In the midst of all the store flyers advertising Black Friday deals, I saw this ad in the New York Times from Patagonia. I loved the message, what a refreshing approach to the mass consumerism of the day.
With the catchy headline, Patagonia aimed to draw attention to the deeper message – the impact that manufacturing has on our environment. But what struck me more was their approach. The ad outlined the harm that the making of just one jacket has, and in specific terms that don’t take an engineering degree to understand. For example, the jacket requires 135 liters of water in the manufacturing process, that’s enough water, in their estimate, for 45 people for one day.
What’s unusual about this approach, in my experience, is the transparency about one specific product and its impact. It seems many more companies communicate their environmental successes by talking about what they have left out of the process, or what was theoretically saved by using less-intrusive raw materials or methods. That approach might give some consumers a false sense of environmental security – this product uses less material or less energy to produce, therefore it’s better. Which may not always be the case.
Some consumers might read the Patagonia ad in a negative way. Sure, there’s a bit of a guilt trip there, especially compared to the feeding-frenzy mentality of Black Friday sales. Full disclosure, my household was not immune to Black Friday either, Jeff did take advantage of a one-day sale on my Christmas gift (purchased online). I didn’t go anywhere near a shopping center, not to make a statement, it’s just not my thing to line up with hundreds of other people to save a few bucks. Though once I lined up in the middle of the night to buy R.E.M. concert tickets. That was back in the late 1980s, and well worth it, we got great seats!
Patagonia included a call to action in the ad, asking people to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge. The pledge asks for action on both sides, for example they pledge to make useful gear that lasts a long time, and to repair gear or find a new home for it when a consumer no longer needs it. Consumers pledge to only buy what they need, to fix what’s broken, and to keep items out of the landfill. Their goal is to get 50,000 people to sign the pledge, and they are tracking results online. It will be interesting to follow this Initiative to see if it gains traction. Kudos to Patagonia for asking for mutual responsibility in the effort.
In today’s environmental, and economic, climate, I hope their message was as impactful to others as it was to me.