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    The Paris Project: COP21 concludes with historic climate treaty and a future full of questions

    By Ethan Stewart


    This is the second installment from our man on the ground in Paris for the UN Conference on Climate Change, Santa Barbara Independent Editor-at-Large, Ethan Stewart. Catch up with part 1 if you missed it. Above: founder, Bill McKibben (glasses and Red Sox hat), joins an impromptu protest in Le Bourget towards the end of the two-week climate conference. Photo: Kodiak Greenwood

    Patagonia in Paris

    One of the loudest and most critical messages to come out of Paris during the COP21 was that the international business world is finally getting on board with the benefits of putting Mother Earth before profit margins. As evidenced by testimony provided during countless side panels and spin-off talks between CEOs and various insiders and watchdog groups during the two-week conference, private industry has awoken to the bottom-line benefits of having smaller carbon footprints, planet-pleasing corporate policies and a brand identity that is markedly pro-Earth. Simply put, it is no longer just a moral compass that guides a company to a more eco-savy way of doing business, it is just plain and simple sound financial policy.

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    The Paris Project: Looking back at week one of the United Nationsʼ Conference on Climate Change

    By Ethan Stewart


    For the past month, the entire world has been focused on Paris. First, an act of pure and peace shattering barbarism brought the City of Lights directly into focus in the hearts and minds of all of us just two weeks before Thanksgiving. And then, with the hurt still raw and hemorrhaging in worldwide waves of fear, arguably the biggest environmental gathering of this modern age descended upon the scene. 2015 is about to conclude as the warmest year on record here on Planet Earth, just a year after 2014 earned the same distinction. The planet, like it or not, is changing, and 194 countries from around the world have come together to try and do something about it.

    Above: Public assembly has been shut down during the conference due to security concerns, but the arts community has found creative ways provide a voice for the many. #HumanEnergy display by artist and researcher Yann Toma. Photo: Kodiak Greenwood

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    Re-Imagining Rubber – PLUSfoam’s Flip-Flop Recycling Revolution

    By Ethan Stewart


    Even the most tender-footed outdoor enthusiasts amongst us are familiar with the scenario. You are walking back to camp from a quick creek swim, or perhaps making your way home after a day spent chasing the hollow insides of pitching lumps of salt water, and your trusty flip-flops decide to blow out. Maybe the strap pulls out or tears or your big toe finally busts through the sole. Either way, your beloved slaps are toasted and now destined for the trash can, their fate all but sealed by the very material they are made from – non-biodegradable waste taking up space forever in a landfill or, even worse, the very ocean you just spent your afternoon playing in.

    Certainly, creative upcyclying (hello handplane or doorstop or fly swatter) can work to delay such a conclusion to the life of a pair of flip-flops but, eventually, a final trip to the dump is unavoidable for essentially anything (be it footwear or otherwise) made out of popular petro-chemical based materials like rubber, foam, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane (PU). Unfortunately, even in this great age of ever-improving recycling technology, this less-than-ideal end game endures our children and our children’s children are all on the hook to pay the bill.

    Today, thanks to the folks from PLUSfoam, a small upstart company based in Newport Beach, California, this story is being rewritten with a markedly happier and eco-friendly outcome.

    [Above: The Men's Reflip Chip, and Women's Reflip Chip (not shown), feature a PLUSfoam recycled footbed that's 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life. Photo:]

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    The Patagonia Encapsil Down Belay Parka: An Origin Story

    By Ethan Stewart


    Editor's note: The creation of our new Encapsil™ Down Belay Parka is a big deal for all of us at Patagonia. In the midst of getting everything ready for launch, we asked our friend Ethan Stewart to tell the story of how Encapsil down and the parka came to be. Though he handled the writing like the professional news reporter that he is, it should be said that we requested this piece.

    At first blush, the big “wow” factor of the Encapsil Down Belay Parka is, of course, the insulation, Patagonia’s proprietary take on water-resistant down. There has been an industry wide race in the past year to get water-resistant down products available for mass consumption. The idea of making down clusters impervious to their historic Kryptonite of moisture has been a Holy Grail of sorts for outdoor garment manufacturers for quite some time. And, while other companies have managed to plant their water-resistant-down flags first, none have been able to do what Encapsil down has achieved.

    “This is an absolute game changer. It’s not just a small tech evolution,” Patagonia’s Alpine Line Manager Jenna Johnson said with a smile on her face, “I mean, when GORE-TEX® fabrics first came out is probably the last time something did this for the marketplace.”

