The Cleanest Line

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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.

    Continue reading "Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 3, The Alternatives" »

    Slow is Fast, Part 2 – Biking and Surfing down the California Coast

    by Dan Malloy

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    In the last month I have learned more about the people and places along the California coast than I had in 34 years and a thousand trips by car.

    Maybe slow is fast.

    We have been on the road for five weeks now and we are thoroughly convinced that we have found the fabled confluence of old California and new California.

    The bummer is, it’s not a physical place and the only way we seem to be able to track it down is by bike. I don’t really understand why. Every time we hit the road pedaling good things just start happening, strange coincidences, random happenings, happy accidents and all-around ridiculous stuff. If I tried to explain it you might think I was on something. So, I’ll save the explanation of this epiphany and post a few photos from the most recent leg of our trip, San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. [Editor's note: Get caught up with Slow is Fast, part 1.]

    [Above: This one is for the FCD crew, who after the first post asked me to stop barrel dodging. A warm and friendly day at the great white petting zoo. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman]

    Continue reading "Slow is Fast, Part 2 – Biking and Surfing down the California Coast" »

    Slow is Fast, Part 1 – An Attempt at Going on a Mini Adventure in My Own Backyard

    by Dan Malloy

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    After being on the road for a good part of the last 15 years, I have a lot of catching up to do at home. The truth is, for about ten of those years I didn't  think twice about California, never felt home sick or that I was missing a thing. Well, that time has passed. I am not sure if I'm just getting older or whether I've figured out that there are a 100 lifetimes worth of adventure here at home.

    A while back I had an idea that seemed like a really fun way to see our coastline like I do the far away coastlines that I have visited over the years. I mentioned it to two friends and they were all in, planning and packing, and all of the sudden the trip was on.

    So, three weeks ago, Kanoa Zimmerman, Kellen Keene and myself jumped on a train headed north with bicycles, a surfboard, wetsuits, flippers, a microphone and a couple cameras. The idea was to surf down the coast by bike, staying with friends, family and acquaintances, poaching camps when we had to, doing our best to earn our keep and to learn from folks that are doing good work and getting by along the California coast.   

    Here are a few photos from the trip so far.

    [Above: Dan Malloy and his rig. All photos by Kanoa, Kellen and Dan] 

    Continue reading "Slow is Fast, Part 1 – An Attempt at Going on a Mini Adventure in My Own Backyard " »

    Spring Gardening

    by Crystal Thornburg-Homcy

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    My husband Dave and I started our garden about five years ago. Now our garden operation is called Crave Greens. The name was inspired by the combination of Crystal and Dave. Our love for the natural environment and passion for cooking inspired us to get our hands dirty by growing as much of our own food as possible, and wanting to know exactly where our food was coming from. With the desire to bring fresh organic produce to the tables of friends and family, we hope to inspire others to start a small garden too.

    We hope to show others in our community that you don't need a big space to grow your own food, or to give up your daily life either. If anything, growing an organic garden will only improve your well-being. Currently we have two, raised garden beds. One is 6x10 feet and the other is 8x12 feet. We spend an average of 4-8 hours a week in the garden.

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    Grown in Vermont - A Patagonia Environmental Internship with Post Oil Solutions

    by Cadence Reed

    Last summer, Cadence Reed embarked on a two-week-long environmental internship through Patagonia’s internship program. She was one of 18 individual employees, along with 11 stores that went on group internships, to volunteer for environmental work this year. Cadence repairs broken clothing at our Reno Service Center, thereby helping the company fulfill its commitment to our Common Threads Initiative.

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    I headed east from Reno to Vermont on August 15, 2011, for a two-week long environmental internship with Post Oil Solutions in southern Vermont. As I flew east over the arid Nevada landscape, I looked forward to the lush vegetation that awaited me in the Green Mountain State. I was quite familiar with Vermont, having grown up there. Once I hit the ground and was heading north on Highway 91 to Bellows Falls, a peaceful feeling came over me as the green landscape and warm, humid air rushed by the car windows.

    Vermont has historically been known for spearheading new and innovative social and environmental practices. Act 250 outlaws any big box stores from building in non-existing buildings in order to support small businesses, and billboards are illegal statewide. A group like Post Oil Solutions (POS) fits in well.

    [Above: Cadence Reed gleans a field for red leaf lettuce at Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vermont. All photos courtesy of Cadence Reed.]

    Continue reading "Grown in Vermont - A Patagonia Environmental Internship with Post Oil Solutions" »

    The Lowdown on Down: An Update

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    In April 2011, we posted here a report on problems we’ve experienced sourcing down for our down clothing. As we mentioned, quality is not the problem. We’re proud of the down clothing we make. The designs are simple and beautiful, the fabrics are strong and lightweight, and the quality (fill-power or insulation value) of the down is excellent. The sales are important to us – and one percent of those sales contribute a significant chunk of change to environmental causes.

    Lesen Sie hier die deutsche Version dieses Artikels (Read the German version of this article).

    Down clothes are tricky to make in two ways: Special care has to be taken to safeguard workers who fill and sew the garments. Anyone who has worked with down knows that it is lighter than feathers and resistant to gravity. Down rooms have to be sealed off from other areas and workers have to wear masks to keep from inhaling the fiber. We have worked with our factories to ensure healthy conditions for people who work with down.

    The second area of concern is treatment of the geese. You have to go deep into the supply chain from sewing factory to down vendor to processor before you finally get to a farm. And a single goose can spend its life on four different farms. This complexity is also true of other products involving animals, including shoes and wool and sweaters.

