The Cleanest Line

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    Working for Wildness – Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2013

    By Yvon Chouinard

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    “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

    This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.

    I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.

    [Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]

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    Keeping Our Waters Swimmable – Bioswale Project at Patagonia HQ and Swimmable California Day

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    Over the past couple of years, and recently through the Our Common Waters campaign, Patagonia has focused our attention on one of the more challenging water pollution issues: stormwater runoff. When rainfall hits an impermeable surface – such as a parking lot, roof or sidewalk – it runs off, carrying with it all sorts of unsavory stuff: trash, animal waste, oil, gasoline, detergents, pesticides, chemical residues, and heavy metals like copper and lead. Basically, everything on the surface is washed away. This stormwater runoff flows to the lowest point in the area which is usually a storm drain. And from there it flows into a channel, a creek or river, and in coastal areas directly into the ocean without being filtered or cleaned.

    Polluted runoff is the number one source of contamination to California waters. Contamination from polluted runoff at Southern California beaches sickens approximately one million swimmers every year. Here in Ventura, where our headquarters are located, swimmers and surfers are strongly advised to stay out of the ocean for 72 hours after it rains. And polluted runoff to the coast threatens California’s $40 billion ocean-based economy. California Coastkeeper Alliance is partnering with businesses like Patagonia to get the word out about these serious health and economic impacts and tackle polluted runoff.

    This is our ocean, our coast, and our local rivers and streams. It matters to us what’s going in our waters.

    [Above: Patagonia’s Ventura, California headquarters front entrance. This walkway runs over a newly constructed bioswale that filters runoff from our parking lots. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    DamNation – 80,000 Dams, 51 Interviews and One Film

    By Katie Klingsporn

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    In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
     
    It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.

    [Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]

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    The Infamous Stringdusters Open 2013 American Rivers Tour at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market

    By The Infamous Stringdusters & American Rivers



    Having just been dusted at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I couldn't be more excited to hear about this tour in support of American Rivers. Check out the press release and tour dates below; you don't want to miss this band. Video: The Infamous Stringdusters
     
     
    Grammy-nominated bluegrass outfit The Infamous Stringdusters are getting set to embark on their 2013 American Rivers Tour, an epic summer music adventure stopping through, and winding down, some of America’s wildest and most beloved rivers and surrounding communities. For the journey, The Infamous Stringdusters are partnering with the nation’s leading river conservation organization, American Rivers – currently celebrating its 40th anniversary – to raise money and awareness for protecting and restoring rivers and clean water nationwide.

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    Fracking In Our Backyard

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    Through our current campaign, Our Common Waters, and with exposure to increased oil and gas development near our homes and communities, we have grown concerned about hydraulic fracturing (commonly called "fracking") and its impact on water, air, soil, wildlife habitat, and human health. Over 90% of oil and gas wells in the U.S. use fracking to aid in extraction, and many fracking fluids and chemicals are known toxins for humans and wildlife.

    For decades, natural gas (methane) deposits were tapped by single wells drilled vertically over large, free-flowing pockets of gas. Then came fracking, a water- and chemical-intensive method that promised the profitable extraction of natural gas trapped in shale.

    [Above: A natural gas fracking site in Erie, Colorado across the field from an elemetary school. Photo: Topher Donahue]

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    Solutions Series, Part 1: The Babies in the River

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_leonardOnce upon a time in a riverside village, a woman noticed a shocking sight: a drowning baby, crying its lungs out, being washed downriver. She rushed to save it, rescuing the baby just before it went over the falls at the edge of town.

    The next day there were two babies in the river; the day after, three more, then four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them, too. When babies kept washing downstream, the village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Still the babies kept coming. So the community installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was still overwhelmed trying to save them the babies.

