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Farm to Feet: An Exemplary Sustainable Business

Farm to Feet practices sustainability

Farm to Feet practices sustainability

Farm to Feet™ is committed to the single, simple goal of creating the world’s best wool socks for hiking, skiing and sports while having as little impact on the environment as possible. One part of the brand’s recipe for sustainability uses all-American materials, manufacturing, and workers. With its supply chain completely within the US, Farm to Feet is able to ensure the highest quality materials and end products. Farm to Feet was launched in 2013 by Nester Hosiery, a leading U.S. manufacturer of performance merino wool socks.

Nester Hosiery has been highly involved with the development of the Higg Index and the first sock manufacturer to submit a facility self-assessment to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index in 2012.  The Higg Index tool has allowed Nester to both assess and to obtain insights on areas for improvement in operational sustainability. For example, these insights have helped them reduce their solid waste by 35% over the past four years.

Farm to Feet socks are comfortable and durable

Farm to Feet socks are comfortable and durable

Not only are the materials for Farm to Feet socks sourced entirely from its U.S. supply chain, but they go one step further and source all of their packaging and point-of-sale displays domestically – making Farm to Feet 100% American. Nester Hosiery employs nearly 200 people in its Mount Airy, NC facility where it operates state-of-the-art knitting, finishing, and packaging equipment to make socks for the world’s toughest critics.

The Farm to Feet socks are made using US-grown merino wool, and American-made nylon and spandex.  Merino wool is a durable fiber that keeps the user warm and breaths well to keep the user dry. Nylon and Spandex are critical components of a great pair of performance socks. Nylon is important for providing structure, durability, and reinforcing high impact areas like the heel and toe. Spandex is essential for providing stretch and ensuring the perfect fit from the welt through the toe.

Once the wool is delivered from western states to the East coast all manufacturing, finishing, and packaging takes place within about 300 miles.  Along with a small transportation footprint the socks are knit in a mill that is driven by sustainability.  


Nester Hoisery is a bluesign facility

Nester Hoisery is a bluesign facility

Nester has also recently become the first US sock manufacturer to join the bluesign system. As a bluesign system facility, Nester Hosiery has the ability to produce bluesign certified products, whereby all steps in the process needs to be done in bluesign certified facilities with bluesign certified materials. The bluesign certification process took more than a year where the company proved its ability to implement bluesign's stringent criteria for environment protection, occupational health and safety as well as for consumer safety.

Over the past five years, Nester has reduced its water and energy usage through the implementation of steam tumblers (reduced washing and drying steps, time, water, and energy), dumpster dive initiatives, and a proprietary software built from the bottom up to track materials, processes, manufacturing, and shipping.

Farm to Feet uses Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper for its packaging. The FSC logo is printed on all of the new packaging, which  is smaller, allowing cases to be packed more efficiently, which helps reduce transportation emissions, while also using less paper. Some of the new packaging is already in stores, and the company will continue to transition away from the larger old packaging throughout 2018. Furthermore, Farm to Feet requires all packaging suppliers to use vegetable-based inks.

A benefit of sourcing textiles from the US is the federal and local regulations that are in place to help protect company employees and the environment. Most industrial manufacturers that are dyeing textiles are required to have their own waste water treatment plants to clean any outputs before it enters a municipality’s system. To help ensure that Farm to Feet are using dyes, softeners and finishes that are safe for workers, the planet and consumers. Suppliers are required to comply with the bluesign system.

Farm to Feet’s wool is supplied from American Sheep Industry Association member ranches. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), along with its member farmers and ranchers, promote and encourage the training of proper sheep handling and shearing. ASI provides its members with the Sheep Care Guide, an educational document for proper care, handling and management of sheep as an industry standard for sheep care. ASI also sponsors training for sheep shearers and provides educational material on proper shearing techniques.

Farm to Feet uses merino wool that is grown by American Sheep Industry ranchers and after shearing, it is processed into clean wool top by Chargeurs Wool in Jamestown, SC. From there, the wool is spun into yarn by spinners such as Kent Wool in Pickens, SC and National Spinning in Burlington, NC. After spinning, the yarn arrives at Nester’s sustainability-focused manufacturing facility in Mt. Airy, NC and knit into socks. It doesn’t get much better than that to go from the Farm to Feet™.


Retail display of Farm to Feet socks

Retail display of Farm to Feet socks

The Farm to Feet brand understands that in order to fully appreciate the world’s best American-made socks one must have outdoor places to use them in. As a proud member of the Conservation Alliance, Farm to Feet supports and funds the organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values and it also works closely with other organizations in support of efforts to ensure that future generations can enjoy the outdoors.

