If you have Patagonia gear you're no longer using, you can now bring it into a Patagonia store where you'll receive a credit to buy something new in stores or online, or put it toward used and discounted Patagonia apparel on WornWear.com.
Gear must function properly and be in good condition, but well used is fine, and trade-in credits range from $15 for kids and baby items to $100 for 3-layer shells.
In turn, your old gear gets cleaned (often with C02 to reduce water use), repaired if necessary, and sold at a discounted price through the Worn Wear program, instead of ending up in the landfill—which is where the average American dumps 70 pounds of clothing waste every year, according to the EPA.
But you recycle your garments, you say? That's great. Patagonia started producing their award-winning PowSlayer collection with 100 percent recycled Gore-Tex this year. But Worn Wear program manager Nellie Cohen says of the options to repair, reuse, and recycle, recycling should be your last resort.
"There's greater influx of energy and materials used in recycling than repairing and there are a lot of challenges around textile recycling especially when you're working with blended materials or ski clothing that is waterproof," says Cohen.
Because most local recycling plants don't accept textiles, there's a transportation footprint attached to getting your used gear to the right place. Additionally, there is the energy used to remove any zippers, toggles, or buttons before shredding or chemically dissolving the material.
Most textile recycling programs that brands advertise actually mean moving product somewhere else in the world, says Cohen. "It seems noble and important, but there are starting to be signs that people don't need any more of the First World's crap. So this is a waste problem, not a resource distribution problem. We don't want to send anything overseas unless there's a specific cause or need."
Instead, Patagonia does their best to retain all of their products by repairing and putting them back to use until it's true end of life, which is often much longer than we use them for.
On average, skiers use their jackets for three years before either giving them away, selling them, or tossing them out. If they stayed in use just nine months longer, there would be a reduction in carbon and water waste by 20 to 30 percent each, says Cohen.
Reducing waste, saving energy, and eliminating the need for chemical recycling are all key components to protecting our environment, and subsequently the longevity of the ski season.
"Sometimes people forget all of our ski clothing is mostly synthetic and made from oil. By and large, the textile industry is the oil industry when it comes to performance materials," says Cohen. "Every time you buy a new ski outfit, it's like filling up your gas tank. We're putting emissions into the world that exasperate global warming and reduce snowfall."
It's why Patagonia has partnered with Protect Our Winters on their Worn Wear tour, where skiers can learn to patch gear, re-waterproof shells, and fix busted zippers. For tour schedule, go here. Can't fix it yourself? Download a repair form and ship your jacket off to the massive repair center in Reno (I recently paid to have 4 inches of fabric added to my favorite bibs for a longer length and better fit). However, you do it, the goal is to help outdoor enthusiasts keep their gear in use longer, eliminating the need to buy more product and take oil out of the ground. That’s more than good marketing, it’s a good way for us to live.
"We all want to travel and ski and be outside, but if I'm going to put my carbon footprint somewhere, I'd rather travel or an experience, and wear the same worn out clothing," says Cohen. "Invest in something good and keep it going."