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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    Competitors Working Together Toward A Common Environmental Good

    Bluesign Logo It’s rare when industry competitors get together to collaborate. It’s even more unusual when they get together to discuss ways they can lessen their environmental impact. Yet that’s what happened as a result of our relationship with bluesign® technologies, an independent third party that screens the dyeing and finishing of textiles.

    We recently met with other outdoor companies, including brands like MEC, REI and The North Face, at REI's Seattle offices to find ways to spread the benefits of bluesign membership. We discussed ways to educate other brands, encourage manufacturers and demonstrate how environmental progress can be rewarding and beneficial for all parties involved. Since we were all working toward the same environmental goals in our supply chains, working together was helpful for everyone. “By 5pm my brain was fried, but I was happy that we had accomplished a lot,” said participant Todd Copeland, Patagonia’s Strategic Environmental Materials Developer. “I realized other brands struggle as we do to do the right thing in a competitive industry and an uncertain economy.”

    When Patagonia started our relationship with bluesign technologies, we knew we had found something good to help our understanding of environmental chemistry. I first met its founder, Peter Waeber, in 2000...

    Continue reading "Competitors Working Together Toward A Common Environmental Good" »

    From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these popular questions, straight from the trenches.
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    In my last post, I tackled a couple of "Why do you use . . .?” questions. In this post, I'll answer a couple of "Why don't you use . . .?" questions. Being a company known for environmentalism, we often get questions about why we don't use certain fabrics, especially when other companies tout them as being the latest and greatest, or at least the ‘greenest.’ In the cases of bamboo and PLA (polylactic acid), both sound pretty green at first glance but in the end aren't all that they seem.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why don't you use...?" »

    From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?

    Trenches

    Our Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are our front line of communication with Patagonia fanatics far and wide. The crew here at our Call Center in Reno, NV are at it seven days a week, taking orders, helping with returns, and most importantly, answering the astonishing range of questions our customers fire at us. Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these popular questions, straight from the trenches.
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    Patagonia has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely picky about what materials go into our products. Often, the materials we choose are exactly the same as those used by our competitors. But just as often, we insist on different materials even if we have to encourage our suppliers to make the material we're looking for. Below are two common questions we receive about natural fibers we use in our clothing; one is virtually identical industry-wide and the other is a fabric we insisted on tweaking because of environmental concerns.

     

    So why do you use down?

     

    Feather

    In the outdoor clothing industry down insulation is ubiquitous. Almost every company sells a puffy down jacket and I often wonder if these other companies get the same ethical questions we get about using down. We continually find ourselves fielding questions about how a progressive company like Patagonia can, in good conscience, use down. The answer to that is simple, Patagonia’s mission statement begins with "Build the best product..." For us to do this we need to use the highest quality materials available. Right now when it comes to insulation, down has no equal; it has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any insulation and is highly compressible as well. Both properties are highly prized attributes in mountain clothing. That said, we do believe in the humane treatment of animals, and the geese that provide our down are no exception.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Why do you use... ?" »

    Footprint Chronicles Gets Freshened Up for Fall

    Footprint_F09

    We’ve just updated the Footprint Chronicles, our interactive mini-site we use to share information about how and where our products are manufactured, what the environmental costs are and how we think the process can be improved.

    There are a number of new features in today's Footprint update but the highlight is the release of the second in a three-part video series dedicated to investigating the issues of social and environmental responsibility and product quality. Our first documentary explored social responsibility and offshore manufacturing. Our new installment, What Comes Next?, explores environmental responsibility in the Patagonia supply chain.

    Our latest installment also includes three newly chronicled items – a recycled fleece jacket, synthetic high-loft insulation, and a waterproof/breathable jacket. Together, these new additions to the Chronicles take us deeper into our Footprint investigations by illustrating how trying to do the right thing creates its own set of environmental challenges.

    Make the jump for a full list of features in our new Footprint Chronicles.

    Continue reading "Footprint Chronicles Gets Freshened Up for Fall " »

    My Footprint series - Learning by Osmosis

    Series intro: The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by The Footprint Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.

    Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.
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    My wife and I turned a blind eye for a long time to the rainbows swirling in our coffee mugs as we sipped in the morning light. They looked kinda cool, but we knew their cause was probably not. We could see a film on top of the water that reminded me of the gutter puddles my sister and I used to stomp in when it rained where we grew up in Los Angeles. The water also had a slightly funky taste and silky texture, regardless of whether it ran through a Britta filter.

    For a couple years we shrugged it off, telling ourselves it was probably from the hard water in the area. Articles in the local Ventura County Star suggested the area’s water quality was okay, despite an occasional “musty or earthy taste and smell” from the seasonal migration of algae in the reservoir. I surely appreciate the rhythms of nature, and even a bit of earth and must in my cuisine, but it was more difficult to brush aside our doubts about the pipes in the early 20th century house we were renting, complete with built-in ironing board and dumbwaiter in the kitchen, and our kind-but-parsimonious landlord.

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Learning by Osmosis" »

    Fishing Waders Trigger Deep Thoughts About Gear Manufacturing

    Copy (2) of logo_RW_creelhawaiicls Our friends over at Recycled Waders have been hard at work finding new uses for some of Patagonia's most hard-to-recycle items. Fishing waders are complex pieces of gear - neoprene feet, water-proof fabrics treated with water-repellent finishes, stretchy shoulder straps, metal snaps and zippers, each of these items adds a layer of complexity to a process we developed originally to recycle simple base-layer garments. Patagonia's front man for all things pertaining the the environmental impact of our raw materials is Todd Copeland. He's been steering our Common Threads program for a while, and was stoked to share this story with us. It comes via Patrick Jenkins, founder of Recycled Waders, a small family operation that's busy building a successful business on three important pillars: Recycled Materials, Repurposed Products, and Responsible Consumers.  

