The Bottom Line: Patagonia, North Face, and the Myth of Green Consumerism | Groundswell

How can you tell the difference between The North Face and Patagonia?

Just looking at the merchandise of each, the two companies are easy to confuse. With little difference in price point for most items, the two companies’ main products (winter athleticwear) look just about the same, and it can be difficult to see which brand has the upper hand.

And despite their reputation as the clothing of suburban high school students, both Patagonia and North Face are well known as front-runners in the field of ecologically responsible companies. Organic fibers, ethical treatment of workers, minimizing emissions from company workshops, and transparency on business ventures are the orders of the day for both companies.

One key aspect that separates the companies is their annual revenue: The North Face made $2 billion in 2013, while Patagonia brought in a little over $570 million.

But Patagonia isn’t ramping up their efforts to better compete in numbers with The North Face. In fact, according to their founder Yvon Chouinard, they’re not interested in increasing profits at all.


Just last September, Patagonia unveiled their latest marketing goal: limiting growth. Yep, you read that right. Patagonia announced they’re aiming (with some specific action items) to make less than they have in previous years, in order to better serve the environment. They’re calling this new campaign “The Responsible Economy.”


In an interview with GreenBiz last year, Chouinard argued that “green” is a buzzword that no longer has meaning, and that green products too often become easy ways of making companies and consumers feel satisfied with minimal actual change.

Rather, Chouinard is looking for ways to make products less disposable, and challenge consumers to be more responsible with their purchases, when they do buy:

“I believe in ‘appropriate technology.’ We want to make something that replaces an old, efficient product.”

“We ask our customers to think twice before you buy a jacket from us. Do you need it, or are you just bored? … Since corporations run the government, if you want to change the government, you have to change the corporations. If you want to change the corporations, change the consumers.”

To make matters even more interesting, Patagonia has additionally begun selling used Patagonia clothing and merchandise in stores in five cities nationwide, with plans for expansion. They have also created an investment fund to help environmental activism startup companies (according to this 2014 Adweek article).

Companies that are the direct competitors of Patagonia, including The North Face, have published relatively little in response to these calls to action. In fact, The North Face has little intention of diverging from the typical business plan of growth above all. They announced in their 2013 annual report that they plan to see their annual earnings raise to 3.3 billion by 2017.

What does Patagonia’s marketing push mean for their appeal? As a selling strategy, suggesting that people shouldn’t purchase their apparel could backfire miserably. For consumers to believe in this “anti-growth” campaign, they would not only have to believe that Patagonia is sincere, but also be willing to set aside their own materialist wants for “the greater good.” In this kind of un-marketing strategy, Patagonia only wins if you don’t buy their latest athleticwear, and you also don’t buy from any other brand.

Even so, it appears revenue and popularity are what Patagonia stands to lose, if the campaign isn’t viewed as sincere. But popularity doesn’t seem to be a problem with Patagonia’s anti-growth plans. Back in November 2011, on Black Friday, Patagonia sold its winter line with tags that read, “Don’t buy this jacket.” Black Friday customers were swayed by the tags, but ironically not to buy less from the company: thanks in part to the tags, Patagonia saw its revenue increase 30% from the previous year’s Black Friday. Chouinard believes that rise in sales was due to winning new customers over from other brands.

It’s clear that these days, in the realm of big business and environmentalism, Patagonia is easily outshining The North Face, with its promises of real change. If you’re looking for a different company than all the others, Patagonia wants you to look no further. But if you believe in Patagonia’s mission, there’s no need to run out and support their company with your cash—at least, not until you’re in the market for a new (or new-to-you) coat.

Buy less, but when you must, buy Patagonia.

Of course, companies like The North Face that are interested in growth for growth’s sake (and also in raising money to have greater capital for doing good) will continue to use traditional marketing techniques to appeal to customers. It has always been the responsibility of shoppers to read between the lines of marketing campaigns and to buy what is best, not what is marketed best. Patagonia has simply upped the deal, by asserting that they are more interested in the greater environmental issues at hand, than in their profits and your money.

At the end of the day, maybe Patagonia is right—maybe we need to rethink the way we respond to calls for increased consumption. Perhaps buying less, and foregoing that new winter jacket because last year’s still works isn’t about denying yourself the latest in fashion, but about being responsible stewards of the earth. We’ve got to change how we reward companies that we trust and respect.

But in order to do that, we as potential consumers must be responsible for taking the initiative to wait to buy things until we need them. Patagonia alone can’t stop consumption unless we shop with care, and “buying into” the values of a company doesn’t have to mean buying a new product—or any product at all.

So do you really need that new fleece this fall?

The ROG Green Glossary | LinkedIn

The ROG Green Glossary











The ROG Green Glossary is a list of terms that are often used to describe the more sustainable outdoor clothing and gear choices. This is a growing area and I thought it would be beneficial to offer an explanation of some of the terms that you may come across when buying outdoor clothing and gear. This is a work in progress. I started it way-back in 2013 and it needs brining up to date. If you would like to add any terms or talk about any of the terms please let us know and I will update the list.

1% for the planet
The 1% for the Planet organisation exists to build and support an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. It is a global movement of companies donating at least 1% of their annual net revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.

Alpaca wool is very enduring. Insecticides are not injected into the Alpaca sheep fleece.The animal is very hardy. Most Alpaca products are imported at the moment.

A natural fibre from the bamboo plant. Bamboo has natural, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Bamboo fabric can absorb up to four times more moisture than cotton. It is because of this it has attracted interest amongst outdoor garment manufacturers.

Bamboo viscose
A fibre which has been reconstituted from the original bamboo fiber and therefore small amounts of original bamboo fiber remain.

Bangladesh Accord
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a five-year legally binding agreement between international labour organisations, non-governmental organisations, and retailers engaged in the textile industry to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry. More information

Exhibiting the capability to be being broken down by decomposing (composting) or by exposure to light. the newer Viscose yarns called Tencel™ see Lyocell will biodegrade at the end of their life.

