October 14, 2022 | OPINION | By Maddie Mollerus
As Colorado College students, love for Patagonia clothing runs in our blood. Patagonia is ubiquitous across campus; I can’t go a day without seeing someone wearing the label. I’m pretty sure the application to CC even includes a box that we need to check certifying that we own at least one piece of Patagonia gear (I’m kidding, but it should). I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence as a fashion columnist if I didn’t write at least one article examining the extent of Patagonia’s sustainability practices.
I must admit that my renewed interest in writing about Patagonia wasn’t because I recognized its prevalence on campus. A month ago, founder Yvon Chouinard gave away the multi-billion-dollar company to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization that have committed to donating all the company’s profits towards fighting climate change (we stan an anti-capitalistic, eco-conscious king).
Patagonia has always been outspoken about their sustainability practices and efforts to protect the earth, and now, they are the largest company dedicated to sustainability. Let’s examine how they’re living up to that dedication.
Over a decade ago, Patagonia ran a Black Friday ad that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” A confusing marketing tactic, right? Upon first glance, it might look like clever reverse psychology, but it was actually trying to get people to not buy something new. It advocated for customers to think before they buy, and that the best jacket might be the one you already own.
To reduce environmental damage, consumerism needs to be reduced as well, but consumerism is pretty much what every company relies on in order to sell clothes. On their website, Patagonia even admits that “Each piece of Patagonia clothing, whether or not it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates at least another half garment’s worth of scrap, and draws down copious amounts of freshwater now growing scarce everywhere on the planet.”
To counter all of the negative effects of clothing manufacturing, Patagonia has developed their Common Threads Initiative. They make it nearly impossible for you not to be sustainable yourself with their gear. They make their clothes much higher quality than competitors do, so you’re less likely to wear something out and need to replace it. If something on your gear breaks, they’ll fix it for you, negating the need to get a new product. If you do decide that you need to buy something new, they’ll also take back your old piece of clothing so that they can reuse it and keep it from ending up in a landfill.
My personal favorite initiative of theirs is their Worn Wear website, where people can shop for secondhand Patagonia clothing. Instead of throwing away your old Patagonia coat, you can send it to them for credit. The site has both new pieces and pieces from a decade ago, so if you’re in the market for discontinued Patagonia, you should definitely check out Worn Wear.
I’m really impressed with how much Patagonia is doing to help protect our planet. I can only hope that what Yvon Chouinard did creates a domino effect or at least inspires other billionaires to pivot to more sustainable business practices. The next time I reach for my fuzzy Patagonia vest on a chilly fall day, I’m going to be wearing it with pride. Not only does wearing it connect me with other CC students, but it creates a greener future.