    Background

    Original Action Who would have guessed an errant back cast lodging a 1-0 lead-eye bunny leech in a scraggly black spruce tree on the high bankside of a river mouth full of Alaskan king salmon would have been responsible for the development of a small business? But as luck would have it I scampered  up the bank to retrieve my fly from the black spruce, stepped up on a downed tree to reach my fly, lost my footing and a branch on the tree gauged an enormous hole in my first pair of breathable waders. Hmmmm…..

    [Recycled Waders provides a flat-out better alternative for retired waders: up-cycling them to new hand-sewn gear full of life and character. Photos: Patrick Jenkins, Recycled Waders]

    Continue reading "Fishing Waders Trigger Deep Thoughts About Gear Manufacturing" »

    A Lime with That, Sir? - Transitioning to Waterless Urinals in the Workplace

    Use Water2-1 We got a waterless urinal a couple of months ago here on the second floor of the Crystal Palace at Patagonia HQ. It’s saving a lot of water, but smells a bit unsavory. One guy likened the odor to that of restrooms in bus terminals. Another said it was a Third-World experience without the cultural cross-references.

    I recently sprained my ankle mountain biking and have been icing it at work to reduce the swelling. After my first icing, I dumped the bag of melting ice into the bathroom sink. I know, it was wasteful. But thankfully, a colleague more thoughtful than me took it upon himself to shovel the ice into the waterless urinal.

    It seemed to help with the odor in a way the deodorizing wick and aerosol spray sanitizer that arrived with the waterless did not, so I’ve been dumping subsequent bags (a couple a day) directly into our new pissoir. Someone suggested adding limes to the ice like they do to margaritas – and some urinals – in Mexico. But I think our facilities department would frown on that.

    [All graphics by Cleanest Line reader Michael Buckley. Says Michael, "When I brush my teeth, I try to remind myself to brush like I do when I’m camping (to conserve water). These cards are meant to be printed out and placed where you could use the same reminder." Hit the jump for more.]

    Continue reading "A Lime with That, Sir? - Transitioning to Waterless Urinals in the Workplace" »

    Your Thoughts on the Footprint Chronicles – Why don’t you make more of your goods in the U.S.A.?

    Footprint logo We’ve recently released “What’s Done in Our Name?,” the first in a three-part video series called Work in Progress that examines larger social and environmental issues we grapple with as a company.

    ”What’s Done in Our Name” directly addresses what we do to monitor the labor practices of the overseas factories that make our goods.

    The launch of this video comes at a time when Americans are concerned about the further decline of domestic manufacturing. It should be no surprise that a video focusing on overseas production has sparked a number of customers to ask why we simply don’t make more of our goods in America.

    Below, we highlight one of these e-mails as well as a response from a long-time Patagonia employee familiar with both our history and the source of our values in several key areas: product quality, environmentalism and social responsibility.

    We welcome your contribution to this exchange – as well as other thoughts you have about responsible business practices. It's our hope that as the discussion unfolds it will enrich our continued examination of our corporate life – and help us do what we do better and with less harm to the environment and the social fabric.

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    To: CUSTOMER_SERVICE
    Subject: Comments on the Footprint Chronicles

    Comments:
    Patagonia often touts environmental responsibility and claims to have an environmentally-conscious business model yet virtually every single product that Patagonia sells through its catalog is produced overseas. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of Patagonia customers live in the United States.

    Continue reading "Your Thoughts on the Footprint Chronicles – Why don’t you make more of your goods in the U.S.A.?" »

    My Footprint series - Charting a Course of Questions

    Series intro: Today's citizen is engaged, concerned, and most of all, confident; confident in his or her choice as a consumer, confident in his or her power as an employee, confident that change is possible.

    The Footprint Chronicles were developed to document the changes we’re making as a company to lighten our environmental impact and do less harm. These chronicles are as much an inspiration to Patagonia employees as they are an outgrowth of our personal values. The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by the Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.

    Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.

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    My footprint is etched cleanly in the soft earth near a thundering creek. It's the latest addition to a chaotic, muddy mash of lug-soled prints pointing in all directions. Looking up from this confused circle, I can trace the tracks, see that they lead tentatively toward each point of the compass. The prints tell a story of a group that struggled to find its way, and I can't blame them. The people who made those tracks are my students, and I confiscated their maps before they left camp this morning. But there is one main track leading off from the center, the path it traces sure and deep. The feet that made it moved with purpose in a common direction.

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Charting a Course of Questions" »

    Earth Day and the New Footprint Chronicles

    Homepage 1

    Happy Earth Day to the Cleanest Line masses. Today we launched a new version of the Footprint Chronicles, the place where we share information on how and where our products are manufactured, what the environmental costs are and how we think the process can be improved.

    There are a number of new features in today's Footprint update but the highlight is a documentary short our video team produced on social responsibility and offshore manufacturing. Entitled What's Done in Our Name?, the 15-minute video is the first in a three-part series investigating the issues of social and environmental responsibility and product quality.

    Watch What's Done in Our Name?

    Make the jump for a full list of features we added to the new Footprint Chronicles and a few words about some special guests who visited Patagonia today.

    Continue reading "Earth Day and the New Footprint Chronicles" »

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