Blue Angle
The Blue Angel (Blauer Engel) is a German certification for products and services that have environmentally friendly aspects.

Blue Sign
The independent bluesign® standard offers a reliable and proactive tool for the textile production chain – from raw material and component suppliers who manufacture e.g. yarns, dyes and additives, to textile manufacturers, to retailer and brand companies, to consumers. Companies who gear their production to the bluesign® Standard guarantee their direct customers and the consumer that, throughout the entire manufacturing chain, only those components and processes are used which are safe for humans and the environment

Carbon Footprint
The impact of a certain activity on the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. A carbon footprint is defined as: The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The carbon footprint is a very powerful tool to understand the impact of personal behaviour on global warming. Most people are shocked when they see the amount of CO2 their activities create! If you personally want to contribute to stop global warming, the calculation and monitoring of your personal carbon footprint is a good idea. There are many free online carbon footprint calculators on the internet.

Carbon Neutral
Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint.

Carbon Trust
The Carbon Trust is an independent, not for profit company set up by the UK Government with support from business to take the lead on low carbon technology in the UK.

Castor Beans
An interesting new yarn made from Greenfil, a polymer that comes from Castor Beans. The castor plants are from Africa and Asia and are grown on land which cannot be farmed. There is no irrigation of the crops, they are not produced from genetically modified seeds and they are 100% renewable biomass.

Chlorine-Free Wool
In order to render wool machine washable it is often pretreated with chlorine. Millions of pounds of wool are processed each year using this chlorine-based method. There are a few alternative processes that achieve the same results without the use of chlorine. A small number of outdoor companies have source wool that is chlorine-free.

Climate Change
Climate change – Defined by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change as
“change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

Closed Loop
A type of manufacturing process that utilizes a cyclical material flow in order to minimize waste. An example of a closed loop fabric see Tencel®

co2 Emissions
Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms bonded to a single carbon atom. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and other processes, are significantly increasing its concentration in the atmosphere, thus contributing to Earth’s global warming.

Coconut ShellsCoCona®
CoCona is activated carbon made from recycled coconut shells. The manufacturers states it provide effective evaporative cooling, odour adsorption and UV protection. Cocona® fibers and yarns are used in a wide range of knits in outdoor garments.

Recycled ground coffee is being used to make an odor control, fast drying, environmentally friendly, absorbent fabric. The process of making fabric out of coffee grounds is very similar to that used to turn bamboo into a viscose-like material. It’s impregnated with ‘activated’ carbon, derived from coconut, which makes it UV-resistant, wicks water away, keeps the wearer cool and binds to sweat to eliminate unpleasant odours. Currently used for mid and base layers.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Corporate citizenship continue to be used but is being superseded by the broader term, corporate sustainability. Corporate sustainability is a business approach that creates long-term consumer and employee value by not only creating a “green” strategy aimed towards the natural environment, but taking into consideration every dimension of how a business operates in the social, cultural, and economic environment.

Cradle-to-cradle, C2C or Cradle 2 Cradle
The phrase “cradle to cradle” itself was coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s. Stahel has emphasized the importance of the economic, ecologic and social advantages of the loop economy, which is increasingly referred to as circular economy. A play on the “Cradle to Grave” phrase, implying that the C2C model is sustainable and considerate of life in general. The Cradle to Cradle model can be viewed as a framework that considers systems as a whole or holistically. C2C Designers consider end of life in their design so that no chemical elements go to landfill but are all properly reused, not just recycled. Only organic material goes to landfill.

Naturally Advanced Technologies (NAT) they produce and make flax-based fibre under the name Crailar.

The practice of recycling a material in such a way that much of its inherent value is lost (for example, recycling plastic into park benches). Downcycling, is the opposite of Upcycling which is the other half of the recycling process. Downcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material

The term Ecocide is more recently used to refer to the destructive impact of humanity on its own natural environment.
The concept of making Ecocide an international crime has been around for decades. From the 1970s onwards there has been growing support from government, business and communities to make Ecocide the fifth International Crime against peace to stand alongside the crime of Genocide by amending the Rome Statute. It is part of an emerging body of Earth Law or Earth jurisprudence. Making Ecocide an international crime is proposed in order to protect human rights, the natural environment, prevent runaway climate change and trigger the transformation to the green economy.However, opponents argue that this will criminalise the whole human race.

Eco Textile
The collective term of eco textiles refers to a group of textiles that have a reduced , carbon, energy and pollution impact when compared to the standard methods used to produce textiles and manufacture clothing.

Egyptian Cotton
Egyptian cotton comes from Egypt, It has very long fibres which are stronger and produces a very soft fabrics. Because of its limited supply and better hand, Egyptian cottons are often more expensive.

Registration from the EU for its environmental management programme. EMAS incorporates the requirements for ISO 14001. You may see that a company has ISO 14001 certification but not EMAS.

Environmental Audit
Environmental auditing originated in the United States in the 1970s. It is a management tool to measure the performance of the organisation, the management system and processes designed to protect the environment with the aim of accessing and reducing the organisations impact on the environment.

Enviro-Mark was developed in the United Kingdom to provide an Environmental Management System (EMS) accessible to all organisations. Enviro-Mark provides businesses with a framework to assess their performance against agreed standards. Their are five standards, and achievement of each is verified by an external audit.

Environmental Policy
A written statement, which outlines a business’ aims and principles in relation to managing the environmental effects and aspects of its operations.

Ethical Policy
An Ethical Policy contains aims and policies of a company that may cover some or all of the following areas: Human Rights, Arms Trade, Genetic Modification, Social Enterprise, Ecological Impact and Animal Welfare

Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)
This is an alliance of companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade union organisations working together to improve the conditions for overseas workers producing for the UK market.

Fair Trade
Fair trade is an organised social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Fair Wear Foundation
An international initiative which works to improve workplace conditions in international production facilities.

Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, hair gels, and soap. Flax seed is the source of linseed oil, which has uses as an edible oil, as a nutritional supplement and as an ingredient in many wood finishing products. Flax fibers are amongst the oldest fiber crops in the world. Flax fiber is soft, lustrous and flexible; bundles of fiber have the appearance of blond hair, hence the description “flaxen”. Flax is the emblem of Northern Ireland and used by the Northern Ireland Assembly. See also Crailar

Gift Your Gear
An initiative developed by ROG to distribute donated used outdoor gear to UK based community and youth groups. First brand to use Gift your Gear Rohan the UK outdoor clothing manufacturer and retailer

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognised as the leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres worldwide. It defines high level environmental criteria along the entire supply chain of organic textiles and requires compliance with social criteria as well.Only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become certified according to GOTS.

Green Labeling
Oeko-Tex Standard 100 has become the best known and most successful label for textiles tested for harmful substances. The Oeko-Tex label is a recognized benchmark for the consumer and also serves as a quality assurance tool for the manufacturer.

Greenwashing is a term describing the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products (such as goods or services) are environmentally friendly.
Greenwashing may be described as “spin”

For centuries the hemp fiber has been used for paper, rope and cloth. Hemp fiber is extremely durable and makes great clothing (Levi jeans originally made with hemp). Because of its strength it is again being used by some outdoor clothing manufacturers but to date it is being blended with other fibres.

Higgs Index
A global sustainability index to measure and score products, factories and companies. The first version has just been released by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the nonprofit group that developed the index. Higg came from the search for the Higgs-Boson particle. The index reflected “our search for the particles of sustainability,” Dont expect to see the index on your garment label for a few years.

A new fabric made from fermented plant sugars from corn. Conventionally grown corn leaves a particularly large eco-unfriendly footprint via pesticides, water use, and land usage. However Ingeo requires half as much energy as it does to make cotton, even organic cotton, which gives it some advantages.

Leave no Trace
A practice of leaving wilderness areas the exact same way as you found them.

Life Cycle Assessment – Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
A technique for assessing the potential environmental impacts of a product by examining all the material and energy inputs and outputs at each life cycle stage.

Term used for natural flax fibre or fabrics made from flax fibre. Characteristics include rapid moisture absorption, natural luster, and stiffness. Fabrics made out of flax yarn have many benefits, including being absorbent and cool to wear under a variety of climatic conditions. Organic flax is grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Textiles in a linen-weave texture, even when made of cotton, hemp and other non-flax fibres are also loosely referred to as “linen”.

Lyocell™ Fibre
Also called Tencel™. Produced from cellulose, the main material in plant cells usually from trees. The production process for Lyocell is extremely environmentally friendly – the fibre has all the advantages of a natural material and is 100% bio-degradable.

Martindale Test
A wear abrasion test used extensively in Europe. The fabric’s warp and weft are abraded at the same time.

The Merino is a breed of sheep prized for its wool in New Zealand. Merinos are regarded as having fine and soft wool. Merino base layers regulate body temperature by controlling the rate of cooling. They are soft next to skin and odour resistant without the addition of any coatings or additives. A merino base layer is generally priced at the top of the range.

Minimum Packaging
The adoption of a minimum or reduced packaging policy is slow to happen in the Outdoor Industry.

please see Rayon, Tencel and Lyocell Fibre

The common stinging nettle was used to produce textiles for thousands of years. Nettle can be turned into finer fabrics too, with a texture like linen. It has the ability to wick moisture away from the body as well as keeping the wearer cool and trapping warm air, plus being naturally anti-bacterial and mould-resistant. A Dutch fashion label, has started growing its own nettles in eastern Europe and has brought out a range of smart-casual clothes made from the fabric. And in the Himalayas, the giant nettle, allo, is being spun by local communities to create a fair trade, eco-friendly fabric.

Nylon – Recycled Nylon
Like polyester, virgin nylon fibre is made from crude oil. The recycled nylon yarn now available comes from post-industrial waste fibre and yarn collected from a spinning factory and processed into reusable nylon fibre.

A European standard for the impact of textiles on human ecology and the environment. The International Oeko-Tex Association (Oeko-Tex) Founded in 1992, the International Oeko-Tex Association provides uniform, scientifically founded evaluation standards for the human ecological safety of textiles.

Offset or Offsetting
Reducing the impact of a particular action by supporting another organisation or group working to reduce the environmental impact of the action.

Organic Exchange
Textile Exchange is a non-profit charity operating internationally and committed to the responsible expansion of sustainable textiles across the global textile value chain.

Organic Cotton
Cotton grown without the use of artificial chemicals such as herbicides or pesticides

Peace Silk
It is silk from cocoons where the caterpillar is allowed to complete its life cycle, to transform into a winged silk moth, to emerge from the cocoons, find a mate, lay eggs for the next generation, and die happy.

Porters Progress
Porters Progress was founded in Nepal in May 2000 by Ben Ayers, a writer, activist and climber. Ben started with 12 jackets. By 2004 Porters Progress Nepal had fitted out over 5000 porters with clothing and offered nearly 8,000 English and First-Aid classes; in 2005 over 9,000 porters visited the offices in Nepal. Today the clothing bank continues its free service to loan sleeping bags, jackets, boots and sunglasses to hundreds of porters each season. However over time the kit wears out from the harsh environment in which the porters work. With help from us all they can keep the Clothing Bank well stocked. Rohan have donated many of their sample garments to Porters Progress.

The practice of reducing waste by creating and using fewer items that have to be recycled. Precycling emphasises reducing and reusing.

Rayon – See Viscose, Tencel™ and Lycell™
A cellulose based fiber produced from wood or cotton pulp. Newer additions to this group include Tencel™ and Lycell™ produced by Lenzing Fibers Corp based in Austria, in a closed loop process with high environmental credentials and are excellent at moisture management. Rayon is the oldest commercial man made fibre

Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals – strict EU regulation for the reformation of the EU chemicals legislation. According to REACH, only registered (data on physical properties, toxicity data, data on hazard for humans etc. have to be provided by chemical suppliers) and officially evaluated chemicals may be sold. The most hazardous chemicals can only be used if especially authorised.

