The Cleanest Line

Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit Patagonia.com to see what we do.

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    Well to Wheel - UCSB Grad Students Evaluate Patagonia’s Transportation Practices & Opportunities

    Footprint_chroniclesOver the years, Patagonia has focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on finding ways to reduce the impacts of our business operations. Through life cycle analyses of our clothing and gear, we’ve learned that most of the environmental impacts come from growing or synthesizing the fibers and manufacturing the fabrics. But until recently, we hadn’t conducted an in-depth analysis on the impacts of our transportations systems or the potential to integrate alternative fuel technologies into those systems.

    That changed in April 2012, when we began working with a group of graduate students from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. As part of their studies, they are conducting a research project that will evaluate how we transport goods in the US and explore the possible use of more environmentally friendly fuels. Patagonia does not own a transportation fleet; instead we contract with companies that specialize in distribution and transportation to ship our products. We asked the students to investigate ways we can integrate low-carbon fuels into our transportation network. By doing so, we hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Continue reading "Well to Wheel - UCSB Grad Students Evaluate Patagonia’s Transportation Practices & Opportunities" »

    What We Do For a Living - An Excerpt from "The Responsible Company"

    by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley

    New PictureWe are still in the earliest stages of learning how what we do for a living both threatens nature and fails to meet our deepest human needs. The impoverishment of our world and the devaluing of the priceless undermine our physical and economic well-being.

    Yet the depth and breadth of technological innovation of the past few decades shows that we have not lost our most useful gifts: humans are ingenious, adaptive, clever. We also have moral capacity, compassion for life, and an appetite for justice. We now need to more fully engage these gifts to make economic life more socially just and environmentally responsible, and less destructive to nature and the commons that sustain us.

    This book aims to sketch, in light of our environmental crisis and economic sea change, the elements of business responsibility for our time, when everyone in business at every level has to deal with the unintended consequences of a 200-year-old industrial model that can no longer be sustained ecologically, socially, or financially.

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    Introducing the New Footprint Chronicles on Patagonia.com

    by Lisa Polley

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    As an employee of Patagonia for the past 12 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many projects. Some of these have been interesting, some just a necessary part of my job. Never have I experienced a project with such a direct impact on the company, on its employees and on myself as The Footprint Chronicles website.

    It’s given me hope about the future for the first time in longer than I care to admit.

    The epiphany that inspired this hope came during data entry. Sometimes the process of change starts in the mundane, and growth occurs at the oddest, unexpected moments. Anyone who’s filled a database knows that the task is not hard, but it requires headphones and very loud music. My task was to enter the data that would be used to geo-locate points on a Google map so we could show our supply chain online.

    [Above: Seeing Patagonia suppliers pinned on a world map, one of the new additions to The Footprint Chronicles. Screengrab: Patagonia.com]

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    Patagonia Clothing: Made Where? How? Why?

    Patagonia_labelAbout once a week, one of our stores or our customer service receives a question about the manufacturing of Patagonia clothing: Where do you make your clothes? Are they made in China? Why? Why don’t make you make them here in the United States? What are the conditions inside your factories?

    We thought it would be helpful if we shared a lengthy post, with links to more information.

    First, Patagonia doesn’t own farms, mills, or factories. Yet what is done in our name is not invisible to us. We are responsible for all the workers who make our goods and for all that goes into a piece of clothing that bears a Patagonia label.

    It took us a long time to ask ourselves what we owe people who work for others in our supply chain. We had high sewing standards, even for casual sportswear, and exacting standards for technical clothes. To meet quality requirements, our production staff had always been drawn to clean, well-lighted factories that employed experienced sewing operators. Although we had always bargained with our factories over price and terms, we never chased lowest-cost labor.

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    Claim It: There is No Green Wetsuit

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    Want to know what's up with this ad? Continue reading to learn why we don't use bamboo fabrics in our wetsuits.

     

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    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" »

    Introducing the Common Threads Initiative - Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Reimagine

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    “Recycling is what we do when we're out of options to avoid, repair, or reuse the product first. That's why I am so impressed with Patagonia for starting its Common Threads Initiative with the real solution: Reduce. Don't buy what we don't need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you've exhausted those options, recycle.” –Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff

    In the 18th century Lancashire's cotton mills and the budding clothing trade helped fuel the Industrial Revolution and create the modern economy. Now it's time to reverse the engines – to help create the next, more sustainable economy. Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of our Common Threads Initiative: a partnership between our customers, eBay and Patagonia to make, buy and use clothes more sustainably, with the ultimate aim of keeping the clothes we sell from ever reaching the landfill.

    Continue reading "Introducing the Common Threads Initiative - Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Reimagine" »

    Ray Anderson 1934-2011

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    Patagonia’s friend Ray Anderson, the visionary founder and chairman of Interface, died last week at the age of 77. Ray was an intelligent, soft-spoken entrepreneur, engineer, and businessman who, on reading Paul Hawken's Ecology of Commerce in 1994 called it a “spear into my heart,” embraced environmentally conscious business practices, and became a tireless spokesman for better behavior on the part of business. We interviewed both Ray and Paul in our video “What Is Quality for Our Time?” (pictured) which you can find in our Footprint Chronicles and Video Gallery. Paul has graciously granted us permission to post his moving tribute to Ray.

    We, who were so fortunate to know Ray Anderson, were in awe. He was many people: a father, executive, colleague, brother, speaker, writer, leader, pioneer. But I am not sure any of us quite figured him out. On the outside, Ray was deceptively traditional, very quiet sometimes, an everyman, all-American, down-home. He was so normal that he could say just about anything and get away with it because people didn’t quite believe what they heard. He could walk into an audience and leave listeners transfixed by a tenderness and introspection they never expected or met. Business audiences in particular had no defenses because they had no framework for Ray.

    Was he really a businessman? Yes. Was he a conservative southern gentleman with that very refined Georgiadrawl. Yes. Was he successful? For sure.

    Continue reading "Ray Anderson 1934-2011" »

    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" »

    Hiking Boots with a Lighter Footprint

    Patagonia-Zero-Impact-sketch-plan Building an environmentally conscious hiking boot that’s also a top performer is no easy task. Design and construction are complex; so is the supply chain.

    As Backpacker magazine put it: “Boots are the most complex gear in our kit, with numerous components – fabrics, leathers, soles, shanks, glues, padding, laces, hardware – plus myriad sewing processes, fit intricacies and the hurdle of translating sophisticated blueprints to assembly lines a world away.”

    This complexity is reflected by the fact that only five footwear companies responded to Backpacker’s 2010 Zero Impact Challenge, which invited 60 companies to build a hiking boot with the least environmental impact and the highest quality. Only three companies have actually gone to market with a commercial product.

    Patagonia Footwear is one of those companies. We used our experience building environmentally conscious, high-quality products, and the experience of our footwear partner Wolverine World Wide in manufacturing top-performing shoes, to build the P26 Mid, featured in the latest round of The Footprint Chronicles.

    [Our decision to use leather in the construction of our P26 - Backpacker's decision that leather gave the P26 a higher environmental impact - sparked an online debate about the use of leather. Backpacker said that synthetic uppers could deliver the same performance and durability as all-leather ones, while drastically reducing environmental impact. We disagreed, believing that leather’s performance and durability are unsurpassed – and that leather and synthetic shoes should be in different categories. Links to the online discussions at Backpacker magazine and Treehugger.com can be found a few paragraphs after the jump.]

    Continue reading "Hiking Boots with a Lighter Footprint" »

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