    Continue reading "The Lowdown on Down: An Update" »

    Bean There: Tracking the Impacts of Coffee Growing

    ShimaharaEnviro_0029 One of the unique perks of working for Patagonia is the chance to leave, to participate in an environmental internship on work time. I chose to go to Guatemala to see how coffee is grown before it is exported for roasting. 

    I divided my time with two organizations involved with coffee farming in Latin America, Coffee Kids and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. I documented their work through photography.

    My hope is that my work will serve as a tool to reinforce and foster positive change in the coffee industry.

    Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
    (SMBC)

     To increase coffee production, coffee farms use synthetic fertilizers and convert from “shade grown” plantations, where shrubs are planted in the shade of trees, to “sun grown,” where coffee plants grow quickly, fully exposed to heat in fields. 

    [My work lead me to Finca Nueva Armenia, nestled in the Sierra Madre valley of Huehuetenango, one of only eight farms designated as bird friendly by the SMBC in Guatemala. All photos: Mark Shimahara]

    Continue reading "Bean There: Tracking the Impacts of Coffee Growing" »

    Lowdown on Down

    Patagonia_footprint_chronicles We’re proud of the down clothing we make. The quality (fill-power or insulation value) of the down is excellent and appropriate to end use, as are the shell fabrics. The designs are beautiful; down clothing of all kinds has become an important part of our business. Their popularity helps pay the bills (and 1% of their sales contributes a significant hunk of change to environmental causes).

    We also know the limits to our pride: that everything we do as a business results in some kind of environmental harm or waste. But one issue involved in down production has troubled us particularly for a while and, after deeper investigation, continues to do so.

    Down clothes are tricky to make in two ways: special care has to be taken to safeguard workers who fill and sew the garments. Anyone who has worked with down knows that it is lighter even than feathers and resistant to gravity. Down rooms have to be sealed off from other areas and workers have to wear masks to keep from inhaling the fiber.

    The second area of concern is treatment of the geese. We visit the sewing factory work floor fairly often and have additional help from the Fair Labor Association, which independently audits working conditions for us. It is harder to monitor conditions on farms. We contract directly with sewing factories, but you have to go deep into the supply chain from sewing factory to down vendor to processor before you finally get to a farm. And a single goose can spend its life on four different farms. This complexity is also true of other products involving animals, including shoes and wool underwear and sweaters.

    Continue reading "Lowdown on Down" »

    Cows Without Borders

    There’s alotta milk in a latte.

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    Fact is, coffee bars in the U.S. serve more milk than they do coffee. So in my quest to understand what all goes into my coffee, I ended up taking in a fair amount about milk.

    If so much milk is going onto coffee, shouldn’t the quality of the milk matter?

    Intelligentsia thinks it does. My friend Matt referred me to Straus Family Creamery, the place where Intelligentsia’s LA coffee bars source their milk. I was familiar with Straus’ glass bottles from the dairy aisle of my grocer, but I never understood why it was more expensive than other brands. Until I hung out with their cows.

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    [The dairy is located along the Northern California coast, at the juncture of winding roads dotted with cyclists, 30 miles west of Petaluma. The landscape is lush. All photos by Mark Shimahara]

    Continue reading "Cows Without Borders" »

    Meet an Unlikely Proponent of Dam Removal

    Salmon habitat Our earlier post about the need to protect wild salmon in the federal salmon plan - signed May 20th - focused on urging the Obama administration to stand up for salmon and the Endangered Species Act. In an unfortunate decision, Obama took his cue from an illegal administration plan carried over from the Bush administration. We're joining Save Our Wild Salmon in urging the Obama Administration to change course and remove the four lower Snake River dams. This has only strengthened collective resolve to protect salmon habitat. As Washington farmer Bryan Jones explains in a recent essay, protecting salmon habitat can be synonymous with protecting family farms and reducing their bottom-line.
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    Bryan Jones is a fourth-generation wheat farmer near Colfax, Washington. He farms 640 acres. He and his fellow farmers rely on barges on the Snake River to move their wheat to market. This is primarily why the dams on the Snake were built.

    Jones remembers going down to the Snake before it was dammed.

    "I watched the currents and eddies with my grandparents and was told how treacherous that river was, yet its currents fascinated me. I picked fruit along the banks of the Snake. At times when picking with my grandparents, my brothers and I would eat as many peaches as we could, stuffing our mouths with big warm juicy peaches. (Afterwards, they never weighed us!)__"The dams were built when I was young; Little Goose in 1966, Lower Granite in 1974. After the four dams went in, we lost 140 miles of the river. Today, there are only a few places along its banks where people can recreate and enjoy our local river. As a young man, I remember coming back home from Los Angeles, and I looked at the slow water in its summer heat; there was no current, it was algae filled, and I knew it was not a place I wanted to play in or eat fish out of."

    Jones began working with Save Our Wild Salmon in 2006 after he was contacted by his local conservation district office and asked if he'd like to come to a meeting. Once there, he heard representatives of SOS and American Rivers talk about ways to take down the dams and help farmers.

    [The high cold mountains at the heart of the Columbia/Snake watershed provide a last redoubt for imperiled salmon. The path to reach these strongholds winds through land farmed by folks like Bryan Jones. Photo: © Matt Leidecker]

    Continue reading "Meet an Unlikely Proponent of Dam Removal" »

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