Recycled Nylon, and Patagonia's Examined Life


We had intended to post a little story about recycled nylon finally becoming available as a clothing line, but then something else caught our eye. (Patagonia have begun offering pants made with 36% post-industrial recycled nylon 6 - it's off spec yarn that use to be a waste product, but now by recycling Toray's Recyclon, saves 15% of the energy normally expended in creating virgin nylon. Nylon has not been readily recycled before, partly because collection streams are rare, especially compared to polyester.)

But what really grabbed out attention was Patagonia's new Footprint Chronicles. It's a mini-site that details some of the environmental pros and cons of selected product lines, currently showcasing a cotton polo shirt, leather shoe, fleece vest, waterproof jacket and wool top. They track a product from its fibre source through to arrival at their distribution centre in the US. And the results are eye-opening. For instance, the energy used to get a simple wool crew neck from off a sheep's back in New Zealand to Reno, Nevada, via a 16,20 mile (26,200 km) trip though Malaysia, Japan and Los Angeles uses enough energy to power a typical American house for 16 days. All the while generating about 20% more waste, and 500 times more CO2 emissions, than the end weight of the shirt.This is a brave initiative by Patagonia to put even more of their cards on the table for all to see. In providing such transparency we become more enlightened 'consumers', meaning we might buy less, when we see the impact our purchases have. On one hand they tell how great this top is for skiing or biking, but on the other explain what the usually hidden costs are for having that benefit.

And in providing some of the answers it can lead us to ask for more. Like why they are coy about the origin of the leather and rubber used for their shoe example, while giving detailed info on the source of their cotton, wool and polyester? But as they freely admit this is a work in progress and the results are in their own words, "partial and preliminary."

Check out the scarey stats, the video interviews, the maps, and the long list of references behind their calculations. This is a little like Timberland's Green Index idea, but with more background material. See the complete package under their banner of ::Patagonia - Leading the Examined Life.

Pic by David Waag.

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