Carbon footprinting involves highly complex calculations using all sorts of variables that, well, vary, depending on who's doing it. Patagonia's terrific Footprint Chronicles measure the CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts of 15 products, including clothing, luggage and shoes.
Newly analyzed this season are their Wool2Crew (responsible for 47 lbs. of CO2) and Cashmere Hoody (a mere seven lbs., even counting the shipping from Mongolia to California). Both are lighter than the polyester fleece Talus rainjacket, which packs a heavy carbon history of 66 lbs., mostly due to the petroleum used to make the fiber. The recycled poly Synchilla vest represents only 26 lbs. Of course, to fairly compare it with the others, you'd have to calculate the weight of the missing sleeves.
Another plus: Patagonia's wool and cashmere come from happy animals grazed on pastures free of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Virtually visit these farms in New Zealand and Mongolia on slide shows, and fall in love with these totally cute cashmere goats. And if you're a leaf peeper and knitter, wool grown and processed organically by Vermont's Green Mountain Spinnery is worth a detour to pretty Putney. If you don't knit, consider an organic wool sweater like those sold here. Say baa-bah to pesticides and count carbon along with sheep.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was moved to MNN.com.