There is perhaps no greater eco rock star than Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Not only has he single-handedly scaled (actually he used both hands) the imposing rock faces of Yosemite National Park, Chouinard has also succeeded in creating outdoor eco-performance gear that lives up to its promise to keep you warmer, cooler and drier. And it all starts with plastic soda bottles.
Since 1993, the company has been making top-quality fleece garments out of recycled soda bottles through a process that melts the plastic down into pellets, transforms them into yarn and spins the yarn into a polyester fabric. It’s not just a few bottles here and there, but over 86 million that have successfully been kept out of the trash heap. Through continuous innovation, Patagonia now combines recycled soda bottles with unusable fabrics and worn out garments to create polyester fibers that are used for fleece clothing, Capilene-Patagonia’s signature moisture-wicking polyester fabric-base layers, shell jackets and board shorts.
Upping the eco-ante further, when cotton is called for, Patagonia relies exclusively upon certified organic cotton for its men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing, so no toxic pesticides or insecticides need to touch your skin. The company has also created the world’s first customer-garment recycling program. Through the Common Threads Garment Recycling Program, customers can drop off used Capilene-Patagonia base layers at any Patagonia store or mail them into the company’s service center, and Patagonia will break down the fabric, give it a good scrubbing, and integrate the material into new garments. Sure, the program would be more appealing if customers received store credit for the materials they gave back to Patagonia, but it’s a good start and an exciting example of how companies can create continuous product life cycles that limit the need for more raw materials.
And check out these other performance-driven green brands:
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Excerpted from Josh's forthcoming book, "The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget."
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