Nine years ago, on Black Friday, Patagonia took out a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline: Don’t Buy This Jacket. Today, we stand on the precipice of a climate crisis to which the fashion industry — and Black Friday itself — have undoubtedly contributed. Our message to citizens everywhere is: You have the power to change the way clothes are made. In simple terms, Buy Less, Demand More.
As customers, we are bombarded with messages telling us about “Sustainable”, “Conscious”, “Green” collections. But the truth is that the least environmentally damaging garment is the one that is already hanging in your wardrobe.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear program is a celebration of keeping our gear in use longer and the stories we wear. Buying a used garment extends its life on average by 2.2 years, which reduces its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73 percent. From fixing a patch on your favorite jacket to replacing a busted zipper, each of these individual actions could give us a better chance of living on a habitable planet in years to come. We currently have 35 repair centers around the world, including our Reno, Nevada facility, one of the biggest repair centers in North America. In fact, last year we fixed more than 100,000 pieces of clothing globally and helped you to fix many more yourself, with over 50 online repair guides.
Starting this Black Friday, Patagonia is becoming the first apparel brand to sell used product alongside new on our website — so it’s easy for you to make an informed decision every time you shop.
Lastly, when you do buy new consider the quality. Look for durable, repairable gear that will last a long time so you can replace it less often.
Demand More: Regenerative Organic Cotton
In 1996, Patagonia made the switch to 100 percent organic across all our cotton garments. We did this because we knew that conventional cotton was poisoning our people.
We commissioned research and found the problem was much worse than we had feared, in terms of public health, biodiversity and ecosystems. Synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification of seeds, greenhouse gas emissions — these are all reasons that a conventional cotton field stinks: its chemicals burn the eyes and nauseate the stomach.
In 1996, when we made that commitment, there wasn’t enough organic cotton available to buy through brokers, so we went directly to the few farmers who had gone back to organic methods. Back then, less than one percent of the cotton grown worldwide was organic. And the dirty truth is that, today, less than one percent of the cotton grown worldwide is organic.
Today, as consumers we have the opportunity to support a new standard, through the new Regenerative Organic Certification, a set of agricultural practices that exist to heal a broken system, repair a damaged planet, and empower farmers and citizens to create a better future, through better farming.
Demand More: Fair Trade
We know that garment workers are among the lowest paid people on earth, often not making a living wage, and subject to dangerous, and sometimes even illegal, working conditions.
Patagonia is a founding and accredited member of the Fair Labor Association, established to hold apparel companies accountable to responsible labor practices. And we offer more Fair Trade Certified sewn styles than any other apparel brand. This means we work with the factory to support them in gaining Fair Trade Certification and pay a premium for every Patagonia item produced that carries the Fair Trade label.
The extra money goes directly to all the workers at the factory — not just those working on Patagonia garments — and they decide how to spend it. Workers have chosen to use the premiums to fund community projects, such as health-care programs or a child-care center, to purchase products they could otherwise not afford or to take a cash bonus. It also promotes worker health and safety, as well as social and environmental compliance, and encourages dialogue between workers and management.
Our Fair Trade program has benefitted the lives of over 66,000 workers in 10 countries. But here again, there is a long way to go. We must use our power as consumers to encourage brands to join the movement.
Demand More: Recycled
Polyester is an extremely versatile fiber. It’s used in everything from car safety belts to pillows but is most prevalent as a garment fabric, due to its strength and durability. Back in 1993, Patagonia acknowledged the harms caused by virgin polyester production, in terms of natural resources, material wastage and health, and became the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to transform trash into fleece.
We began by turning plastic soda bottles into recycled polyester for our Snap-T Fleece Pullovers. Today we utilize soda bottles, plus unusable manufacturing waste and worn out garments (including ours), and our extensive field testing shows this recycled polyester performs just as well as — if not better than — gear made from virgin polyester.
Why stop there? Recycled synthetic and natural materials such as nylon, cotton, down and wool can all be produced at high quality. And switching from virgin to recycled materials has reduced our carbon footprint by over 11,000 tons of CO2 for this season alone.
However, as a business, we acknowledge that everything we produce still comes at a climate cost. That is why we will measure all of our products against their environmental impact — think, a Profit & Loss report for the planet. Our product and business teams will be using this tool to decide what products we sell in future seasons, by measuring the impacts, converting those impacts to financial terms, and subtracting that from the profit each product produces. We will balance margin, revenue, quality and performance on the same page as impact.
By being honest and transparent with ourselves about the ‘true’ cost of our products, and letting our community join us in this continuous evaluation, we are giving you the tools to make clear-eyed purchasing choices. Because it’s right for us all to be skeptical of brands making environmental claims, in fact it’s crucial. Asking questions, digging deeper, and holding the apparel industry to account — these are the ways we can use our purchase power to help save our home planet.
Buy Less, Demand More.