Announcing The Footprint Chronicles
I love to cook and as I've ventured into new cuisines found myself with a whole new spice rack sporting names like fenugreek, nigella and star anise. I also found myself wanting a spice grinder to go with all these wonderful recipes but couldn’t bring myself to spend the money. My coffee grinder worked just fine; I just had to clean it out each time to get rid of the coffee taste.
One afternoon, with a rare few minutes free, I browsed through the sale section of a kitchen store: Lo and behold there was a coffee grinder for $5! No more cleaning before grinding. I plucked it off the shelf. But before I got to the counter I started thinking about our new project, The Footprint Chronicles.
Did I really need a second grinder? Was its addition to my life worth the small but additional environmental cost?
Those are the questions we've been asking at Patagonia, as we started to look at the impact of our own rather sizeable footprint, beginning with a tight circle around our core facilities: offices, customer service center and retail stores. Quickly we realized that if we were to really be honest with ourselves about the impact we have as a company, we needed to branch out to include our supply chain. A daunting task at best.
We have begun. The Footprint Chronicles trace the environmental path, or much of the path, of five specific products from origin as fiber to delivery to our Reno warehouse. We estimate the carbon dioxide generated and distance traveled by each product.
When we got started, people gave us conflicting advice. Some said, "Just start, don’t let the magnitude paralyze you.” Others said, "Be very careful and thorough if you're going to say anything at all." I think we have landed somewhere in between. We have been very earnest in our attempt to show a picture of what it looks like behind the scenes but we have a long way to go.
This project started as part of my responsibility as the Environmental Analysis Director for Patagonia but it's carrying over into my everyday life. I loved that lucky find in the kitchen store but after a minute or two had to reconsider. It makes more sense to use the one grinder for two tasks. Alas, I'll still be wiping off the coffee residue before I grind my spices.
[Editor's note: The Footprint Chronicles lives in a new section of Patagonia.com called "Leading the Examined Life." Also available in this section: downloadable PDFs that talk about our paper policy, product care tips, baselayer packaging, the Footprint Chronicles methodology, and the Footprint Chronicles references.]