Surfing is one of those sports that makes you feel more connected to nature than almost any other. Despite it being fairly minimalistic, sadly the tools of the trade are far from eco-friendly. However, Patagonia have just come up with a solution to make the negative environmental impact from surfing just that little bit less…
They have developed a new material to replace neoprene, the foundation of most wetsuits for the past several decades.
Neoprene is made from a petrochemical product, and so is not exactly what you might call sustainable. Patagonia have been working for a while to increase the greenness of their wetsuits, but they had not found a way to replace neoprene completely.
Yulex wetsuit from PatagoniaOne obvious choice was to use natural latex, but the most common forms of latex comes from the Hevea brasiliensis tree, which is unfortunately not certified as a sustainable crop by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Most of it is grown on land cleared by slash and burn farming methods.
Working with Yulex, they have developed a neoprene alternative using the guayule rubber, sourced from Guatemalan fair trade rubber tappers. As of this season all Patagonia’s wetsuits will be made using this new Yulex rubber.
And the best news? It performs better than the old neoprene version. A better quality wetsuit that is better for the environment, now that’s what I call progress.
Patagonia are not trying to be better than everyone else to out sell them. Instead they are trying to influence and encourage everyone to copy them. Hopefully within a short time we will see a new standard being set throughout the industry.
Patagonia are quick to point out this is not a truly green wetsuit. There are other parts to the wetsuit that are still made from petrochemicals, along with a degree of embodied energy of course. However, it is a big step in the right direction, and they continue to make further progress, and to make your time in the water a green experience.