How can we as people, as customers and consumers reduce the generation of emissions, waste and wastewater? How can we save resources and minimise the pollution and destruction of our environment?
The answers to these questions are varied, and sometimes very complex and interconnected: the increase in renewable energy generation, efficient filter technologies, intelligent transportation concepts and legal frameworks that set limits for pollutants are only a fraction of all the measures.
The Californian outdoor and mountain sports company Patagonia is taking a completely different approach to environmental protection. The majority of citizens do not have much influence on the setting of legal benchmarks and the construction of a wind farm to generate electricity. As consumers and customers in a “throwaway society”, however, their actions are directly linked to environmental protection and destruction. This means quite simply: if you buy a lot and throw a lot away and then buy new again, you are destroying the environment more.
There are two ways to break this “rubbish spiral”: either stop buying things, which is probably impossible in daily practice, or use the things you buy for as long as possible. This means that the goods you buy should be durable, long-lasting and of high quality. Moreover, they must be easy to maintain and repair so that they can be used for a long time.
The rediscovery of repair with the Patagonia Worn Wear Program
No one would scrap a car because of a flat tyre. Yet, when a zip breaks on a waterproof jacket, many people buy a new one. This is where Patagonia comes in with its Worn Wear Program to repair functional textiles instead of throwing them away. As Patagonia makes outdoor clothing and not kitchen appliances or lawn mowers, the focus of the programme is on their functional textiles. However, Patagonia’s basic philosophy goes far beyond their own business – they want to re-establish the idea of repairing in all areas of people’s lives. Therefore, if you have a broken item, the first question should not be “where can I get a new one?”, but “how can it be repaired?
The makers of Patagonia have launched the Worn Wear Programme to extend the life of Patagonia products and reduce people’s ecological footprint. This is not just about manufacturing in the most environmentally friendly way possible and using recycled raw materials (although this already plays a fundamental role at Patagonia), but more specifically about repairing damaged Patagonia items. Over 45 permanent employees repair more than 30,000 jackets, backpacks and trousers in North America alone. In Europe, an annual Repair Tour takes place, where Patagonia employees use mobile industrial sewing machines to repair damaged outdoor clothing free of charge. By the way, they fix waterproof jackets and walking trousers of any brand.
The repair events are of course also a good way to draw attention to the Worn Wear project, to give care tips and repair advice and to share experiences with other outdoor enthusiasts. This is why the events always take place in collaboration with local outdoor retailers or climbing gyms and are scattered throughout Europe so that as many customers as possible can take advantage of the service. If you simply want to have a seam or button repaired, you can simply contact the Patagonia Repair Service, which has a branch in Portugal for customers in Europe. It often helps to ask your nearest Patagonia dealer first, as many are specially trained to carry out minor repairs and can repair small damage on the spot.
Repair damaged outdoor clothing yourself
It is not that difficult to repair torn seams or slashed sleeves – if you know how. Patagonia’s Worn Wear programme offers useful advice, tips and tutorials for common repairs that anyone can do themselves with simple tools. This can include simple instructions on how to sew a torn shirt, how to replace a drawstring in the hem of a jacket and how to replace a wheel on your rolling suitcase. Patagonia also provides precise care instructions to ensure the long life of outdoor textiles. This includes optimal dry treatment as well as tips on how to use irons and detergents.
Re-use and Recycling with the Worn Wear program
In North America, owners of Patagonia clothing that is in good condition or repairable can sell their used jackets and trousers back to Patagonia. The goods are then checked, repaired if necessary and thoroughly cleaned. Afterwards, the items can be bought again by other customers in the Worn Wear online shop. They in turn can sell their second-hand textiles back to the second-hand online store and so on and so on – until at some point a repair no longer makes sense or, in some cases, is simply no longer possible.
But even at this point, a Patagonia product will not just be sent to landfill. All Patagonia items can be handed in at collaborating retailers or directly to Patagonia for recycling. The creative developers at Patagonia think about the ease with which their products can be recycled even during the design and selection of materials. This allows, for example, an old and totally tattered fleece jumper to be turned into a brand new fleece. Recycling is not an entirely new topic, of course, but the difference compared to other companies is that Patagonia actually recycles its own goods itself as part of its own recycling process and does not forward them on and produce new items from other recycled material.
It is impossible to calculate exactly how many tonnes of raw materials, how much energy and how many cubic metres of water have already been saved through the Worn Wear Initiative. Repairing several hundred thousand products in the repair centres alone, preventing them from ending up in the rubbish, adds up to a gigantic volume. The Worn Wear Programme’s public relations work and campaign to inspire people to want to repair things extends far beyond the scope of outdoor textiles and mountain sportswear. Each time Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program opens a person’s eyes and helps them change their perspective on the “throwaway society”, the committed Californians are a major step closer to their goal of minimising our collective ecological footprint on the earth.