All Farm to Feet products are guaranteed for life and if customers are not completely satisfied with the durability or performance of their Farm to Feet socks, they can return them and request either a replacement pair or a refund with proof of purchase from an authorized retailer. All returned socks are recycled, which fits well with the other sustainable practices at the company.


Jiminy Peak is One of the Most Sustainable Ski Resorts

Jiminy turbine.jpg

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort located in the heart of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts constructed a 2.3 megawatt community solar facility located on 12 acres of the ski area and resort's property, owned and operated by nexamp. Renewable energy is not new to the resort – back in 2007 it was the first ski area in North America to generate power from its own GE 1.5 MW wind turbine.

The solar project significantly expanded Jiminy Peak's renewable energy program, while extending the environmental and cost-saving benefits of solar to up to 200 neighboring homes and small businesses. By adding the solar power facility to Jiminy Peak's existing wind turbine, 75 kWh cogeneration unit, and extensive conservation efforts, the resort can claim to be one of the few resorts in the U.S. powered 100% by renewable energy and one of the most sustainable energy ski resorts.

Solar and Wind Energy

Jiminy solar.jpg

The solar project significantly expanded Jiminy Peak's renewable energy program. All power generated by the 7,500-module solar facility is exported to the grid. Resort president Tyler Fairbank said, "We receive net metering credits in return. Half the net metering credits are utilized by Jiminy Peak and the balance by about 200 neighboring homes and small businesses in the local area."

The resort uses all the power generated by the wind turbine according to Jim Van Dyke, vice president of environmental sustainability, and a veteran 43-year employee who commented “The turbine handles 33% of our energy needs on an annual basis, up to 66% in the winter when the winds blow strongest. Any excess energy is sent out to the grid and Jiminy receives a net metering credit, which is used when we need to purchase energy from the grid. So in that fashion we now use 100% of the electricity that the turbine generates.”

Lighting, Recycling, and Cogeneration

Jiminy has upgraded to more efficient lighting and programmable thermostats in the lodges, and the resort more than doubled the energy efficiency of the lights used on the slopes for night skiing. In the Country Inn, 658 lights were converted to  LEDs to be more efficient and 230 slopeside lights have been replaced with lighter, brighter, more energy efficient LED lighting covering 60 percent of the mountain. The difference has been likened to that between a manila envelope and a white envelope.           

Waste oil is taken from snowmaking compressors, grooming machines, and all vehicles to heat the Mountain Operations building using approximately 200 gallons of waste oil per year and the process avoids the storage and disposal of old used oil.

Jiminy Peak installed a cogeneration unit in the Country Inn. The unit uses propane gas that powers a turbine that in turn produces hot water for use throughout the Inn. This hot water also provides the heating source for the central core of the building that includes the year-round outdoor pool, hot tubs, and John Harvard's Restaurant & Brewery, too.

Using the heat from two snowmaking compressors to heat 34,000 square feet of space in 3 Village Center buildings avoids the need of an equivalent of 63,800 kWh.

The towel and sheet program in the lodge rooms saves about 25,000 gallons of water a year by only washing the sheets and towels when requested by guests staying for more than one night. They've eliminated the use of toxic cleaning agents and only use green, biodegradable solvents and cleaners. Conversion to waterless urinals in bathrooms of several buildings and at JJ's Lodge saves 40,000 gallons of water per urinal.


Zephyr Wind Turbine is a selfie magnet atop Jiminy Peak!

Zephyr Wind Turbine is a selfie magnet atop Jiminy Peak!

Jiminy averages 615 acre feet of snow per winter using machine-made snow and approximately 123,000,000 gallons of water. The entire 450-gun snowmaking arsenal was replaced with energy-efficient Snowgun Technologies “Sledgehammer” snowguns. The new guns convert more water with less air and at warmer temperatures than traditional snowguns. This means the resort runs air compressors for fewer hours, consuming less electricity, while producing 100% more snow (assuming Mother Nature cooperates).  

For example, the snowmaking system's old technology would have required 4,566,100 kWh ten years ago versus 1,368,326 kWh today. The annual savings is 70% in energy or 3,197,774 kWh.

Slope Grooming

Jiminy Peak has equipped two PistenBully groomers with digital mapping and GPS to tell drivers exactly how much snow is beneath their treads, blades and rollers. The maps are based on aerial photography captured during summer, and are accurate to within two inches (5 cm). “Rather than eyeball it, the SNOWSat technology allows us to more precisely gauge depth and place more snow where the cover is thin, and less where the cover is already sufficient for skiing or riding. This means fewer passes by groomers,” Van Dyke explains, noting that Jiminy Peak is one of only a few resorts in the U.S. using the new technology. 

