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Patagonia Shares Eco-Footprint of Select Products with Consumers

Patagonia unveiled last fall a microsite that examines the footprint of select products as part of a consumer education experiment.

The company plans to track the paths of 10 more products this year, sharing what it has found as it looks at each product's environmental footprint from the design studio to its distribution center in Reno, Nevada, according to Fast Company magazine.

So far, the Footprint Chronicles has turned up a few surprises, such as the fact that transportation of goods represents a much smaller percentage of total energy use in its supply chain; manufacturing of products accounted for far greater energy consumption.

"If we had followed environmental chatter and spent all that time shortening our supply chains, it would have had a huge impact on our product quality," Jill Dumain, Patagonia's director of environmental analysis, told the magazine. "To realize that our conservation efforts needed to be focused elsewhere was really freeing."

The company also was open about its negative findings. For instance, its Eco Rain Shell jacket is made of recycled polyester components that save energy and produce little waste, yet the shell's water-repellent finish contains perfluorooctanoic acid, which accumulates in the bloodstream and may be toxic.

Although the company believes removing the coating would sacrifice performance, one consumer called for its removal after learning about it on the website. Patagonia is trying to remove the chemical from its product lines.

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