Right now surfers can buy wetsuits made from greener versions of neoprene, but none of these really can be considered a truly green product. Now, Patagonia has announced a potential large step forward on this front: Producing the first wetsuits in the world made from a plant-based alternative to neoprene.
The Ventura, California-based company has partnered with Yulex Corporation to make wetsuits using guayule, "a renewable, non-food crop that requires very little water, is grown domestically in the US, uses no pesticides, and in comparison to traditional neoprene, has a very clean manufacturing process."
Patagonia surf director Jason McCaffrey:
After four years of working together, Patagonia and Yulex have co-developed a unique material [photo above] that allows us to make a wetsuit that is 60% guayule based. Our goal is to have the formula be 100% plant-based, but we feel that for now this new material is a big enough step forward to let the world know it is possible to buy something clear. It's our hope that other brands see this as interesting and join the effort to innovate and implement alternatives to traditional neoprene.
The wetsuits are slated to roll out in Japan, and this spring you'll be able to order them custom from Patagonia. A global roll out will follow.
Haven't heard of guayule? Don't feel bad, I had to look it up, too.
Guayule's scientific name is Parthenium argentatum. A flowering shrub in the aster family, native to the southwest part of the United States and northern Mexico, it's been used as alternative to latex rubber since pre-Columbian times, with its modern common name coming from the Nahuatl word for rubber.