To put or pass through a cycle again, as for further treatment.

Recycling and the outdoor industry
Patagonia started the first garment recycling program in the outdoor industry. It enables customers to bring their used clothing back for recycling. Patagonia encourage customers to bring in their used Capilene baselayer, Patagonia fleece or Polartec® fleece. The fabric of these items makes them suitable for recycling. Patagonia can create a new garment made from the recycled polyester. Other brands are looking at individual initiatives for particular products. There is no cross industry initiative.

Possible to recycle. Although in actual fact it often proves to be impossible to do so because of lack of recovery facilities.

Recycled Fleece
Made from post consumer recycled plastic water bottles. Pioneered in outdoor garments by Pataonia who introduced recycle polyester fleece into their range in 1993.

Recycled polyester
Recycled Polyester is a polyester that has been manufactured by using previously used polyester items. In the outdoor clothing world this is either from polyester water bottles being recycled into polyester fleece or recycled polyester outdoor garment created from used clothes. Patagonia have been able to create polyester garments using previously worn garments. They also started the world’s first garment recycling program – which enables customers to bring their used clothing back for recycling. Patagonia encourage customers to bring in their used Capilene baselayer, Patagonia fleece or Polartec® fleece. The fabric of these items makes them suitable for recycling. Patagonia can create a new garment made from the recycled polyester.

Recycled Polyester Waddings
There are examples 50% recycled material with polyester virgin fibers fillings for insulated jackets and sleeping bags.

Re-use, Explore, Discover (RED) seeks to promote the re-use of outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment after it has been used by the original owner

The greatest environmental gain is delivered when we reduce our consumption. We can do this by simply not purchasing as much but we can also share what we do have. This has particular meaning in the Outdoor Industry with regard to the major purchases like bikes, surf board and tents etc share them with friends & neighbours.

ReFleece is a small design company creating products from a new kind of upcycled felt. The felt is made from reclaimed Patagonia® fleece, collected through Patagonia’s Common Threads™ program, then pressed into Kindle™ and iPad™ cases.

Repurposing is essentially a form of recycling. Instead of throwing an item away, an individual or business finds a new use for it. This can be a cost-effective strategy, since items that can be used instead of discarded prevent a business from having to purchase new, possibly expensive items.

Resource efficiency
Generate the greatest possible benefit using the smallest possible quantity of natural resources

Retro Outdoor Gear
New Gear that imitates the style of a previous era

Means what it says. Reusing a product delivers a far greatest gain for the environment than recycling that product untill it has reached the end of its life. Ebay and Gumtree have done much to develop reuse in outdoor gear.

Often used as a substitute for Reuse

Rice Husk Yarn
This will be available from 2012. The rice harvest generates a lot of rice husk waste which is either burnt or thrown away.

ROG is on-line centre for reuse and recycling of all used outdoor gear. There is a blog called ROGBlog and free listing service to buy, sell, swap and donate used outdoor gear.

A word often used to refer to the process undertaken to render our denim jeans with that distressed look. To achieve this look workers blast the denim with natural sand containing silica, often operating within sealed cabinets. As a result, they inhale crystalline silica dust particles that cause serious damage to the respiratory passages and, in some cases (where the body is unable to expel the particles), silicosis (lung disease).

Made on Germany from Lyocell and seaweed. Lyocell consists of 100% wood pulp fibers and SeaCell combines that with approximately 5% seaweed. Reportedly the nutritional and health benefits of seaweed are actually absorbed into your body while you wear this fabric. It’s available in either “Pure” or “Active” grades. “Active” includes silver woven or embedded throughout, giving it antibacterial properties and the ability to naturally neutralize odors.

A low-grade cloth made from by-products of wool processing, or from recycled wool

A new word for a not-so-new- concept. A combination of shopping and swapping used by Marks and Spencer in the UK to launch their own ll textile take back service in 340 Marks & Spencer stores.

Silk is a very old fibre in the outdoor industry, used as a base layer by many early expeditions. It has been superseded by modern synthetic fabrics.

Soil Association
The Soil Association is a membership charity campaigning for planet-friendly organic food and farming. The Soil Association standards are among the highest and most comprehensive for organic production and processing in the world.The Soil Association symbol is the most recognised organic mark in the UK today.

Cultivated in China for 3,000 years, soya is natural, renewable and biodegradable. Soya fabric is a by-product of the soya food industry. The Soya Fibre is made from the hulls of the beans.

Surfers against Sewage
Surfers Against Sewage are an environmental campaign group with a mission to rid the UK coastline of sewage.

According to Wikipedia Sustainability is the capacity to endure. Google the word and you will get many thousands of explanations and quotes.There is growing concern that the word is so overused and a new term is needed. Responsible is one new word.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition
30 members, representing brands, retailers and suppliers who together account for more than a third of the global apparel and footwear industry including brands such as Patagonia, REI and Timberland.

Sustainable Development
To meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (The United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainable Outdoor Product
A product that has been designed and supplied with the least negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources.

Swapping an item of unwanted clothing with friends often organised as a Swishing Party.

Synethic Leather
Synthetic leather is a man made fabric that looks like leather. The term pleather (“plastic leather”) is a slang term for synthetic leather made of plastic. Synthetic leather is not the plastic looking, tacky material that it was in the past. Today’s synthetic leather is made much better than the early versions.

Sympatex used in Waterproof Jackets
Sympatex Technology uses a material made from polyether and polyester. Polyether ester is recyclable so in the breathable waterproof membranes and coatings field this is considered to be environmentally friendly.

The Conservation Alliance
In 1989, Patagonia co-founded The Conservation Alliance, along with REI, The North Face and Kelty, to encourage other companies in the outdoor industry to give money to environmental organizations and to become more involved in environmental work. The Alliance now boasts more than 170 member companies, each of which contributes annual dues to a central fund.

