HASTINGS, Minn. — While going to outdoor trade shows more than five years ago, Storm Creek President Doug Jackson got the idea to make a jacket that was partially made from recycled materials.

Jackson went overseas to look for materials. Traveling factory to factory with his request for recycled plastic material, he found he had little to choose from. After a hard search, he found a fabric that was right for the jacket.

“It was a beautiful jacket and it had every feature you could want,” Jackson said.

But when he took it back to shows the following year, people didn’t care that it was made out of recycled plastic pop bottles. At the time, the company decided to put the effort on the back burner given how much effort had to be put into making just one item.

Fast forward to today, and Storm Creek now has over 10 items with eco-friendly components in their 2020 collection.

“The big part of this, I think, is that the world has embraced it. Now when I go overseas and ask factories to show me all the fabrics they have that are recycled, I can get a whole stack of them,” Jackson said.

Quality is still on the mind when picking fabrics, Jackson added. Before when recycled fabrics were scarce, they would be tested for feel and performance. Many didn’t meet the standards that Storm Creek wished to uphold. Today, that is less of an issue with more options.

The shirts in the collection are made of 37% recycled plastics. One men’s shirt from the collection uses over six bottles worth of recycled plastic. For vests and jackets, Storm Creek uses eco-friendly Thermalite insulation, also made from recycled plastic.

To make a plastic bottle into a recycled fabric, the plastic bottle is chopped up into tiny pieces. Once chopped, the pieces are melted and formed into small beads. The beads are then stretched to make a fiber. The fiber is woven with other recycled fibers or other types of fabric. Jackson estimates that the company has recycled over 1.2 million bottles with its products.

Storm Creek isn’t stopping eco-friendly products with this collection, CEO Teresa Fudenberg said. “By 2022, our goal is for 100% of our product line to have an eco component.”

To do so, the team at Storm Creek is looking at what other products they can make out of recycled fabrics and how else they can make their products eco-friendly. This means constantly trying different products in new fabrics.

One item to look out for in the future is a revitalized version of the eco vest, which will feature a recycled fabric, along with the recycled plastic insulation. Storm Creek is also looking into what can be made of recycled materials for non-fabric components, like zippers.

“It’s fun because more people are taking it seriously now,” Jackson said. “It’s also fun for us because we can still make a good product, plus it feels better because it’s helping solve a problem.”