Quantcast

Patagonia Invests in Textile Company in Hopes of Ditching Toxic Chemicals in Outerwear

Business

As many of us pack up our big, puffy coats after this season's unusually harsh winter on the East Coast, it's important to remember that our clothing—outerwear especially—can have a big impact on the environment. Though outerwear keeps us warm and dry, many popular brands contain fluorocarbon chemicals, or polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make these garments water- and soil-resistant, but also happens to be terrible for our health and the environment.

But one clothing company, Patagonia, is making efforts to get rid of this toxic chemical, through a strategic investment in Beyond Surface Technologies (BST), a Swiss start-up that's developing high-quality, durable textiles based on natural raw materials. Patagonia has a reputation for strong environmental stewardship, having recently established the Traceable Down Standard.

The high-end outdoor company said it's seeking ways to make garments waterproof using safe, fluorocarbon-free chemicals without compromising performance and durability. Photo Credit: Patagonia

"This is the tension we feel every day, making the best technical products for our core sports and working to fulfill our environmental commitments," said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. "We look for better, cleaner, safer ways to do things, we apply our own R&D and look for brilliant companies to partner with. Beyond Surface Technologies has the potential to help Patagonia and our entire industry get to the next level of chemical safety without compromising performance, and we're very excited to invest in their success."

BST was founded in 2008 by scientists and marketing experts with more than four decades of experience in the textile industry. "Patagonia's investment gives us the opportunity to accelerate testing and reduce time to market for our pipeline of groundbreaking new treatments for the entire apparel industry," Matthias Foessel, CEO of BST said. "Patagonia is enabling us to grow even faster ­benefiting the environment and enhancing product performance ­while remaining completely independent and in control of the original founders. This is truly unique." BST has a whole line of sustainable textiles, including the miDori evoPel, a water-repellent material made without hazardous ingredients such as PFCs.

The investment was made through Patagonia's $20 Million & Change venture fund that invests in companies making positive impacts on the environment.

Patagonia has been trying to eliminate fluorocarbon from their apparel for some time. In a blog post, the company said it's currently phasing out a long-chain C8 fluorocarbon-based treatment to a shorter-chain C6 treatment that's also fluorocarbon-based, but with by-products that break down faster in the environment and with less potential toxicity over time to humans, wildlife and fish.

This temporary solution, however, "is not good enough, but it’s the best option we have found so far," the post continued. That's why Patagonia is seeking out companies (such as BST) that are "inventing or innovating new ways to make our garments waterproof using safe, fluorocarbon-free chemicals without compromising performance and durability."

Listen to this segment on Marketplace where reporter Jeff Tyler visits Patagonia to learn more about their new investment:

In another sustainability initiative from the clothing brand, Patagonia kicked off its Worn Wear Mobile Tour, a cross-country mission to encourage customers to make their clothes last a lifetime.

During the tour, Patagonia staff will mend rips and tears, and repair broken zippers, buttons and more, all for free. They will also teach people how to fix their own clothing. (FYI: Items can be from any brand, not just Patagonia.) There will also be local food, drinks as well as worn Patagonia items for sale.

The mobile repair shop left Ventura, Calif. on April 2 and will park in several locations around the country before its last stop in Boston on May 12. Click here to see the entire tour schedule and check out the video below to learn more about Patagonia's new country-wide tour.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Look Out Cotton, These 3 Fruits Are Shaking Up the Textile Industry

Companies Respond to Women’s Call for Toxic-Free Products

7 Eco-Friendly Fabrics That Will Green Your Wardrobe

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Coral restoration in Guam. U.S. Pacific Fleet / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Erica Cirino

Visit a coral reef off the coast of Miami or the Maldives and you may see fields of bleached white instead of a burst of colors.

Read More
Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. Jacob W. Frank / NPS / Flickr

By Jason Bittel

High up in the mountains of Montana's Glacier National Park, there are two species of insect that only a fly fishermen or entomologist would probably recognize. Known as stoneflies, these aquatic bugs are similar to dragonflies and mayflies in that they spend part of their lives underwater before emerging onto the land, where they transform into winged adults less than a half inch long. However, unlike those other species, stoneflies do their thing only where cold, clean waters flow.

Read More
Sponsored
Augusta National / Getty Images

By Bob Curley

  • The new chicken sandwiches at McDonald's, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A all contain the MSG flavor enhancement chemical.
  • Experts say MSG can enhance the so-called umami flavor of a food.
  • The ingredient is found in everything from Chinese food and pizza to prepackaged sandwiches and table sauces.

McDonald's wants to get in on the chicken sandwich war currently being waged between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

Read More
Protesters march during a "Friday for future" youth demonstration in a street of Davos on Jan. 24 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Youth climate activists marched through the streets of Davos, Switzerland Friday as the World Economic Forum wrapped up in a Fridays for Future demonstration underscoring their demand that the global elite act swiftly to tackle the climate emergency.

Read More
chuchart duangdaw / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

The year is less than four weeks old, but scientists already know that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to head upwards — as they have every year since measurements began leading to a continuation of the Earth's rising heat.

Read More