The Hohenstein Institute
The Hohenstein Institute is an recognised research and service centre. It was founded Bönnigheim, Germany in 1946. The institute carries out neutral and independent testing and certification of textile products including evaluation of product quality and performance in its accredited laboratories. The test results are documented in the form of various certificates and quality labels, such as the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 for textiles tested for harmful substances. See also Wellness Label.

The Natural Step (TNS)
An international organization founded in Sweden in 1989 that uses a science-based, systems framework to help organizations, individuals and communities take steps towards sustainability.

The Waste Hierarchy
The waste hierarchy in Europe has 5 steps: reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery, and disposal.

Tencel™ see Lyocell Fibre
Tencel™is produced from cellulose, the main material in plant cells usually from trees. The production process is extremely environmentally friendly – the fibre has all the advantages of a natural material and is 100% bio-degradable. To date Tencel™ tends to be blended with other yarns. The fibre is excellent at moisture management.

The process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Downcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material

Vegetable Dyes
Dyes made from vegetable matter such as indigo, safflower, weld, madder and many other flowers vegetables and trees.

Vintage Outdoor Clothing
Vintage Outdoor Clothing is second hand or previously worn clothing from the period between the 1920’s and the 1960’s. If the clothing predates the 20’s it is considered antique. If it has never been previously worn but was still made in those seven decades, the piece would still be labeled as vintage.

Viscose see Rayon, Tencel™ and Lyocell™
The European word for Rayon. A manufactured fiber made of regenerated cellulose, commonly obtained from wood pulp.

Washing temperature
Generally speaking washing temperature recommendations by the brands are falling. Washing at 30 degrees Celsius rather than 40 degrees Celsius is now common. The cooler the wash the greater the saving on energy.

Water Footprint
A much newer term that indicates companies are becoming increasely conscious of their water usage and availability. They are awakening to the risk that water scarcity poses to their bottom lines and reputations.

Wellness Label
The Hohenstein Institute is an internationally recognised textile research and service centre. Involved in the research, testing and certification of textiles. The label from the Hohenstein Institute called the Wellness Label assures consumers the product can look specifically for certified for comfort and are also easy care.

Wyzenbeck Test
A test used to measure a fabric’s resistance to wear and abrasion.

via The ROG Green Glossary | LinkedIn.

Sustainable fashion should tap into power of millennials | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional

First and foremost though, appealing to young millennials and their aesthetic sensibilities is where sustainable fashion has fallen short. Brands like Urban Outfitters and H&M have successfully appealed to millennials, capturing their imaginations and their purses on an astonishing scale.One of the most recent memorable campaigns was H&M’s collaboration with Lana Del Ray, who modelled H&M’s clothing at the peak of her new found fame, tapping into her young and growing fan base. In an unfortunate turn of events, Del Rey modelled an angora sweater as part of the campaign just as news of the unethical treatment of angora rabbits in the fashion industry was exposed and the campaign came under fire. H&M halted its angora production until it could verify that its policy on the treatment of animals was being followed by suppliers. However, imagine the impact of the campaign if it had run with an educational message on responsible consumption. For example, if a millennial also fronted the company’s Conscious Collection.Sustainable fashion platforms, with the confidence of a growing young audience interested in the space should partner with global fashion giants like Urban Outfitters and H&M to tap into their huge captive audience, collaborate on ethical collections, and campaign for a more ethical fashion industry.According to US census data, 23-year-olds are now the single largest age group in the US coming in at 4.3 million. If the sustainable fashion and fast fashion worlds could truly collaborate in an honest way, we’d be able to pass on the ethical fashion message to these millennials immediately. It seems this is the next realistic step for the movement along with having celebrities, bloggers and Youtubers on board. Sustainable fashion isn’t the enemy of fast fashion, but it could be its saviour.Rachel Kibbe is the founder of HELPSY, an online boutique for ethical fashion. She tweets @rachelkibbe and can be found on Instagram @shophelpsy

via Sustainable fashion should tap into power of millennials | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional.

The Cleanest Line: Patagonia’s Plastic Packaging – A study on the challenges of garment delivery

Patagonia’s Plastic Packaging – A study on the challenges of garment delivery

By Nellie Cohen & Elissa Loughman


Patagonia’s finished goods factories package each individual product we make in a polybag. Some of our direct customers (people who order from our catalog or have expressed disappointment in the amount of waste generated by polybags. This customer feedback inspired us to investigate ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated from Patagonia’s product packaging.

Editor’s note: The tone of today’s post is a bit formal due to its origins as an internal case study. It’s a good look into the workings of our company and the challenging decisions we’re faced with as we try to balance customer satisfaction with environmental impact.

In order to evaluate how Patagonia can reduce plastic in our supply chain we conducted several tests at our Distribution Center (DC) and surveyed our customers. Through this study, we determined that polybags are critical to insuring that garments stay clean from the finished goods factory through the DC. If we eliminated the use of polybags, garments would be damaged, resulting in both financial and environmental costs. Energy, water and resources are used to make each product and we want them to be worn. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.

We invite you to read on to see our progress in examining this area of our distribution process and how we’re working through potential ways to lessen our impact going forward, while making sure our products reach you undamaged.

Above: A look inside the Patagonia DC in Reno, Nevada. Products are picked in the warehouse, sent to packing stations and then to outbound mail via conveyor belts. This system allows us to ship packages with the greatest efficiency, especially during busy periods like sales and holidays. All photos: Nellie Cohen



Each Patagonia product we sell is packaged in a polybag at the finished goods factory and arrives at our DC in cartons. The boxes that arrive from the factories are often broken, torn, or open upon arrival. This exposes finished products to dirt, moisture and damage.

The polybag protects the product from becoming dirty or damaged at the factory, during transit to the DC and while the product is stored, processed and packed at the DC. Additionally, the polybags keep stored products clean in the wholesale and retail environments.