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    Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 4, The Movement

    By Kate Ross, International Rivers



    Patagonia is one of the few precious places on the planet where the array of natural beauty still defies human imagination. You are forced to think of new adjectives to describe the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains and the glaciers that stand juxtaposed with green rolling hills and sheer rock faces. And through all of this flow the beguiling blues and greens of Patagonia’s largest and most powerful rivers – the Baker and the Pascua. As you stand by the side of the Baker River, the roar of the current drowns out any other sounds and the pulse of the river consumes you and transports you. It is a place unlike any other I have experienced.

    The campaign to protect Patagonia – and specifically the mighty rivers of the region – has become the largest environmental struggle in the country’s history. Chileans have shown their opposition to HidroAysén by taking to the streets in the thousands. Most recently – as you see in Q’s film above – in response to a Supreme Court ruling in April 2012 in favor of HidroAysén, and before this in the lead-up to and after-math of the approval of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2011.

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    Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 3, The Alternatives

    By Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate for the NRDC



    “El Norte tiene el mejor potencial solar en el mundo. ¡En el mundo! ¿Pues por qué quieren represas en el Sur? Es una locura. Absolutamente una locura.”

    “The North of Chile has the best solar potential in the world. In the world! So why do they want dams in the South? It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.”

    A taxi driver told me these words in May 2011 on the way from the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport to my hotel in Santiago, and they have stuck with me ever since. Just days earlier, Chile’s authorities had approved the massive $10 billion HidroAysén project – five dams proposed on two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers – despite the woeful quality of the project’s environmental impact assessment and the fact that the large majority of Chileans were against the dams. The approval immediately launched demonstrations throughout the country – the largest protests the country had seen in over 20 years. 

    I was not, in fact, in town to participate in the protests. I had come to Chile to present the results of a new study from NRDC about the levelized cost of energy in Chile.* NRDC had commissioned the analysis to test the argument I had heard many times in Chile: that renewables were too expensive to be developed at scale. The results of the study put that argument to rest: it showed that Chile’s biomass, biogas, geothermal, mini-hydro, and wind power options were already cost-competitive with the conventional energies – coal, diesel, and large hydro – in 2011. It also proved that solar would also be cost-competitive in a matter of years.

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    Lockwood Animal Rescue Center visits Patagonia Reno

    By Laurel Winterbourne

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    Danny sleeps peacefully curled up in the corner while Matt, in his boisterous voice, tells the story of Danny’s heroic rescue and horrific existence in captivity in Alaska. On the other side of the room his counterpart Willow sways with sleepiness, falling over every few seconds. She is new to the group and a little more timid with the fifty or so strangers staring at her. She doesn’t want to let her guard down, but exhaustion overwhelms her. It was a long trip from the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) in Ventura County to Patagonia’s Service Center in Reno, Nevada.

    It’s hard to imagine that Danny Boy was treated so cruelly when he walks up and licks the faces of the crowd. He was held in captivity as part of a roadside attraction where 29 wolves and wolfdogs were chained up with no more than a few feet to walk around while people paid $5 to toss them a treat. The wolves, only fed every few days, were chained just far enough away from each other that they never touched, surviving thirty below temperatures surrounded by twelve feet of snow. There was no water for them in the winter; they were dependent on the snow and ice for hydration. It was a cruel existence.

    [Above: Andrew and Danny Boy address the crowd. All photos by Glenda Dudley]

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    Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 2, The History

    By Craig Childs, video by Rios Libres



    It was a good rain that morning in Aysén up a glacial tributary of the Rio Baker. Drips came down through the roof of a one-room house where a young man named Filipe Henriquez stood next to the crackling cocina telling me about how the privatization of water in Chile, the selling of rivers, has interrupted the flow of life. Henriquez said, “My father can’t take water out of the Baker for his livestock. It was sold to HidroAysén. It belongs to Endesa and Colbún. Sure, you can irrigate with it, but it is illegal.”

    Endesa, a multinational power company owned by the Italian energy giant Enel joined the Chilean energy company Colbún in planning to dam the Baker and other rivers in this un-dammed region.

    The table in the house was made with a chainsaw, and on it stood a half-melted candle and an empty wine bottle from the night before. We had just finished breakfast.

    Continue reading "Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 2, The History" »

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