In 2012, Patagonia announced that, after four years of research with partner Yulex Corporation, it had developed a sustainable, plant-based replacement for neoprene — the petroleum-based material used to make wetsuits, which has a highly toxic manufacturing process. Now, not only is Patagonia moving toward making a suit entirely from its proprietary biorubber, it is making the material available to the rest of the surf industry.
“Reason being: when volume goes up, price goes down, and more surfers can choose to purchase less harmful suits. It’s good, smart business,” the company said in a statement.
The biorubber replacement material is made from 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.
In Patagonia surf ambassador Dan Malloy’s words, “We can now grow our wetsuits, instead of drilling for them."
Patagonia’s biorubber wetsuits, which for now are made for men only, are comprised of 60 percent guayule/40 percent neoprene and have been on the market in Japan since 2012. The company has continued to refine them, with the goal of moving to 100 percent biorubber.
This fall, a tongue-in-cheek new ad campaign will accompany the next iteration of the biorubber suits, touting “The Best Weed in Town (and we’re giving it away).”
By sharing its advancement with the rest of the industry, Patagonia is following in the footsteps of Tesla founder Elon Musk — who in June removed patent barriers currently protecting his company’s intellectual property in an effort to advance the development of electric vehicle technology; P&G, which in October revealed a new process to mold plastic that it claimed could save the company $1 billion a year by using less plastic and different raw materials, which it plans to share with anyone from non-competitive package-goods players to automotive giants; and Nike, whose MAKING app provides designers and product creators around the world the information they need to make informed decisions about the environmental impacts of their materials.