It is essential for the product to remain protected in each of these supply chain steps. Currently, Patagonia does not have specific requirements for the size and type of polybags used by our finished goods factories and the polybags in use do not contain recycled content. Despite the functionality of polybags, they are perceived as waste by many customers and employees.


Shipping journeys can be perilous.


Polybags protect our products even if the box is damaged in transit.



Summary of Objectives & Results

Objective: Determine if it is possible to completely eliminate the use of polybags without incurring damage to products that would make them unsellable.

Result: Products were damaged when they were run through the shipping system in Reno without a polybag. In our experiments, about 30% of garments that went through the system without polybags were damaged beyond the point of being sellable. This indicated that it is not possible to process products in the Reno DC without polybags.


Test: We ran 40 unbagged, tied products through the Reno picking system in order to measure the damage incurred. All of the products were returns from the retail stores in pristine condition with hang tags attached. We folded and tied each of the 40 products with paper ribbon and placed the pick labels on both the product and the hang tag to determine where it was most effective.


Taking the ride.


17 of 40 products (42.5%) fell out of the tie by the time they arrived at the packing station.


12 of 40 products (30%) showed visible signs of damage and dirt by the time they reached the packing station.


We also found the placement of the pick label to be a challenge. We placed the pick labels on both the product and the hang tag to determine where it was most effective. The pick label did not stick to 12 of the 40 materials. In a real product order, the pick label cannot be placed on the hang tag because it will cover up the bar code for the product that must also be scanned in the outbound product packing process.



Objective: Determine if paper mailers are effective shipping containers in order to eliminate the use of plastic mailers.

Our current plastic mailers are made of 40% post-consumer waste (PCW) content and were down-gauged from 3.5 to 2.5 millimeters which reduced our plastic use by 30%. Our mailer bags are recyclable, but usually must be taken to specific receptacles for plastic film recycling, such as those located in grocery stores.

Result: Both brands of paper mailers we tried suffered considerable damage prior to leaving Reno. Damage included separated seams and tearing, and mailing labels peeled off several orders.


Test: In an effort to find a way to eliminate plastic in our mailing containers we selected two brands of paper mailers to test. 


Both options were 100% paper, did not contain any plastic or fiberglass inner structure, were lightweight to minimize shipping costs and would be completely recyclable in common curbside recycling systems.


We used three sizes of each brand in our tests. We documented the journey of the paper mailers through the Reno system from packing station to their exit and respective mail carriers.


We encountered problems with these bags before they left the DC.


A hole like this could soil an unbagged garment during shipping.



Objective: Determine if it is possible for the Reno DC to remove polybags before shipping customer orders without damaging products. This will enable Patagonia to retain and recycle more plastic bags.

Result: It is possible to remove polybags before shipping customer orders, but it takes time to remove each polybag. When we extrapolated this time across an entire calendar year we estimated that it will take an additional 5,555 hours of work per year in labor to unbag every product we send.


Removing the bag and refolding the garment at the shipping station.



Objective: Survey our customers to determine if they prefer to receive products in polybags or if they prefer to receive products that aren’t packaged in polybags.

Result: Only 22% of our customers viewed our packaging as environmentally friendly, we did however, see a 14% increase in customer satisfaction when we used paper mailers and removed polybags. The general trends that emerged from both surveys were (1) our current packaging is very effective with 99% of garments arriving in perfect condition (2) people try to recycle or reuse our packaging (3) customers are unclear if the packaging is recyclable and (4) they want to recycle our packaging.





Objective: Quantify the amount of additional polybags that can be recycled if products are shipped to customers without polybags.

Result: An estimated 50,000 pounds of plastic can be retained in Reno each year. If we are able to decrease the size of our polybags (see next Objective), the quantity of plastic will decrease.





Objective: Investigate how Patagonia can reduce the amount of plastic it currently uses in packaging products.

Result: Folding products into smaller shapes would enable us to reduce the size of the polybag required for each product. Initial work shows that this can result in nearly a 50% reduction in plastic weight on a per product level.






As you can see, there are several ways we might reduce plastic waste within our system in the future. We’re currently looking into the feasibility of implementing these recommendations, and we’re always searching for new alternatives. We know some companies out there have found solutions that work for their unique distribution systems, all with varying sizes and complexities—prAna being a good example—and we’re also looking to learn from them. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

1. Continue to use polybags at the factory level. We found that polybags are an effective barrier to damage that can occur during shipping and while going through the Reno picking system. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.

2. Reduce the size of polybags used. Many of our products are packaged in polybags that are far larger than the product. We recommend implementing packaging and folding guidelines at the finished goods factory level that require a reduction in the size of polybags.

3. Do not use paper mailers. We found that the two types of paper mailers we tested were barely strong enough to survive the journey through the DC. We expect that they will not consistently reach customers unharmed.

4. Continue to recycle all polybags collected in the DC. Baling the polybags that are collected in Reno is key to minimizing the waste we produce.

5. Educate our customers. The survey responses inspired an unexpected recommendation which is to provide our customers with more information about how to recycle their packaging.

6. Source recycled polybags. By using recycled polybags we can reduce the amount of virgin petroleum we use in our packaging. We have started investigating the potential to source recycled polybags.

7. Increase polybag recycling at wholesale dealers. We have a tremendous opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up as waste by working with our wholesale dealers to ensure that polybags are recycled.



Nice study, but how do I recycle the polybag that protected my Patagonia fleece?

Customers who don’t have curbside options for recycling polybags are welcome to do the following.

1. Mail them back to us for recycling:

Patagonia Service Center
ATTN: Common Threads Recycling Program
8550 White Fir Street
Reno, NV 89523-8939

2. Drop them off at the Patagonia Retail Store nearest you—ideally, while you’re running other errands, to reduce environmental impact.

Both of these options apply to Patagonia garment recycling as well.