    Above: Patagonia ambassadors Dylan Johnson (foreground) and Josh Wharton (wearing headlamp and Encapsil Down Belay Parka) take a chilly breather halfway up the north face of Mount Temple. Canada. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

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    70 Degrees West - Telling the Stories that Matter

    By Ethan Stewart


    They say journalism is dead and, well, who can blame them. More and more of us are content to find out about the world via half-cooked news stories pulled from the fires of research way too soon in the name of feeding the beast of this brave new world’s 24-hour news cycle. The masses prefer cable news that echoes the voices in their head rather than unbiased source reporting that forces you to think and think critically. 140-character transmissions are the new black in this “information” age and, as welcome as this may be to our rapidly emerging ADD-tendencies, I am not sure it is a good thing when it comes to saving the world.

    [All photos by Justin Lewis]

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    Rick Ridgeway Makes the Case for Freedom to Roam at Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

    _MG_6651 By Ethan Stewart

    Before all the memories from Copenhagen fade from our collective consciousness,
    Santa Barbara Independent reporter Ethan Stewart and freelance photographer Kodiak Greenwood remind us of one very positive presentation they witnessed at the conference.

    Last month, the whole world was watching Copenhagen as the United Nation’s held their much hyped Framework Convention on Climate Change. Anticipated by many to be the biggest environmental moment of our lives, the two-week bureaucratic rodeo of world leaders and eco-minded experts concluded just a few days before Christmas without accomplishing much towards its goal of establishing sharp toothed, earth saving carbon emissions policy. However, despite this crucial failure, the COP15 was by no means a lost cause. In fact, even the most cynical observers hanging out in Denmark’s capital city for the groovy green get together had to see hope everywhere they looked. From the passion of 100,000 people strong protests in the streets to the countless mindboggling presentations going down each and every day in the Bella Center about the various ways we can, and are already, trying to heal Mother Earth, the path to a better tomorrow was on full display for all who cared to look and listen.

    [Patagonia's Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, Rick Ridgeway. Photo: Kodiak Greenwood]

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    Tear Gas For Breakfast

    By Ethan Stewart


    You met them first on the Obama Express. Now, Santa Barbara Independent reporter Ethan Stewart and freelance photographer Kodiak Greenwood are in Copenhagen to cover the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change. This morning the boys -- who've dubbed themselves "Operation Copenhagen" -- awoke to violence in the street and tear gas in the air.

    Before we even had a chance to find our morning cups of coffee, Kodiak and I were breathing tear gas for breakfast at the COP15. An organized march called the "Push for Climate Change" took a radical turn this morning outside the Bella Center as protesters and police clashed. More than 250 people have already been arrested in the several hours long stand-off while other, smaller, confrontations have broken out in the city's center. For a complete report on the unfortunate and violent developments at the United Nation's Climate Change Conference check back soon at

    [Above: Images like this were par for the course before lunch today in Copenhagen. Photo: Kodiak Greenwood]

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    Train Ride to the Inauguration

    By Ethan Stewart


    Many Americans traveled to Washington D.C. for today's Presidential inauguration. Two in particular made the long trek from Santa Barbara, California: writer Ethan Stewart and photographer Kodiak Greenwood. In true historic fashion Ethan and Kodiak hopped a train in Los Angeles and road it cross-country to Chicago, and then on to D.C. for the ceremony. The duo are documenting their travels for the Santa Barbara Independent in a series dubbed "The Obama Express." They also generously offered to share a taste of their journey with The Cleanest Line. We all witnessed the ceremony. Here's a taste of what it was like getting there.

    [Kodiak (left) and Ethan (right) who says, "This looks posed and that's because it is." Photo: © Kodiak Greenwood]

    The mojo is rising. It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we are on a sold out Amtrak train headed straight for history. With any luck, by nightfall, we will be in our nation’s capital along with an estimated 3 million other Americans, to celebrate the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. Time folds over itself as we speed through the rural countryside of western Pennsylvania. A fresh half-foot of snow blankets the scenery as meandering rivers, abandoned mills, steaming steel factories and two–traffic-light towns blur by our window. A young girl, red, white and blue beads braided in her hair, walks by our seats with her mother in tow. Tugging excitedly on her mom’s hand, the girl, no more than 10 years old, asks innocently, “Will we be able to see him Mommy? Will we be able to see Barack?”

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