Patagonia and Microfiber Pollution

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Patagonia is a brand that we started carrying at the beginning of this year. We carry them for a few reasons. They have a reputation for making high quality apparel. Also, their running pieces not only speak to our running customer, but they are unique and eye-catching, too. Beyond all that, Patagonia has been known for their interest in environmental responsibility.

In the past few weeks, there has been some buzz in the apparel world about a new, upsetting discovery that certain fabrics may be contributing to a dangerous form of pollution. The microfibers that are shed from synthetic running apparel is polluting our water systems, both ocean and fresh water. Patagonia is once again demonstrating their “practice what you preach” mentality and bringing attention to this important issue within the apparel industry.

The problem

The problem is not just Patagonia’s. Certain synthetic fabrics shed microfibers during agitation while they are being cleaned – which means that any clothing company that uses these fabrics is also facing this issue. These microfibers make their way through the filters of our washing machines and into our water systems. It’s not necessarily just the fibers themselves that are posing the most harm, but their ability to absorb harmful toxins and transfer them into ocean/freshwater wildlife. These toxins infect the ecosystem, ultimately harming the environment. One repercussion that directly affects us is our food supply – harvesting directly  from our oceans, lakes, and river systems becomes problematic when our soon-to-be dinner is contaminated by these toxins.

The solution

While there isn’t a clear cut, easy solution, Patagonia has been vocal about doing their part in spreading awareness and funding research. They donated $9,000 to microfiber research done by the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. Beyond that, they have outlined the steps they are taking in the coming months to work towards a solution.

  • Collaboration. Patagonia wants to create a collaborative approach to finding a lasting, universal solution by bringing in other brands and companies through the Outdoor Industry Association. Patagonia has also gotten together a group of scientists, academics, and public advocates at their HQ in Ventura, CA for open discussion on what is known and what isn’t known.
  • Analysis. Patagonia wants to develop a way to analyze and collect data from apparel pieces in order to implement criteria to reduce the shedding of microfibers. Improving synthetic materials composition and innovating new materials will certainly help reduce this issue in future products.
  • Networking. Patagonia is reaching out to appliance manufacturers regarding creating more efficient filtering processes, and examining the way the washing machine’s mechanical process of agitation contributes to the release of microfibers
  • Continual research. Patagonia will fund research and donate grants to nonprofits that are continuing to bring awareness about the dangers of microplastics in our oceans. In the past 5 years, Patagonia has given over $180,000 in grant money to various groups working to address ocean plastics issues (including the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, Surfrider Foundation, the 5 Gyres Institute and others.)

Thank you, Patagonia, for standing up and ultimately owning up to an issue that the entire apparel industry is facing. By doing so, you are spreading awareness and pushing us ahead to a solution. We applaud you for your courage and your commitment to taking a stand for the betterment of our world.

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