3. Many grocery stores take back plastic bags and the bags we use can be recycled in a grocery store recycling stream. Follow this link and enter your zip code to find a plastic bag recycling location near you.




Thanks to everyone at the DC for accommodating us while we performed these tests. Nellie Cohen is Product Responsibility Analyst and Elissa Loughman is Manager of Product Responsibility for Patagonia. They work on special projects related to Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Assessment.

via The Cleanest Line: Patagonia’s Plastic Packaging – A study on the challenges of garment delivery.

Homemade Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets – With Natural Scents

If you want to learn WHY we make our own – and why you should too – scroll down and prepare to have your mind blown by facts revealing how dangerous chemical perfumes in commercial cleaning products really are.

Homemade Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets

Vinegar Laundry Softener

Vinegar is my fabric softener of choice.  Aside from being a natural softener, it also removes soap residue in the washing machine and reduces static in the dryer. You can add vinegar to a Downy ball and throw it in with your laundry, or pour vinegar directly into the fabric softener dispenser if your washing machine has one. I have even added 1-2 drops of my favorite essential oil to the vinegar in the softener dispenser. My mother caught me standing over the washing machine one day with a glass dropper in one hand and a bottle of lavender essential oil in the other, and commented that it looked as though I was running a science lab out of my laundry room. I feel like a scientist sometimes as I experiment with combinations of my favorite oils in the laundry.  Sweet orange brightens and fights stains, lavender offers a calming effect, and peppermint can help fight tough odors on clothing.

You can pre-mix your fabric-softening vinegar by using the following recipe:

A simple solution:

Lavender-scented softener is one of my favorites, or a combination of sweet orange and lemon when I need a pick-me-up on laundry day!  A third suggestion is to use peppermint for an invigorating minty scent.

To use:

Just shake well before each use and it’s ready for the rinse cycle. For small or average loads add ½ cup to the rinse cycle, or a little more for large loads. (UPDATE: A helpful reader with an HE washer advises that about ¼ cup works perfectly for full loads.)

Note: Once clothes are dry you will not notice the scent of this homemade fabric softener. Many readers have asked, “So why use them?” One benefit of including the essential oils is that many contain antibacterial properties and will help disinfect laundry. (Lavender, sweet orange, lemon, and peppermint [and many more!] are all antibacterial.) Essential oils like lemon and sweet orange have also been known to brighten laundry and fight stains. Feel free to leave out essential oils if you wish…vinegar is also antibacterial. I’m a sucker for essential oils in my laundry mainly because I enjoy the aromatherapy the oils provide during this mundane chore!

via Homemade Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets – With Natural Scents.

Dryer Sheets are easy too

Over the past few years we have researched many alternatives to commercial dryer sheets. Why? Because there is evidence that toxic fragrance chemicals can be present in commercial dryer sheets that can be absorbed into your skin when you put your clothes on. This was enough to convince me that commercial dryer sheets might not be the best choice for my family, and the cost savings of do-it-yourself dryer sheets was an added bonus. You will love experimenting with different scents along the way, and will never have to put dryer sheets on your grocery list again! (Note: These dryer sheets will not soften laundry, and are mainly for added scent. Use vinegar in the rinse cycle of the wash and felted wool balls in the dryer to soften and decrease static.)

Cut cotton cloth into small squares. I use 5-inch squares of cotton t-shirts that I’m retiring. Add 3-5 drops of essential oil to your cloth and throw it in the dryer with your next load. These cotton dryer sheets can be used for 2 or 3 loads, each time adding 3 more drops of your favorite essential oil. Wash the cloth after a few uses and experiment with a new fragrance the next time! Some of my personal favorites are lavender, lemon, or grapefruit. (find pure essential oils here)

If you don’t have essential oils and would like to try some other safe alternatives, consider the following:

  • Dampen hands with water and fluff laundry as it comes out of the dryer to reduce static cling.
  • Line dry clothing to avoid static cling altogether.
  • Hang dry clothing made from synthetic fibers. These items create more static in the dryer.
  • Use felted wool dryer balls to fluff clothing, reduce drying time, and cut down on static. (Learn how to make your own or find them on – get at least 6 to be used in each load for best results.)
  • Although I’m unsure of the “natural” factor of aluminum foil in the dryer, this one works! A ball of aluminum foil in the dryer does wonders for decreasing static! It turns into a nice smooth ball and can be left in the dryer for many loads. 

I probably spend too much time in my “science lab” now, experimenting and enjoying the laundry aromatherapy. I’m also enjoying the peace of mind knowing that I am not putting chemicals into my family’s laundry.

You won’t believe these Facts about Chemical Perfumes

A recent study revealed that many of the top-selling commercially scented cleaning products – including: air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, and shampoos – emit more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.

Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones.


Ricicliamo la rete con @econyl #senzatimore
Ricicliamo la rete con @econyl #senzatimore (Photo credit: Michele Ficara Manganelli)


Waste Filling Up
Our Landfills

Clothing, furniture, smartphones, toys, etc. Every year, vast amounts of domestic and industrial waste end up in landfills, incinerators or even worse, nature.

Textile fibers contribute to a large portion of disposed waste. In 2010, man-made fibers amounted to 66% of all textiles and apparel consumed.

More waste
on the horizon

Global fiber consumption is likely to increase nearly 30% between 2010 and 2020. The continual rise in consumer consumption will only increase the environmental problems linked to the disposal of such products.

All this waste – just wasted

The US and EU have produced nearly 15 million tons of textile waste. All this waste contains valuable resources that can be reused.



Regeneration System

The ECONYL® Regeneration System puts an end to unnecessary waste of polyamide material.

We use an innovative industrial process to recover nylon from waste. This nylon is then transformed back into virgin raw material for new products.






Outdoor-jacket test detects high amount of polluting chemicals –

After testing 15 outdoor jackets and five impregnating agents of poly- and perfluorinated chemicals (PFC), the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt; UBA) has found high levels of these substances, which severely contribute to the environmental pollution. Poly-and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are widely used in jackets, pants or sports clothing to make them water-and stain-resistant.

