Clothing Company Tells Customers, 'Stop Buying So Much From Us.'

Patagonia's campaign encourages shoppers to lessen their environmental impact by buying less.
Patagonia urges consumers to let the planet rest by buying less. (Photo: Peter Cade/Getty Images)
Dec 21, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Each year, the US spends enough on holiday decorations to end homelessness, so it’s difficult to discourage anyone in our culture to consume less, let alone stop shopping altogether. But sportswear company Patagonia is doing just that, and it’s not a cute marketing scheme. These people are serious about saving the environment and they’re insisting that you lend a hand.

The company’s Common Threads Initiative asks consumers to take a pledge, promising not to buy anything more than what they absolutely need, and that includes Patagonia’s own clothing and accessories. The accompanying ad campaign features the slogan, “Don’t Buy This Jacket."

But maneuvers like that aren’t out of the ordinary. The clothing company has for decades, been spearheading initiatives to green its business, but this is perhaps its most unorthodox approach.

The Common Threads Initiative, which is in its second year, aims to reduce excess consumption, giving the planet a rest from pollution, resource depletion and greenhouse gases. Its website says, “We design and sell things made to last and be useful. But we ask our customers not to buy from us what you don’t need or can’t really use. Everything we make− everything anyone makes− costs the planet more than it gives back.” Patagonia's end-game is a reimagined manufacturing industry where no resource is used unless it can be replaced.

MORE: The Next Thing Climate Change Could Ruin: Your Outfit

And to quantify exactly how much is used by the company to make one of its top-of-the-line winter jackets, Patagonia even provides a footprint calculator. It tells visitors guilt-inducing tales like this one: “To make [this jacket] required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.”

While a traditional business approach would say these tactics mean the clothier is foolishly cutting into its profits, Patagonia knows better. It earns over $400 million a year in revenue, while it spends next to nothing in advertising. That revenue comes from its loyal fan base, who return time and again not only for the exceptional quality, but because the company holds itself accountable to the greater good, even when others get away with doing less.

Does Patagonia's environmental transparency make you want to buy from them? Let us know in the Comments.