Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer, Terry Lin, shares about Outer's journey towards a sustainable future.
Outer was founded with a mission to get people outside. That means crafting furniture that enables people to easily spend time in their own backyards. We set out to create the world’s most comfortable, durable, innovative, and sustainable outdoor furniture. We want people to help take care of our planet so future generations can continue to enjoy it.
There’s an inherent paradox in making furniture for outdoor use: plastic is one of the few materials that can withstand the natural wear and tear of living outside. Knowing that, we go to great lengths to mitigate its environmental impact in other ways.
There are a few ways we can try to do things a little bit better. The easiest thing we can do to show we care is to donate part of our proceeds to fight plastic pollution. But it gets deeper from there, into tangible actions. When we’re designing new products, we think about sustainability from every level— from what it takes to manufacture the product to what will happen at the end of its (long) lifespan.
On the product side, we’re committed to reusing materials that already exist. There are about 99 plastic bottles diverted from landfills and oceans in every one of our chairs, and our outdoor rugs are made from 100% post-consumer plastics. When we design new products, we stay true to those values, even (or perhaps, especially) when we’re told that our standards are impossibly high.
Case in point: Designing our fabrics was an uphill battle. We wanted fabrics that were free from harsh dyes and chemicals, that would still feel good to the touch. Everyone told us what we wanted didn’t exist— so we went out and invented it. The whole reason we joined 1% For the Planet starts with the example set by Yvon Chouinard, the pioneering environmentalist and business man who founded the outdoor goods company, Patagonia. His insistence that a company should stay true to what it believes in is something we both respect and aspire to.
And on the partnership side, we’ve teamed up with the 5 Gyres Institute, whose mission is to fight the global health crisis of plastic pollution. The ever-growing and passionate 5 Gyres team is published in over 25 peer-reviewed scientific journals, papers, and studies on plastic pollution. Their research has successfully caused changes to public policy, such as the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. In 2016, they created the Plastics BAN (Better Alternatives Now) List (and since have released List 2.0), identifying the world’s most dangerous plastics and suggesting alternatives on the market today.
Our decision to partner with 5 Gyres was intentional, both from an ideological perspective and a practical one: we’re both based in California, and we specifically wanted to support a local organization. We want to actually engage with our partners on a face-to-face level whenever possible.
As we continue to grow, we’ll continue to design and launch more products in line with their belief system. We started the company under the premise that we deserve to exist if our customers love what we do— not just the product, but also our values and mission. And we’ll continue putting together the many puzzle pieces that constitute “sustainability” on all levels. We see ourselves as a small piece of a bigger engine that will ultimately help create change.