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Serge de Gheldere: Homage to Patagonia

Serge de Gheldere, father of three fantastic kids, is a design engineer  and is shaping form to sustainability through his design studio Futureproof/ed in Leuven, Belgium; recent projects include information-, interior-, product-, and green building design.

The raw materials, the production conditions, the built-in: the clothing industry has its share of problems. Conventionally grown cotton requires large amounts of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, about one quarter of all agrochemicals used worldwide. Clothing supply chains and manufacturing conditions are shady at best and this cycle of environmental and social un-sustainability is accelerated by an ever shorter fashion cycle which makes clothes outdated long before their technical life cycle is over.

More than a decade ago, Patagonia, an outdoors clothing company, decided to become a transformer instead of transmitter, and took a good look at themselves. The foreword of the 1993 winter catalogue, written by founder Yvon Chouinard, read: “Last fall, we underwent an environmental audit to investigate the impact of the clothing we make.... To no one's surprise the news is bad. Everything we make pollutes. Polyester, because it's made from petroleum, is an obvious villain, but cotton and wool are not any better. To kill the boll weevil, cotton is sprayed with pesticides so poisonous they generally render cotton fields barren; cotton fabric is often treated with formaldehyde…” Pretty honest for a clothing company.

Since then Patagonia has gone on to become the archetypical Natural Capitalist company by instilling sustainability in all aspects of it’s business:

• Materials: all cotton is organic, some of the fleece is post consumer recycled PET, PCR filament yarn for some shell materials; continuous environmental assessment of materials and processes;

• Design: integration of formal and functional aspects into understated, fashion-free, yet warm, attractive and mostly timeless clothes;

• Production: minimize and reuse waste, pay workers in outsourced plants higher than average salaries and provide education;

• Logistics: solar-powered and solar-lit production facilities, eliminate packaging;

• Marketing: catalogs only sent out on demand, printed on variety of environmentally better paper (PCR, bamboo, etc…);

• Strategy: long term goals: run the company to still be around in 100 years;

• Contribute at least one percent of their net sales to environmental groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations;

• Corporate support for conservation programs for ancient forests, salmon, wildlands and organic farming.

Moreover, Chouinard together with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstone-based Blue Ribbon Flies, founded the non-profit organization 1% For The Planet. Member companies of 1% FTP contribute at least one percent of their net sales to environmental groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations. Members then receive the right to use the 1% FTP logo.

"We have created an organization that funds diverse groups," said founder Chouinard. "This way, collectively, companies can pool their business resources to be a more effective force in solving the world’s environmental problems." Chouinard stated use of the 1% FTP logo provides effective market differentiation for consumers. "This allows customers to distinguish between serious environmental commitment and empty rhetoric," he said. "These companies are not waiting for the government to do the right thing; they’re doing it themselves."

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I am using an archaea microbe for insect control. This microbe is an oil eating microbe. Clothing or cloth washed in the microbes could be cleaned of contaminants. I would like to talk to the person(s) who tested the cottons, etc.
Kenn Brown
512 754 7774

Posted by: Kenn Brown on 3 Jul 05



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