Every day is bike to work day at Patagonia, but we still love to celebrate Bike to Work Week around the company each year. Enjoy a recap of the 2012 festivities and make your own switch to a pedal-powered commute. We'll start with a story from mom and managing editor, Diane French.
I have a four and three-quarters year-old son (don’t be rounding that down or up or you’ll hear about it). That means everything in my house has a name. There’s Craney, the toy crane; Jadey, the jade plant; JuJu the pillow. Bikes, especially, have names. Orange Crush, my orange crossbike; Twilight, my townie; Fire Flame was Amato’s first pedal bike; now we have Blue Stash, his second. The blue trail-a-bike that I attach to Twilight to haul Amato to preschool is named Blueberry.
When I moved into the house in Dhaka where I lived in 1993, I noticed there was no wastebasket in my room. On my first trip to the market, I bought one – and soon discovered that throwing things “away” meant something different in the capital of Bangladesh than back home. What I threw into the trash quickly resurfaced in the community, put to another use. My blue flowered deodorant container turned up on a neighbor’s living room shelf as a vase for real flowers. A small boy stuck rods through my empty hair conditioner bottle and attached wheels, making a toy car he pulled around on a string.
The potential for reuse is everywhere. It’s like that folk tale many of us were read as kids. Joseph’s grandfather turns his favorite blanket into a jacket. Joseph wears it out, so Grandpa turns the jacket into a vest. The vest becomes a handkerchief. The handkerchief becomes a tie. The tie becomes a button. Finally the button is lost. Even Grandpa can’t make something from nothing – but the lesson about how Stuff can be repurposed and reused again and again is clear.
With help from Patagonia and other allies, we have forced the federal government to honor its obligations to wild fish and as a result tens of thousands more salmon and steelhead are now alive. This has bought time against extinction for these most imperiled wild fish. And we have built a lot of support for the largest river restoration ever done on earth, 140 miles of the lower Snake River. The American Fisheries Society’s western division calls this the surest way to restore the Snake’s salmon and steelhead.
[Above: Sockeye Salmon in Little Redfish Lake Creek. Oncorhynchus nerka. Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), Idaho, USA. Photo: Neil Ever Osborne, ILCP]
Sometimes destruction is a good thing. Last year, we watched bulldozers and jackhammers break apart and remove massive chunks of concrete from the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River in Washington, and we cheered as the first flows of water broke through the cracks. We had been waiting for this moment for more than 20 years. The Elwha and its wild salmon and steelhead had been waiting for more than a century.
A month later, we stood motionless with hundreds of people, until we heard the first pop of dynamite exploding at the base of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington. With that dramatic eruption, the White Salmon broke free — reclaiming its wild course for the first time in 100 years.
As a New England boy through and through, I have to ask myself: what if over the last 80 years, Rhode Island had washed away into the sea and was now completely gone? That is essentially what has happened to Louisiana's coastal wetlands since the 1930s. Over 1,880 square miles of land have been lost during that time (an area significantly larger than Rhode Island), thanks in large part to the policies of human beings.
[Above: Musician and voice of the wetlands, Ryan Montbleau. Photo: Ryan Laurey]
Patagonia’s Our Common Waters campaign isn’t only about demolishing dams. The impact of a dam on rivers and ecosystems lingers well past their expiration date, so removing them is still necessary in many cases. But that’s the work of remedying our past mistakes. The future requires that we find new ways to reduce our water and energy footprints so fewer dams are built in the first place.
That’s what this essay, "Putting Water Back," is about – finding creative new ways to alter consumption patterns, and in areas where we haven’t yet found a way to do that, helping others who have.
Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, sometimes quotes environmentalist David Brower, who was once asked why conservationists are always against things. Brower’s reply: “If you are against something, you are always for something. If you are against a dam, you are for a river.”
"Putting Water Back" is also about keeping an eye on what we are for. Doing so opens us up to the wide range of solutions needed to mend the environment and to keep up the momentum on the road ahead.
A few years ago I bought a cheap portable radio for $4.99 to listen to the news while I walk to work. Soon after, one of the earphone buds broke. No problem, I thought – I’ll just fix it using parts from my drawer of other broken electronics. No such luck: the whole radio, including the earphones, was in one piece, connected without screws or snaps, so that if any one part broke it couldn’t be repaired. For less than 5 dollars, Radio Shack knew, I’d find it easier to buy a new one.
I call making a radio – or any other product – that can’t be repaired ‘design for the dump.’ Designers call it planned obsolescence and it’s at the heart of the take-make-waste system that’s trashing the planet, our communities and our health.
You see, while we’re all pretty familiar with the three ‘R’s’ – reduce, reuse, recycle – many of us, including many product designers and manufacturers, give short shrift to the fourth ‘R’: repair. Before recycling comes repair.
Ten years ago, a bad-ass wolverine mountaineer we called M3 got busy expanding his territory from the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park into Canada. When this two-year-old bumped up against the turf of a long-established male known as M6, M3 took it over, claimed the older guy’s main squeeze – the female F15, and kept right on enlarging his crown-of-the-continent empire. Grown thin and scruffy, M6 wandered away southward, never to be seen again.
Shortly afterward, M8, the yearling son of M6 and F15, turned up in one of our Glacier Wolverine Project’s log box traps. Judging from the bloody gash on his face, he, too, had run into Mr. Badass. The team patched up M8 a bit before turning him loose. Across the Divide, Alex “Buck” Hasson was wintering alone in a cabin, skiing out to keep tabs on several radioed wolverines on the park’s west side. To locate a signal, he usually had to go for miles. But early one morning, he stepped from the outhouse to find a gulo 40 feet away: M8.
[Above: A wolverine in the wild. Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: Steven Gnam]
In September, 2011, The Cleanest Line reported the demise of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. Currently the largest dam removal project on the continent, the demolition of the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam will allow five species of Pacific salmon – including a super strain of Chinook salmon topping 100 pounds – to access more than 70 miles of previously unavailable waterways. Salmon currently spawn in five miles of river below the Elwha Dam, which provides no fish passage.