He doesn’t think politics and politicians are capable of dealing with real environmental issues. But he made sure his company–Patagonia–lived up to his ideals. This long profile of Yvon Chouinard is inspiring and thought-provoking. But also depressing because voices like his are never let into the mainstream:
The Chouinards undertook an environmental audit of their products and operations. For a few years, they’d been tithing ten per cent of their profit to grassroots environmental organizations. Now they enshrined a self-imposed “earth tax” of one per cent of their sales: a bigger number. “The capitalist ideal is you grow a company and focus on making it as profitable as possible. Then, when you cash out, you become a philanthropist,” Chouinard said. “We believe a company has a responsibility to do that all along—for the sake of the employees, for the sake of the planet.”
Eventually, they went so far as to openly discourage their customers from buying their products, as in the notorious 2011 advertising campaign that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” It went on, “The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing.” Manufacturing and shipping just one of the jackets in question required a hundred and thirty-five litres of water and generated nearly twenty pounds of carbon dioxide. “Don’t buy what you don’t need.” (Some people at Patagonia had been considering declaring Black Friday a “no-buy day,” to make their point about consumption.)
Considering the upstream costs of EVERYTHING you buy or do is at the core of any approach to living that prioritizes nurturing and conserving the Earth, and trying to find balance between humanity and nature. It’s one of the reasons I went vegan, and why I almost never buy anything unless I have an absolute need (drives my wife crazy). But there is so much more I can do (I’m working on it!), and it is nice to read about an icon who promotes these ideals.
A thirtysomething suddenly realizes that he REALLY needs to cycle 7000 miles to Patagonia:
I just turned 30, and I’ve decided to use this year to radically shape the rest of my life. I am about to leave my job and ride a bicycle for seventeen months, from Oregon to Patagonia. The need to do it (and it really felt like a need) hit me about three years ago when I read a quote from famed naturalist John Muir.
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
Now, I hardly make any money, and I don’t feel like this “trivial world of men” has nothing to teach me. But there was something about drawing close to 30 that felt like I was losing something. The newness of life and career and cities and friends began to find their comfortable patterns, and once you see the pattern, time speeds up. That’s why we hear old people always warning us of how fast life passes. It really doesn’t pass by any faster than those long childhood summers, but we just lose fascination, or I should say we lose wonder. We are no longer astonished by the way the world works.
A famous cure for that is travel.
Who can argue with that?
We all fantasize about dropping everything and setting out on an incredible journey. And if you can’t quite pull it off, you can always read The Odyssey, or watch a movie like 180 Degrees South. It was recently featured at the Best Of Mountain Film festival, and my friends at Outside listed it as a worthy entrant:
2. 180 South, in which adventurer Jeff Johnson recreates a trip Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins took to Chilean Patagonia in 1968. It’s a patiently told story that shines because Yvon tags along for the return trip, offering the sort of unfiltered wisdom that only he can. Here he is while slurping clams on a remote Chilean beach: “You know where I wish I was? Right here.” And on climbing Mount Everest: “You’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you finish.”
Outside also ran a longer profile of producer Chris Malloy, which observes: At a time many people are worried about unemployment, along comes a movie that makes a convincing case for seeking it out.
Here’s the trailer: