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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    My Footprint series - A Word on Spreading the Word

    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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    Liz - seedlings [Ed note: Everyone concerned with the state of the environment has their coming-of -consciousness story. Psychologist Elizabeth Mosco has worked for years on motivating people to make positive changes in their lives. Here, she turns the lens on herself. Her account of living with a "green" significant other, Patagonia Web Editor Mike Colpo, graciously offers some insights about her own transformation from eco-nightmare to composting queen. Enjoy reading about Dr. Mosco's footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]

    When I first met the environmentalist in my life, I was an eco-conscious individual’s nightmare. I remember him glancing in my trash can as he threw something away and I cringed at the number of plastic bottles and aluminum cans staring him in the face. He used to leave our empty wine bottles on the counter of my kitchen, likely hoping a recycle bin would materialize for them, but I would just throw the bottles out when he left. He would use my fluoride-laden toothpaste in my bleach-scrubbed bathroom with petroleum candles burning. He saw me make multiple car rides to the supermarket—well within walking distance—for one or two items. He watched me exterminate all excess veggie matter in the garbage disposal. Here was my new boyfriend, freshly back from four weeks in the wilderness and ready to go back to his enviro-friendly job at Patagonia. And here was me, wantonly creating waste without a thought in the world to do anything but chuck it in the trash can. Looking back, I am struck by one very simple thing Mike did, something that has changed the way I look at waste, environmentally-friendly products, and life…he said nothing.

    [Liz tending the season's first seedlings, which will soon receive a fresh helping of homemade compost.]

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - A Word on Spreading the Word" »

    My Footprint series - Shipping to a Lesser Footprint

    A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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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    Making changes around the workplace that put a dent in a company’s environmental footprint takes creativity, persistence and flexibility … and a culture that allows – and even encourages – employees to question business as usual. That culture definitely exists at Patagonia.

    Teampic 008 Although it can sometimes bog decisions down, we recently saw the benefits when Patagonia Sourcing Manager Marjorie Leigh asked Contract Manager Oscar Cobian to look into the possibility of importing finished garments from Costa Rica to Ventura by ship instead of plane.

    “We have these two big ports nearby, so why not try to use them?” Oscar said.

    Following a tip about Port Hueneme in nearby Oxnard, Oscar called and was put in contact with Del Monte. He found out that the company ships bananas from Costa Rica, but that their containers were returning empty. The new possibilities got colleagues interested, and Oscar, Marjorie and Contract Manager Leticia Penaloza all went down to the port to check things out.

    [PHOTO (from left to right): Marjorie Leigh, Leticia Penaloza and Oscar Cobian. LUZ RULE] 

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Shipping to a Lesser Footprint" »

    Closing the Loop - A Report on Patagonia's Common Threads Garment Recycling Program

    Common_threads_1 In Fall 2005, when we launched our new line of recyclable Capilene® Performance Base Layer garments, we also announced a five-year goal to make all Patagonia products recyclable through our new Common Threads Garment Recycling Program. This program invites customers to return used-up clothing and delivers the retired garments to a fiber manufacturer that uses those items to make new products. As we near 2010, the five-year window for our goal has shrunk to one and a half years. Will we meet the goal? This report discusses the progress we've made - and steps we have yet to take. 

    Closed-Loop Recycling in Context

    It is important to remember that Common Threads is a key - but single - component of Patagonia's efforts to reduce our environmental footprint. In addition to garment recycling, we choose — where possible — raw materials (aka "e-Fibers”) that cause less environmental harm than do their conventional or non-recycled counterparts. We became a bluesign® brand member to encourage our fabric suppliers to reduce their resource consumption and better manage toxic chemicals. Through our Web mini-site, The Footprint Chronicles, we track, measure and report the environmental impacts of the many products we make. We build everything to high quality standards, with the idea that the best products simply last longer and require less-frequent replacement. We design clothing that retains its appeal for many years, not in-and-out fashion trends that end up abandoned in a closet. Also, we encourage consumers to wear out our products - or give them to someone who can. Even our retail stores will sometimes repatriate clothing donated to the Common Threads Recycling Program to local nonprofits, if the stuff still has wear and life in it. If, after a lifetime of use, a garment can be reused or handed-down no more, we provide Common Threads as a final destination, so that worn, used, and abused products can be recycled and made into new garments.      

    Continue reading "Closing the Loop - A Report on Patagonia's Common Threads Garment Recycling Program" »

    My Footprint series - Grow with the Flow

    Series intro: A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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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    Lines [Ed note: This installment comes from a local Ventura canoe paddler; someone whose time on the water has influenced their concern for water resources. Faced with a different set of problems than our previous contributor, the solution outlined below is a do-it-yourself inspiration. Enjoy reading this footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]

    Our family had long considered doing something to solve both the problem of old plumbing running over from our laundry, and needing to water our large backyard — adding a greywater system to the washing machine seemed the obvious solution. Our laundry room is in the back of the house, conveniently perched at the top of a hill above the backyard. A simple water-diversion scheme for the laundry's greywater made a great deal of sense.

    [Looking more elaborate than it is, a simple valve system controls which portion of the yard receives irrigation through a newly installed greywater system. Photo: tps]

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Grow with the Flow" »

    My Footprint series - Mindin' the Toilet

    Series intro:

    A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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 included with these posts.
    __________________________________________________________
    Becca2
    [Ed note: The following contribution to the "My Footprint" series comes from regular Cleanest Line contributor, Fitz Cahall, of Dirtbag Diaries fame. While not a Patagonia employee, Fitz was too excited not to share. Enjoy reading his footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]

    Our hot water heater takes a while to get going. The first time we took a shower in our current home, we watched cold water pour out of the tap. We watched some more, testing the stream with outstretched fingers. Still cold. It took at least two or three minutes to reach lukewarm.

