Making a Difference: Patagonia

By: Gunnar Suidinski

What do you know about the clothing line Patagonia? Most would say that Patagonia is a brand that retails outdoor clothing and gear. Now that is not wrong, for decades Patagonia has been marketing sustainable outdoor apparel all over the world in many different countries. One thing you most likely didn’t know is that Patagonia holds ethical and environmental issues close to its core. Their mission is to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Patagonia was founded in 1973 in Ventura, California. The man behind it all, Yvon Chouinard. To get the full story behind how Patagonia came to be we have to go back in time. Growing up Yvon began climbing. According to allgoodtales.com, “As he got older Yvon became more involved, climbing became his way of life. Environmentally conscious, Yvon noticed the damage his climbing equipment was having on the rock faces. To try and prevent further damage he began making his own equipment. This effort to look after the environment would become a driving force behind the ethos of the business.” Soon Yvon would find that clothing. On a climbing trip to Scotland Yvon purchased a rugby shirt to wear during his climb. The rugby shirt ended up surviving the climb and the collar of the shirt protected his neck from not allowing the hardware slings from cutting. After returning home, Yvon continued to wear rugby jerseys while climbing, and it soon became the new fashion trend. Yvon saw this opportunity and ran with it. He and his team would go on to order jerseys from England, which would sell out fast. They then ordered more from New Zealand and Argentina that would also sell out. “By 1972 they had expanded further. They were now selling rain cagoules and bivouac sacks from Scotland, boiled-wool gloves and mittens from Austria and hand-knit reversible “schizo” hats from Boulder. As the clothing side to their company grew they decided it needed its own unique name. In 1973 Patagonia was born”(allgoodtales.com).

Patagonia is constantly trying to discover solutions to the environmental crisis, and ways to help out. First off is their 1% for the planet. Patagonia.com states, “Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. We’ve awarded over $140 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. In 2002, founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same.” Businesses who join this alliance understand the necessity of protecting the environment. Patagonia also supports local involvement through their action works program. Action works is a program run by Patagonia where individuals can see what volunteer opportunities and events are happening in their area. They are also lowering their emissions by using recycled materials and using organic methods. “Since 1996, all the virgin cotton in our line has been grown organically, without the use of harmful chemicals (and we make clothes with recycled cotton, too). By using organic cotton, we save water and reduce CO₂ emissions by 45% compared to conventional cotton. This season, 94% of our line uses recycled materials. Switching to recycling allowed us to avoid 4,300 metric tons of CO₂e, enough to power more than 500 homes for one year”(patagonia.com). Patagonia shows us in many different ways how a company can really make a difference in the world by working to help the environment crisis.

Lots of people love Patagonia, but on a shallow level. By this I mean that tons of people support the company and wear their clothing, but don’t necessarily purchase items to directly help their cause of helping the environment. Also some people don’t entirely love the cost of Patagonia products. Yes, I agree that some of their products can be a bit pricey at times, but that’s the cost that comes along with taking extra precautions to be cleaner and not produce as much pollution. Now the cause is something relatable for everyone. The problem is some people refuse to believe that it’s as big of an issue as it really is. Also some have the mentality of “I won’t be here when it matters, so why should I care?” Also there are plenty of people who have actually taken Patagonia’s mission to help the environment and adopted it as one of their own. On their website, Patagonia showcases these individuals and groups by supplying us with readings and films of their work with helping preserve and protect the environment.

Today Patagonia is one of the world’s leading environmentally friendly clothing brands. The company reaches far beyond clothing and is committed to teaching and training the next generation of environmental activists. Patagonia is doing this to continue their mission of finding a solution to the ongoing environmental crisis. There are opportunities for everyone to help out and protect the environment. Whether that be actively making a difference, or just spreading awareness to raise knowledge and concern about this issue. You can find more information about local opportunities in your area by visiting patagonia.com and going to their action works page. Here you can put in your location and it will give you the opportunities and events that are close by for you to attend. So what do you say? Lets save the environment of today, for the next generation of tomorrow!

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