Patagonia’s Practical Steps for Consuming More Consciously

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image: Patagonia, Parque Nacional los Glaciares, Argentina, Andes, South America. Photographer: Jack Brauer. Image source.

Shopping consciously isn’t always easy. Mostly because there are so many different complexities involved, meaning that it becomes a constant learning process. Nobody understands this better than Patagonia’s VP of Public Engagement, Rick Ridgeway. Founded in 1973, Patagonia is a true leader in the field of environmental and social responsibility. But, naturally, it has taken a lot of hard work, investigation and, above all, an open mind to get there.

“Our mission statement is to make the best product that we can, with no unnecessary harm,” Rick explains when visiting from California. “This can be very difficult, because often there’s an inherent tension between best product and no unnecessary harm. Sometimes the more environmentally harmful choice can actually increase durability, for example.” And, of course, durability is vital to the longevity of a product. “So we have to make the analysis of whether choosing something with less environmental impact that also has less durability decreases or increases the footprint over the product’s lifetime. It is really complex and requires you to think through all of the factors.”

If it is this difficult for big companies like Patagonia, then, imagine what’s it’s like for us, as humble consumers. So with this in mind, we sat down with Rick to unpack some of the simple steps that each of us can take on the journey to becoming more conscious consumers.

Amelia Dibbs, ballerina and yoga devotee, wears the Forerunner Tank in Navy and the Forerunner Tank in Pink

1) Choose items with high durability

“At Patagonia, we are committed to making products with as high quality and as much durability as possible. The durability of a product turns out to be one of the most important elements of a product’s environmental footprint. So if a product, can last for years — and, in the case of a jacket, maybe a decade or more — then the overall footprint of that product on the planet goes way down. It exponentially starts to decrease, as its usability increases.”

2) A little research can go a long way

“[Shopping consciously] is so complex that there’s no single solution to anything. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there [about sustainability]. People frequently come to us, for example, and say ‘how come you’re not using bamboo?’. And we explain that, while growing bamboo is really cool — because it grows fast and doesn’t have that much of an impact on the landscape — once you check out how it’s processed, you can see that the chemicals released during processing are prohibitively toxic. So we really do take great care to investigate everything.”

3) Send your clothes in for repair

“Patagonia’s Worn Wear stations help people to repair their items and keep them in use. This is one way that we want to partner with our customers, to help them live more responsibly. Because, for us, it’s all about the larger issue of consumption and the impact that unfettered consumption is having on our entire world. So, to do something about that, we’ve launched the Worn Wear effort, which is all about fixing stuff that’s broken.”

Amelia wears the Better SweaterActive FZ Hoody in Blue (worn over) and the Thermal Speedwork Zip Neck in Violet Blue

4) Or, better still, repair them yourself

“[Patagonia has] produced close to 50 Repair and Care Guides now that instruct people how to repair certain categories of our products. And when we complete the series, we will have Do-It-Yourself repair guides representing almost our full line. Except for really complex things like wetsuits — which have to be done in-store, because you need special adhesives and tools for that. Even common issues like handles sticking on your luggage, though; we can show you how to fix it yourself. And some of the guides are actually really complex, so even people who aren’t that into sewing can repair their own down jacket, for example, which is a pretty sophisticated repair.”

5) Resell and Recycle

“It’s important to choose a durable product and use it for as long as possible, which you can do by keeping it in repair. But keeping it in circulation when you’re not using it is also a big part of this. You can achieve this by putting [the garment] in somebody else’s hands, for example, or selling it to them if you are no longer using it. Then, if it’s truly worn out, you can bring it back to us and we’ll recycle it for you.”

6) Above all, Reduce

“It’s important to Repair, Resell, and Recycle — but the fourth ‘R’ of this partnership with our customers is to Reduce. All these things together help to reduce your impact, but the real message from us to our customers is this idea of not buying [something] if you don’t really need it. That’s the concept behind Worn Wear and what we really want to suggest to our customers. It is maybe even most foundational to their ability to make decisions about reducing their personal impact on the planet. Because, perhaps the most important decision of all is whether or not to buy something in the first place.”

7) And finally, don’t feel overwhelmed; accept that it’s a constant learning curve

“[During the 90s], we realised that traditionally-grown cotton was sufficiently evil that we, as a company, couldn’t use any at all. So in 1996, we made the commitment to only use 100% organically grown cotton in everything; every single thing that has cotton in it. But then we continued digging and started to learn that insecticides and pesticides used in traditional cotton are only part of the problem. And, arguably, an even bigger problem is the amount of water it takes to grow cotton. So, then we started to make a commitment to only get our cotton from farms using rainwater. But then we had to dig even further and work out what kind of catchment basins they were using, to see if they were releasing enough water to still get down into the aquifer, so that it wouldn’t reduce. Basically, it’s a constant learning process and it never ends. No matter how much your keep looking under the next layer and asking more and more questions, you find that there’s always more; it’s just that complex.”

Amelia wears the Centered Tights in Blue.

We are super proud to stock Patagonia activewear on Well Made Clothes, and you can check out our full range, here.

 

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