The study aimed to determine the emissions of PFCs from outdoor jackets and concurrently the associated risk to humans and the nature. PFCs were found in all the 15 tested jackets, which are liberated to the environment through washing processes and evaporation. Then these chemicals spread through rivers, seas, deep sea and into the groundwater. Organisms are also exposed to PFC, as these particles are inhaled by air or ingested through water and food.

Maria Krautzberger, president of the UBA: “Unfortunately, the impregnations don’t stay in the jackets, but evaporate into the air or reach the sewage treatment plants while washing and from there get into natural water courses. Even though the jackets deliver few PFC into the environment compared to other sources, the question is whether this type of waterproofing substances must be used.”

Germany, together with Norway, will present a legal restriction for PFC and its precursors to the EU. This includes limits for products, such as textiles, medical products and household goods. Some manufacturers already rely on PFC-free impregnation.

Lorenzo Molina

via Outdoor-jacket test detects high amount of polluting chemicals –

Research list issued for hazardous textile chemicals | Dyes & Chemicals News

Research list issued for hazardous textile chemicals Print Thursday, 19 June 2014 ShareThisZDHC LONDON – The ZDHC Group has issued a new ‘research list’ which outlines its research and development efforts to prioritise replacements for substances that currently do not have safer alternatives and that are restricted on its recently released manufacturing restricted substance list MRSL. In the list, the ZDHC also says that for some end-uses there may never be ‘suitable alternatives’ to fluorine-based chemistry for oil and water repellent fabrics.The ZDHC Group, which aims to reach zero discharge of hazardous chemicals from textile supply chains by 2020, has today unveiled a new ‘research list’ that identifies a range of potentially hazardous substances which it is analysing in order to identify and develop new alternatives before these chemicals are moved on to its MRSL for supply chain phase out.Both the research list and the MRSL will be updated regularly as data become available.Interestingly, the ZDHC admits: “Though for some chemicals, substitutes could be many years away.” And in particular on the ‘research list’ it also acknowledges that for perfluorinated compounds PFC’s commonly used in stain and water repellent coatings: “There is, according to some authorities, a potential risk that short-chain PFCs may have comparable risks to long chain PFCs.”As such, the ZDHC has placed short-chain C6, C4 based PFC on its research list to demonstrate “we are working with stakeholders to find replacements for short-chain PFCs. We fully acknowledge that this may take many years. As long as no safer alternative for durable water, oil and stain repellency and soil release with satisfactory performance level is found, some brands will continue using short-chain PFCs on their consumer products.”The ZDHC also notes: “In a few cases, due to the end use of the textile e.g., medical field, personal protective equipment, military, performance requirements must be considered more important than potential environmental risks. In these few cases, we acknowledge that there may never be suitable alternatives.”Other chemical substances on the research list include dimethyl formamide as a solvent for PU coatings, during the processing of artificial leather. This hazardous substance can also be used in the formulation of surfactants, liquid dyes and fluorescent whitening agents. It is also the solvent used during the manufacture of acrylic fibres and some plastics, as well as the main part of the solvent mixture or exclusively the solvent for PU coatings.

via Research list issued for hazardous textile chemicals | Dyes & Chemicals News.

Fashion’s Dirty Little ‘Sustainable’ Secret; Wear More and Wash Less 

Last year Tommy Hilfiger made headlines when he stated that he ‘didn’t wash his jeans for months,’ and then, after a pause, added ‘never.’ The comment set off a maelstrom over the hygienic implications but also something else — more and more people started to come forward and admit that they too wash their jeans “never.” It’s not just better for the jeans, it’s better for the environment to wear more and wash less.

When examining the carbon footprint of apparel, especially something cotton like jeans or a t-shirt, it is shocking how much the impact increases once the consumer takes the product home. Resource inputs to grow, manufacture and transport garments to market all pale in comparison to the water and energy resources that get consumed once said item is in the hands of the wearer. Simply put — laundering and washing consume the largest amount of resources and the largest carbon footprint in the life of the garment, whether it was produced domestically or abroad and we are drowning in the waste of washing.


Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion puts it this way, “Keeping clean used to be about disease prevention, but now the culture of whiter than white has weakened our immune systems, lined the pockets of detergent manufacturers and led to the startling fact that the energy needed to wash your favourite garment is about six times that needed to make it.”

And now jean wearers, be they the new raw denim wearer or someone like Hilfiger referring to his Levi’s, are all coming clean that they ‘never wash.’ The CEO of Swedish denim company Nudie, Palle Stenberg says of his own jeans, “Here is a pair I’ve been wearing every day for at least two years. Can you see the repairs? If I turn it inside out … you can see repairs. That’s the idea. Buy a pair of organic jeans, never wash them and you wear them and wear them and wear them and they become like a second skin.”

To further cement the normalcy of this idea, a student and researcher at the University of Alberta tested the bacteria content of jeans worn for 15 months, and found that the bacteria levels in the jeans were similar post-wash and pre-wash. Further proof to Fletcher’s point that washing clothes is “a habit and an activity closely tied in with social acceptance, personal and romantic success and happiness,” and not at all based on hygienic necessity.

Want ways to reduce your closet’s carbon footprint, use these these never wash tips:

Worried about bacteria: place clothing in a sealed bag in the freezer overnight, up to 72 hours for maximum bacteria killing effect, this will also reduce any odor on the garment

Worried about odor: hang the garment outside. Whites will also benefit from bacteria reduction in direct sunlight

Sweat stains: buy or make underarm shields that can be removed and washed when necessary, reducing the need to wash tops, sweater and shirts

Heavy dirt or surface stains: wear the item into the shower or spot clean with a lightly damp cloth

Image: University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing (2006) Well Dressed? The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom

via Fashion’s Dirty Little ‘Sustainable’ Secret; Wear More and Wash Less | Kate Black.

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