All of Astral’s gear is designed to get you out into the wild (and, in the case of the life jackets, help you survive it). The Asheville, North Carolina-based outdoor equipment company is also determined to protect the environment. Together with their #NatureFirst campaign, Astral has released an exciting new eco-friendly product line made of hemp.
Philip Curry started Astral in 2002 after selling his first business to Patagonia. His goal was to provide nature enthusiasts (and their dogs) with the best gear possible that is also gentle on the very outdoors it’s used in. That means incorporating non-toxic, recycled materials and reducing waste, which lower the overall carbon footprints. The hugely popular, award-winning life jackets have no PVC (a toxic foam) and this decision has helped reshape how life jackets are made across the board.
Astral has taken their “Nature First” policy a step further by releasing a new hemp line, including two new styles of versatile shoes. The Hemp Donner and Hemp Tinker are made from 77 percent industrial hemp (which requires 70 percent less water to grow than cotton canvas) with recycled polyester making up the remaining 23 percent. Cannabis sativa, the hemp they use, might surprise you: it’s durable, allows your foot to breathe, is naturally antimicrobial, resists rot, is washable, and looks very un-hemp like. This is one seriously stylish vegan, eco-friendly, outdoor shoe. Plus, the new hemp shoes still have Astral’s signature G Rubber Agro, on-marking soles with crazy strong grips made to transition seamlessly from the river to the trail to the office.
Humans have been using hemp for centuries and, not too long ago, it was a major American crop. It’s a remarkable fiber — the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper and Henry Ford built a prototype out of biocomposite materials, like hemp. Supposedly it can be made into over 25,000 different products.
Hell, it could even replace — or at least drastically reduce — the need for fossil fuels. As far as the environmental benefits go, hemp is naturally pest-resistant and can grow almost anywhere; it also crops very close together, meaning weeds don’t stand a chance. It requires less water to grow than trees, grows faster than forests, and can stand in for cotton and wood in a variety of goods. Hemp’s natural coloring also nixes the need to use chlorine bleach and it has innate UV-ray protection.
So, what happened? Why isn’t hemp everywhere? Because someone started confusing hemp and marijuana, two distinct and separate breeds of cannabis sativa, and lawmakers were too afraid of people thinking they were okay with hemp. Sure, you can smoke some hemp, but you’ll get a headache and zero high. A few states have made headway in redefining marijuana to exclude hemp so it can be farmed, but there’s a ways to go.
For now, Astral has you covered in this trusty, eco-friendly fiber: they’ve got hemp shoes, hemp/cotton blend tees and tanks, and even a hemp-cover for the AstroPad dog bed, which is made from scraps of industrial foam.
When you’re living it up in the great outdoors with your conscientiously-made Astral gear, don’t forget to snap a picture and post it with the hashtag #NatureFirst.