Ruff Wear is known for their tough dog toys and gear: stuff that lasts and makes hikes and playtime a lot more fun. This past year, Ruff Wear came out with a line of eco-sensitive gear, made from recycled materials and natural non-toxic rubbers. Inhabitat Test Dog, Cooper, recently had the opportunity to play with Ruff Wear’s new eco-sensitive line. While we admit that the dog will play with anything, especially sticks, he has grown awfully fond of his new toys. And after 2 months of tossing, gnawing, and tugging on them, they still look brand new. So for all of you with dogs who can destroy a new toy in minutes, Ruff Wear’s line of eco gear is definitely worth checking out.
Cooper is an 11-month old, half-lab, half-border collie. He is, on one hand, a hyperactive and crazy dog, and on the other, an 80-pound lap dog who cries when his momma is out of sight. Cooper enjoys long walks, digging in the snow, chewing sticks up, and bothering the neighbor’s dog. In the summers, he can be found stalking squirrels and swimming in the lake. He has sharp teeth and enough energy to power an electric Mini.
But he has yet to even put a dent in the TurnUp or the Gourdo, both made by Ruff Wear. Granted, the ropes they came with were chewed to threads after 2 days, but the toys last. And even better, they are made from natural and non-toxic latex rubber.
Cooper also tried out a new bed, the Mt. Bachelor Pad, named in tribute to the local mountain outside of Bend, Ore. where Ruff Wear is based. The pad is made from recycled fleece and a waterproof, nonslip, PVC-free recycled polycloth base. We love it because the pad rolls up tight and is easy to take with us, whether camping, to the office, or for an overnight at grandma’s. Cooper likes it because it is big and soft.
Ruff Wear’s line of to-go bowls are also made from recycled polyester and have completely replaced their original line. All-in-all the gear is very durable and well recommended by Cooper, the Inhabitat Test Dog.
We had a chance to chat with Lindsey Clark, Product Designer for Ruff Wear, about their new eco-sensitive gear.
The eco-sensitive materials seem just as hardy as the normal gear, did you have any issues getting the recycled materials to meet your standards?
Over the past few years, some big brands in the outdoor industry have worked hard to develop gear-worthy recycled polyester fabrics. Our friends at Osprey embody the open source philosophy that William McDonough has encouraged us all to adopt: when you learn about a new green material or manufacturing process, share it! We all benefit from greening our product lines; eco-sensitive materials should not constitute a competitive advantage. Osprey introduced us to HoYu Textile Co. in Taiwan, who creates fabrics from recycled polyester water bottles.
From a design standpoint, what kinds of things were you focused on? Strength, toxicity, suppliers, something else?
Durability is of top importance for Ruff Wear products. Dogs are incredibly hard on their gear, particularly when they are having the best time of their life: running on the trail, through the brambles, under the barbed wire, across the river, etc. Our product development process involves both internal and external wear testing and so far, we have not seen any durability problems with the recycled polyester fabrics.
Do you know if the eco-sensitive line is selling any better than any of the other gear?
Yes! It is hard to make a 1-to-1 comparison on our bowls, overcoats, or beds because the eco-sensitive option replaced the original. But on the Gourdo, we offer a regular version and a recycled version with 30% post-industrial regrind (a higher percentage resulted in a less durable toy that broke apart more easily). In the 2 months since the product launch, the recycled Gourdo has sold 50% more than the original.
Is Ruff Wear working towards changing their complete line to eco-sensitive materials?
Sustainability is very much a part of the culture here at Ruff Wear. Our eco-sensitive products are only one part of our “Green Paws” program. As a result, we’d ideally like to use only eco-sensitive materials in all our products. It is an integral part of the design process. The reality is that we have to balance our material choices between durability, sustainability, price, availability, aesthetics, comfort and functionality. At this point, we use sustainable materials wherever possible and plan to increase the amount of these materials over time.