Product, Service & Design Innovation
Patagonia Invests in Waterless, Energy-Efficient Textile Processing Company

Patagonia has announced a strategic investment in CO2Nexus, a company that has developed a sustainable method of processing (cleaning, disinfecting and coating) textiles and garments using liquid carbon dioxide — which uses zero water, consumes less energy and generates very little waste.

Patagonia made the investment through its $20 Million & Change fund, launched in 2013 to help innovative, like-minded startup companies bring about solutions to the environmental crisis through business. The investment caps a Series A round of investment for CO2Nexus, Patagonia says.

CO2Nexus’ system, called TERSUS®, can process textiles using the same carbon dioxide that provides fizz to beverages. With 20- to 30-minute cycle times, the system works fast and requires no separate dryer — conserving significant energy as a result.

Patagonia says outdoor and other apparel items processed with the TERSUS® system emerge with minimal impact compared to traditional water- or solvent-based cleaning methods. Over the course of repeated washes, benefits include down loft enhancement, water repellency and color/size/fit consistency.

“Quite simply, processing textiles and apparel requires huge amounts of energy and water — and both are in crisis,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “CO2Nexus is a great fit for $20 Million & Change — it’s a young company using business and innovation to bring about positive benefits to the environment.”

Traditional textile processing methods are extremely water- and energy-intensive, consuming roughly 100 gallons of water for every pound of textile processed, according to industry analysis. That translates to hundreds of billions of gallons of water in the US alone, and trillions worldwide. Most textile processing today is concentrated in regions where water quality is low, which puts even greater strain on already scarce drinking water supplies.

$20 Million & Change was created in 2013 as an extension of one core tenant of Patagonia’s three-part mission statement — use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Through strategic investments in startups that share this value, Patagonia will help entrepreneurs and innovators succeed in “working with nature rather than using it up,” as Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard put it when announcing the investment platform last year.

Earlier this week, Patagonia was named on B Lab’s “Best for the Environment” list, which honors businesses that earned an environmental impact score in the top 10 percent of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company's impact on its workers, community and the environment.

In other textile-processing news, Levi Strauss announced in February that it has developed a process for using 100 percent recycled water in parts of its jeans production — an industry first. While the process is still in the testing phases in one of the company’s primary Chinese factories, Levi's says the ultimate goal is to use 100 percent recycled water to finish a wider range of its products at factories in other parts of the world.

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