Why We Should Be Buying More Patagonia: Organic Cotton
Patagonia’s mission statement is simple yet bold: to “build the best products, cause no unnecessary harm, [and] use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The effects of climate change are great and cannot be understated. From the rise of sea levels to the decrease of polar ice sheets, the collapse of coral reef ecosystems to widespread droughts, climate change and the impact that we as humans have on the environment cannot be dismissed or taken lightly. As surfers (or just as human-beings who live on Earth in general), we should be actively seeking ways in which we can protect and preserve the environment not only for ourselves, but for future generations to come. Some of the solutions that we as consumers can actively pursue to combat climate change and the negative impact we have on the planet can begin with something as simple as thoughtfully considering the clothes and apparel we buy.
Patagonia has become dedicated to helping combat climate change and poor business practices altogether while producing some of the best outdoor-sports gear and apparel the world has to offer. This is the first of a series of posts, and what this series hopes to accomplish is to highlight some of the positive things that Patagonia is doing for the environment and to hopefully convince you, the reader, as to why you should support such a beneficial and effective company and brand.
Cotton is one of the most widely produced agricultural products and is the most widespread profitable non-food crop. Because of this, cotton has some of the greatest negative impacts on the environment when it comes to textile production. It is estimated that 6.9 million pounds of chemicals are used on conventional cotton crop every year in California alone. It takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce enough cotton for a single t-shirt. Synthetic fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants, and other toxic substances negatively impact the soil, water, air, and a multitude of living things—including workers and nearby communities. Cotton production severely degrades soil quality and the heavy use of chemicals poses a threat and raises concerns for workers and nearby populations who draw their water from sources that have been contaminated by runoff. And the cotton industry still relies heavily on cheap labor, which leads to deplorable working conditions, which negatively affects the health of underpaid and overworked employees and the well-being of their families.
In an effort to alleviate and avoids these problems inherent with the conventional cotton industry, Patagonia has opted for an alternative: organic grown cotton. Farmers have been growing organic cotton for years with high yields and equal or better quality than conventional cotton. Organic cotton farmers’ methods help to support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, improves the quality of soil, and uses approximately 71% less water (and 62% less energy). According to Patagonia, “Organic farming is more time consuming, requires more knowledge and skill, and, for now, costs more. But it’s worth it.” And we agree.
Patagonia also supports fair trade and many of their products are Fair Trade Certified, and this is how it works: Patagonia pays a premium for every product that carries the Fair Trade Certified label, and that extra money goes directly to the workers of the factory in which the products were manufactured, ensuring that they are well-compensated for their labor. The program also promotes worker health and safety as well as social and environmental compliance. It also encourages dialogue between management and workers. You can learn more about Patagonia’s fair trade practices here: http://www.patagonia.com/fair-trade-certified.html
One final negative impact that cotton has on the environment is waste. Many cotton-based garments end up in landfills at the end of their lifetime along with the excess scraps left behind at the textile mills. And despite the environmental benefits of organic farming, the practice still requires a lot of water and leaves a carbon footprint. In an effort to minimize resources used, Patagonia has partnered with TAL Group, one of the larger garment manufacturers in the world, to reclaim cotton scraps saved by TAL Group’s factories in China and Malaysia into fully functional fabrics. The leftovers of 16 cotton-spun tees can be turned into a single reclaimed cotton shirt. When considering the volume of work being done at TAL Group’s facilities, it adds up to an enormous amount of saved resources.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative helps to cut down on consumption and keeps our gear in use longer, keeping it out of the landfill. Patagonia offers their customers the options to either trade-in their worn-out products for credit at select retail locations, shop used, repaired, and refurbished gear, and/or simply send in your worn-out Patagonia gear to be repaired and shipped back to you. All of these options help to reduce, reuse, and recycle your Patagonia apparel and keep it from entering the landfill and minimize the use of resources. You can learn more about Patagonia’s Worn Wear here: https://wornwear.patagonia.com/