Because the greenest product is the one that already exists.
-from the Patagonia website
Patagonia is a clothing company that’s taking sustainability seriously.
I’ve been meaning to write about them ever since they ran an ad on Black Friday that read “Don’t buy this jacket,” with this copy:
The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2 Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste… There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.
We’re then invited to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge, which asks you to reduce, reuse, and repair. Only when you’ve exhausted the usefulness of your item, should you then recycle. And then Patagonia introduces a the fifth R, to reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.
It all seems counter-intuitive and somewhat gimmicky, and at the time I thought the selling point was that their clothing was hardy and well-made from quality fabrics and therefore long-lasting; so by BUY LESS they really meant buy Patagonia and you won’t need to buy as often. Which, don’t get me wrong, is a very valid argument.
But Patagonia totally seems to be putting their money where their mouth is.
- You can have your clothing repaired and your footwear resoled through the company; they will pay for repairs that they’re responsible for and charge a fair price for repairs due to normal wear and tear.
- You can recycle your Patagonia clothing by sending it to them or dropping off at a store, “ideally, while you’re running other errands, to reduce environmental impact.” What’s salvageable is repurposed. Totally worn out garments are recycled into new fiber or fabric.
- The cycle is closed with items for purchase made from recycled textiles.
- “Nothing wearable should be hoarded; useful things should be in circulation.” Patagonia has established an online store on eBay green where you can resell your used clothing or buy from other sellers. Since their clothing is built to last, these recycled items are likely to be in good condition.
- The company donates factory seconds to activists in the field and to those who have lost their belongings in disasters.
- The site allows you to ask questions about the product right there on the item description page, which helps you to make the right decisions as to fit and suitability. How is that eco fashion? Let me ask you… how many times have you bought something only to have it languish in your closet because the fit was off? Not to mention the resources saved by not having to do a return.
- And finally, Patagonia is one of California’s first Benefit Corporations, meaning that the company is committed to achieving “general public benefit.” While other companies are legally bound to maximize profits,
Companies that incorporate as Benefit Corps must consider an array of stakeholders beyond shareholders, including workers, suppliers, the environment and the local community. They must measure their progress toward that goal against a third-party standard.
It’s a solid, all-around corporate ethic, one that a person can be proud to support with their dollar. Hopefully it’s sustainable for them as a company— inspiring others to follow suit.
I’ve never purchased anything Patagonia. Will I love it?