Sustainable Style: Patagonia’s Quest to Become Carbon Neutral

In this blog series we want to highlight and applaud the outdoor brands who are making exceptional strides towards using more sustainable materials and practices. These companies work to create the quality gear we rely on while striving to preserve the quality land we thrive on.  While the outdoor industry is booming, so is the obsession of obtaining the hottest new gear each season. On a large scale, consumerism seems to be somewhat inevitable yet we can make an effort to make more educated purchases based on environmentally-sound factors and practices. Humans as a whole need to realize that every product or piece of gear that we use leaves an environmental and social footprint.  By recognizing how and which brands minimize that footprint, we can make more informed purchases and have a positive impact on our environment.

Since it was founded, Patagonia has been at the front line of efforts to steer the outdoor industry in a more sustainable direction.  While they recognize their carbon footprint and understand the consumerism conundrum, they have built their business model around reducing their impact on the environment.  They continue to take the initiative to audit the materials and methods used to make their products, take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products and examine how they use resources.  Not only does Patagonia work to reduce it’s carbon footprint but they strive to influence other companies to work in the right direction by setting the standard in activism.


PATAGONIA ACTION WORKS

“We believe the environmental crisis has reached a critical tipping point. Without commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, defend clean water and air, and divest from dirty technologies, humankind as a whole will destroy our planet’s ability to repair itself. At Patagonia, the protection and preservation of the environment isn’t what we do after hours. It’s the reason we’re in business and every day’s work.”

Since 1986, Patagonia has donated either 1% of their sales or 10% of profits to grassroots activist organizations or environmental charities. That 1% has turned into more than 100 million dollars given back to the planet! They started the “Patagonia Action Works” program to work to organize these efforts and connect committed individuals to organizations working on environmental issues in the same community. In 2002, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard, set out to spread this idea by helping to start the organization 1% for the Planet. The mission of this organization is simple: because companies profit from the resources they take from the earth, they should protect those resources. This mission has started to resonate around the globe with more than 1,800 members, in over 45 countries, coming together to protect the future of our planet.


MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY

Patagonia continually strives to find and use the most environmentally-friendly materials and technology regardless of the financial implications.  In 1996, after seeing the magnitude of effects from chemicals used on cotton fields, they vowed to use only organically-grown cotton in all of their products.  This action set the standard for other companies to follow in their footsteps. Not only do they look for materials that have a low environmental impact, they are also on the cutting edge of making new fabrics and technology from using recycled goods:

  • Patagonia collects recycled wool, nylon, goose and duck down, and reclaimed cotton to produce a number of their new products.
  • REFIBRA™ lyocell: Working with Lenzing, a manufacturer based in Austria, they created a collection of products made from REFIBRA™ lyocell fibers.  This material is a fabric made from 80% wood/20% recycled cotton scraps. The sustainably sourced wood cellulose offers an alternative to petroleum-based fibers; by using recycled cotton scraps they are able to help divert waste from landfills.
  • Recycled Polyester: In 1993, Patagonia became the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to transform plastic water bottles into fleece.  Today, they recycle used soda bottles, unusable manufacturing waste and worn-out garments into polyester fibers to produce a number of their garments, including Capilene® baselayers, shell jackets, board shorts and fleece.
  • Yulex: In 2008, after learning of the environmental impact of neoprene, they partnered with a company called Yulex to develop a renewable, plant-based replacement for their wetsuits.
  • BLUESIGN® STANDARD: Patagonia has worked with bluesign® technologies since 2000 to evaluate and reduce resource consumption in their materials supply chain, and to assist with managing the chemicals, dyes and finishes used in the process.

WORN WEAR PROGRAM

Worn Wear is Patagonia’s program that keeps your gear in action longer.  They help you repair, share and recycle your Patagonia products. They realize the importance of getting more use out of their products and cutting down on over consumption.  Visit their site for more information or to recycle or buy used gear!


THE FUTURE

Patagonia’s most recent mission states “We’re in business to save our home planet”, and that’s no joke.  Their goal is to be carbon neutral across their entire business including its supply chain by 2025! Patagonia’s supply chain accounts for 97 percent of their carbon emissions. Being carbon neutral means that they will eliminate, capture or otherwise mitigate all of the carbon emissions that they create.  This includes everything from the factories that make their textiles and finished clothing to the farms that grow their natural fibers to the extent of shipping goods from warehouses and stores to the customer’s doorsteps.  Not only is their goal to become carbon neutral but they aim to be carbon positive in the foreseeable future. Here are the admirable goals that they are striving to achieve:

  • We will use only renewable electricity for our Patagonia retail stores, distribution centers, regional and global offices and headquarters by 2020. As of fall 2018, we are at 100 percent renewable electricity in the U.S. and 76 percent globally.
  • We will use only renewable or recycled materials in our products by 2025. As of fall 2018, 51 percent of our materials by weight are renewable or recycled; by fall 2019 we will be at 69 percent.
  • Reduce energy use throughout our supply chain, work with suppliers to convert to renewable energy and invest in renewable energy projects to cover the remainder of our carbon footprint.
  • Using the new Regenerative Organic Certification, expand regenerative organic agriculture as the source of fiber for our apparel and our food for Patagonia Provisions to restore topsoil and capture carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • Invest in other carbon-capture projects, like reforestation, across the globe.
  • Grow our Worn Wear® program and make it a robust business unit that supports various initiatives that encourage reuse, repair and recycling to extend the life of products and reduce their environmental footprint.
  • Double down on grassroots climate action and our support of nonprofits fighting to protect our planet.
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