onto them rather than ditching them for plastic.
As if having eco-friendly products weren’t a big enough deal, there is also a green component to Gretchen’s Snow Angels Invitational event. In previous years speakers from stopglobalwarming.com, The Climate Project and Aspen Skiing Company’s Vice-President of sustainability have come to the event to promote environmental awareness and education amongst the competitors.
Gretchen is clearly committed to bettering our planet. We can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
For more on this story, please visit Snowboard Canada Online.