VENTURA, CA — Now that Patagonia is close to offering recycling for all of its clothing, it's taking a new approach to bringing sustainability to apparel: Asking customers to wear less and repair more.
Patagonia's new Common Thread Initiative, not to be confused with its Common Threads Recycling Program, will be rolled out over the coming year in an attempt to create as closed of a loop as possible for its clothing.
The Initiative, announced in Patagonia's latest catalog and on its website, has four points: Reduce, repair, reuse and recycle.
For the first step, Patagonia is taking a departure from other clothing companies by actively asking people to get along with fewer clothes and to wear them until they're all worn out. In turn, Patagonia says, that means it need to provide high quality clothes that will last, that are made with recycled or organic materials and produced by people who are paid and treated fairly.
Using clothes as long as possible also means repairing them, and Patagonia says it will be offering free repairs, but has not yet released details of what types of repairs it will cover.
For reuse, Patagonia will help customers sell, trade or donate clothes. And those that can't be reused can be recycled through the Common Threads Recycling Program.
Started in 2005, the program lets people mail in certain Patagonia products or drop them off at stores. It's brought in 39 tons and recycled 27 tons of clothing so far. The program currently takes Capilene performance baselayers, fleece clothing, cotton T-shirts, and some polyester and nylon 6 products tagged with the Common Threads logo.
Patagonia is planning to hit its goal of having all of its clothing recyclable through the program by next fall, which puts it a year behind schedule. In early 2009, the company posted a long look at the program, noting where it has run into roadblocks and faltered, like trying to figure out what material some clothes are made out of when they're old and missing tags, or working with recyclers that use completely different methods.
Patagonia textile R&D - CC license by Flickr user nicolas.boullosa