Speaking of groomers, Jiminy Peak is purchasing the new energy efficient Pisten Bully 600 E+ snowcat, one of three in use in the northeast. Kassbohrer’s Pisten Bully “Green Machine” 600E+ is the world’s first groomer with a diesel-electric drive. One of the most significant advancements in snowgrooming technology over the past two decades, the 600 E+ uses a diesel engine to drive two electric generators which power electric motors that turn the tracks and the snow tiller. It reduces the emission of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxides by 20%, produces 99% fewer sooty particles and registers a 20% fuel savings over their standard 600 model.


There are plans at Jiminy Peak for the installation of four EV charging stations, working with an Albany, N.Y. EV Drivers Club, with support from Tesla. Van Dyke notes that EV car owners, in addition to saving on fossil fuels, will be recharging with renewable electricity generated by both solar and wind.

Jiminy Peak has won environmental recognition, but awards are not why Jiminy Peak Resorts conserves and invests in renewable energy. Fairbank reflected, "Conservation is practiced every day at Jiminy Peak. It's part of our corporate DNA. We have an in-house energy management team that conducts an on-going and aggressive program to help us to identify and curtail energy waste and research ways to source 100 percent of our energy from renewable resources. They are constantly evaluating opportunities for savings. Our renewable efforts have come from facilities we've built and we’re proud for reaching 100% of our electricity energy, which is from local, on site-generated renewable resources."

Alaskan XC Sk Racer Kikkan Randall Opines about Climate Change


In early September during President Obama's visit to Alaska, an op-ed piece in the Alaska Dispatch News was written by 4-time Olympian and 3-time World Cup Cross Country Ski Sprint Champion Kikkan Randall. Kikkan grew up in Anchorage and wanted to opine about a topic she feels deeply about - climate change.

"Cross-country skiing is my job, my passion and my life. I'm an Alaskan, and like many Alaskans I got my first skis around the same time I learned to walk. To me, snow is family. Skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and simply playing in the snow are how we form friendships as children, how we bond as families, how we connect as communities."

"This summer, hundreds of fires encompassing nearly five million acres burned across Alaska. People in the Lower 48 have a hard time believing this. They think of Eskimos and polar bears when they think of Alaska. Forest fires are for hot and dry places, for Colorado and Idaho and New Mexico. Increasingly, they are the norm up here, too. The patterns we knew as children are changing."

Randall recalled that as a child, she visited a local glacier remembering how cool it was to watch the glacier calve right there in front of her eyes. Thirty years later, that glacier is no longer visible from the visitor's center. Children visiting today can no longer experience that powerful natural force as she did.

In summer, Randall trains on the glacial snowfield above Girdwood, Alaska and has watched that glacier change before her eyes through the years. "Every year there are more crevasses, more runoff, more melting."

While racing on the World Cup circuit for nine years she's witnessed the global winter meltdown firsthand. "More than half of International Ski Federation (FIS) competitions are now held on machine-made snow. Even with snowmaking, however, national and international cross-country races are being canceled at an increasing rate because temperatures are not cold enough to make snow. You don't have to be a scientist to understand this.

Randall commented that Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the United States over the past 60 years. "We are on the front lines of change. Speak to the residents of Kotzebue or Kivalina about thawing permafrost, (which is especially problematic as it'll release toxic methane from lake bottoms), or the disappearance of sea ice and storm surges making relocation of all the residents an almost certainty."

During his visit, President Obama talked to locals when he traveled to Alaska and became the first sitting president to ever visit the Arctic Circle. He saw the impacts of climate change for himself. Randall hopes that Obama's trip to Alaska pushes him to make climate action a part of his legacy.

Obama had already begun to act with the Clean Power Plan announced in early August to begin cleaning up the nation's power plants, which are the source of 40% of American carbon emissions. Alaskan Senator Murkowski lobbied successfully to have Alaska exempted from the plan, with which every other state must comply.

Randall feels that Alaska should lead by example, not seek exemptions from climate action. "In Alaska, the replacement costs of public infrastructure from climate change could be as much as $6.1 billion over the next 20 years, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will cost $125 million to relocate just one of the many villages impacted by rising sea levels. And the area burned by wildfires in Alaska is projected to double by mid-century and to triple by the end of the century."

"The social costs will be even greater. Native American culture, entire villages and ancestral hunting and fishing grounds, could be lost forever." Randall calls on Alaskans to show support for the Clean Power Plan and climate action.

Kikkan Randall has spent her life nurturing speed and she urges everyone to act fast to safeguard snow and winter and Alaska. "We must harness our collective power as citizens to make change. It's time to fly, to go fast."

Photo: Kikkan Randall Victory lap; US Ski Team