Outfitting the Adventurers

Montana Sweater Co.

Calvert Investments wants to make Payton Marie Sierra, Adila Wahdat and Gelareh Kiazand as comfortable as possible on the journey to the frozen continent of Antarctica. To help keep them warm, Calvert provided hats made from bison wool from the Montana Sweater Co. in Bozeman, Montana. In a letter written by Montana Sweater Co. owner-manager Jennifer Olsson, reprinted below, she describes to the three women what makes her products special, and details the sustainable practices that her business uses to create them.

Jennifer Olsson/Owner-Manager
Montana Sweater Co.
Bozeman, Montana

 

It is a great honor that my Bison Brain Warmer Hats were chosen to keep thoughtful noggins warm on the 2016 International Antarctic Expedition! I would like to share information about myself and my company so you will know how the hats came to be.
To begin with we almost didn’t have bison in 2016 to knit a hat from. By 1890 less than 1000 bison remained in North America. Their story of near extinction was caused by man’s deliberate and careless slaughter. Miraculously, awareness that we were losing our largest land mammal inspired tireless efforts to keep the American Bison (Bison bison) alive. Federal and state protections; such as Yellowstone National Park, and Nature Conservancy Herds in North and South Dakota, private ownership, and ranching, as well as similar protections and projects in neighboring Canada assisted in the return of this great creature to our landscape at nearly 500,000 head and growing.
I once thought knitting was designed to keep old ladies off the street. I only dared to try it when my Swedish mother-in-law, Eva, stayed with us one Christmas and she bravely engaged in the daunting task to teach my fumble fingers how to manipulate pointy sticks and yarn into something that looked like a scarf. Although I my hands felt the sting of being swatted for wrong moves, and a few under-the-breath Swedish rants rolled out while I dropped stitches, Eva eventually coaxed a scarf into existence, we remained friends, and a knitter was born.
Living near Yellowstone National Park with my new yarn and fiber fascination it seemed only natural for me to ask, “Do bison have anything under that furry winter coat?” The answer was, “Yes.” The next question was, “Where to get it?” Apparently, there are no bison hair stores. Bison ranchers became my new best friends and without knowing a thing I hauled several freshly harvested hides home to my back yard, where within hours they were no longer fresh. Getting hair off a hide was going to be a lot more complicated than I thought, a splash of eucalyptus oil under the nose would buy me time to figure it out.
After several years of figuring it out, I created Montana Sweater Co., using fibers from Montana ranched Bison, Sheep, and Alpaca’s to knit original designs in sweaters, hats, mitts, and felted garments. A local mill spins nearly 65% of the yarns I use, and a mill in Connecticut spins the rest. No harsh chemicals are used to treat the fibers at any time before or after they are spun. All ranched animals are treated humanely and with responsible ranching practices. If I didn’t use the bison hides, they would be thrown away.
In working with bison hides the past eight years, I have experienced a kind of rebirth. I didn’t know the challenge to engineer new and better ways to get the hides from stretcher to sweater would keep me up at night. I didn’t know I would be excited to find the right fleshing knife, or become interested in average fiber length. I have designed ways to hoist the hides, wash the hides, shear the hair, and separate the hair. I have taken those ideas apart and redesigned them after failures so frustrating I sent obscenities and objects flying. A moth infestation almost put me out of business, but I have learned to suck it up and deal with the smell of blood and dirt and poo and putrid meat. The day I almost quit, it was way below freezing, I had slipped on an ice patch and fell beneath a hide I had just hoisted, its fluids rank and yellow and bloody dripped into my hair and down my back. Fear and self pity gave way to a crying jag witnessed only by impatient magpies waiting for me to flesh bison meat and fat in their direction. A persistent voice that lives inside said, “Get up! Get up. You can’t quit now. You only fell. GET UP!” So I got back up.
I’ll fall again, I already have. But the bison aren’t dying or dead, they are back on the landscape, because we decided to rebirth them. They are feeding us spiritually and physically again, in order to rebirth us. Their hides are not thrown away if I can help it, and I see them as very much alive in my backyard, and again in a knitted garment for you to wear. Enjoy your adventure to Antarctica, think of me and the bison. We are with you, and hope you stay safe and warm.
—- Jennifer Olsson

Click Here  To Visit Montana Sweater Co’s Site

Patagonia Company

Calvert Investments is providing the three women with winter wear from Patagonia Company. Below is a company profile that illustrates the reason behind this choice.

One of the most socially responsible companies around, Patagonia designs and markets rugged outdoor clothing and accessories to climbers, skiers, surfers, fishermen and more – that handle extreme conditions worldwide, including travel to Antarctica. Privately held, the company has 30 stores within the U.S. and more than 40 abroad. The company offers its employees great benefits, including on-site daycare, full medical benefits, flex-time, time to surf or be outside, an organic café, free yoga, a meditation room, and also encourages employees to support environmental work. Patagonia was one of the first California companies to sign up as a B Corporation, meaning the company has incorporated its values into its legal charter.
Deeply weaving social and environmental sustainability into the fabric of its culture and work as well as into numerous initiatives, the company gives 1% of its sales income away to 650 environmental organizations and has encouraged other companies to join in the process. The company is also addressing climate change by reducing its environmental footprint, including tracking its emissions and using renewable energy. The company founded the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in conjunction with Walmart, inviting other brands to join them in the development of clear quantifiable standards for environmentally responsible production of clothing, such as reductions of packaging and water use.
The company has led the industry with its sustainable manufacturing practices.  An early innovator, the company switched in 1996 from conventional to organic cotton as a result of the latter being less harmful to the environment, despite it costing more at the time, and created fleece jackets made from soda bottles. The company sells practical and timeless products and encourages consumers to replace them less frequently, reduce waste, repair their existing items and overall, reduce consumption. Customers can also donate their older clothing for reuse or recycling. Patagonia continues to innovate, anticipating the introduction of the first plant-based wetsuits later this year. While traditional neoprene suits are made from a non-renewable petroleum-based material, the new suits reduce CO2 emissions during production by 80%. The company plans to share the material with surf competitors, seeking to move the industry toward cleaner practices.
The company expanded into sustainable food, with a line that includes dried sustainably caught wild sockeye salmon sourced directly from First Nations, and also launched a venture fund to aid innovative start-ups with solutions for the environmental crisis and other positive changes through business. More recently, the company audited its supply chain and found migrant workers in some locations working in forced-labor arrangements. As a result, it is now collaborating to create a comprehensive migrant-worker standard and explain it to company suppliers.
While no company is perfect, Patagonia stands above many others for its strong sustainability commitments. We are proud to have selected Patagonia gear, as much for the company’s care of the Earth and social responsibility, as for the stellar quality of the gear, as we support the 2041 Foundation and these three young female leaders as they commence their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica.

Click Here  To Visit Patagonia’s Site