    My wife, Becca, came up with the strategy, and then, because I am a well-trained husband, I religiously followed suit.

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Mindin' the Toilet" »

    My Footprint - When the Light Went Out

    A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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 included with these posts.
    __________________________________________________________

    Img_2243_2 The first of my compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) went dark the other night. No warning, no light. I unscrewed it, shook it and screwed it back in.

    Nothing.

    It was disappointing. I was an early adopter of CFLs (back in the dark days before WalMart decided to sell ‘em cheap to popularize their use) and that bulb was kinda pricey. But at the time I figured it was worth it given it would last up to 15,000 hours. This one lasted maybe 15.   

    I was using it in a bathroom fixture above the mirror. It took three of these pigtailed double helixes to adequately light the area, and their harsh light made looking in the mirror even more horrific than usual. But in the name of energy efficiency, I chose “the right thing” over my cosmetic insecurities and my wife’s entreaties to return to the soft, soothing glow of incandescence.

    [The black hole in my bathroom. Photo: Jim]

    Continue reading "My Footprint - When the Light Went Out" »

    Shopping Consciously for the Holidays

    Nicole Bassett is Patagonia's Social Responsibility Manager. As such, she is charged with traveling the world to visit our factories and verify the integrity of their manufacturing process. Thanks to her unique expertise, she gets peppered with questions from people eager to spend their dollars in the most beneficial way possible. In today's post, Nicole shares socially responsible shopping tips for the remainder of your holiday season.

    As a Patagonia Social Responsibility Manager, I routinely review factory working conditions. I have been asked a lot of questions lately by friends looking to buy their Christmas presents, questions like: "Is it OK to buy from Company X?" or "What are the working conditions like at Company Y?"

    It is great to hear from people who want to put their money toward companies that care about the working conditions and the health of the workers who make their products. These are good questions since there are a lot of companies that have great programs and are really making a difference. There are also other companies that at least monitor their supply chains. Then, unfortunately, there are brands that do nothing at all. Figuring all of this out takes some work. Each dollar we spend in the market is a vote of support to this brand or that brand.

    So what's my response to my friends?  I would like to share it with you:

    Continue reading "Shopping Consciously for the Holidays" »

    My Footprint - Ode to a Dead Volvo

    A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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 included with these posts.
    __________________________________________________________

    He was a 1989 Volvo station wagon, silver gray, turbo. We bought him used, one owner, in 1995, for $12,000 and we were lucky. We had another Volvo at home, a snappy red 850 (1993) who had a kind of Viking joie de vivre, if Scandinavians can be said to have joy in life. We named her Freya. When we brought the station wagon home it was clear he was more patient, less a Viking than a modern Swede, a socialist perhaps, and so we named him Oskar.

    Oskar was my car. The first time he and I went on a longish trip, it was from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles with a friend in heavy rain. We hit rush hour traffic on the Pasadena Freeway, an elderly roadway of narrow lanes and bad curves, and Oskar drove like a draft horse, pushing his chest through the squalls and the waves from trucks, mowing his way past drowned sports cars.

    He was comfortable. His leather seats were high, and reclined, like Eames chairs. When I drove him north to San Francisco the first time with another friend, she said, “It’s like driving in a living room.”

    Continue reading "My Footprint - Ode to a Dead Volvo" »

    My Footprint - All That Rots

    A new citizen is emerging. That 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 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 included with these posts.

    __________________________________________________________

    1cafe We have a café here at Patagonia HQ in Ventura that serves breakfast and lunch to some 150-200 employees and visitors. Along with daily entrees, we have a full salad bar with largely organic fixings. Food-prep and plate-scrapings at the Lost Arrow Café generate about 50 lbs. of veggie refuse a week. Rather than throw it away, we compost it.

    2nick_kitchen Some afternoons, Nick Velasquez, one of the creative geniuses in the kitchen, partners with Kevin Dee, another environmentally minded employee who makes clothing in our sample room. The two wheel a big bucket of veggie scraps, coffee grounds, spent paper napkins, eggshells and other compostables across the parking lot to our on-site bin. Ours is a custom-built container made of plastic wood - which doesn't warp as readily as the real stuff - wire and corrugated tin. It has three compartments: a starter, middle and finish.

    [Top: The Lost Arrow Café at Patagonia HQ serves up tasty, mostly organic goodness every day. Right: Nick Velasquez preparing delectables. Photos: Jim Little]

    Continue reading "My Footprint - All That Rots" »

    Patagonia Receives FLA Accreditation

    Footprint_2 Patagonia is proud to announce that as of October, 2008, we have become a fully accredited member of the Fair Labor Association.  While Patagonia was a founding member and active participating company in the Fair Labor Association since 1999, it was not until last month that we received the distinction of full accreditation. To achieve this honor, we adhere to the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct and ten company obligations. This includes carrying out a rigorous internal monitoring program executed by Patagonia, as well as submitting to unannounced, Independent External Monitoring audits of up to 5% of our factories each year. The FLA posts the results of its random audits on its website for everyone to see as part of its commitment to transparency.

    Picture_2 To achieve accreditation, Patagonia's program was reviewed by FLA staff to ensure the implementation of the required obligations for a participating company.  This gives a new level of creditability to our program as well as provides us guidelines for further improvement.  We are incredibly excited here at Patagonia to receive this accreditation as it is a culmination of the hard work of a lot of people in the company. Patagonia embeds social responsibility into the sourcing and production of its materials and products. We have made some changes in the past year to strengthen this integration. Factories must be reviewed to see if they are able to meet our social standards before we will place production there.


    [A modern-day Chinese clothing factory. Photo: Nicole Bassett.]

    Continue reading "Patagonia Receives FLA Accreditation" »

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