SAY GOODBYE TO NEOPRENE!
Last week, Patagonia introduced the world’s first and only neoprene-free wetsuits made with natural rubber from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council® certified by the Rainforest Alliance. And better yet, Patagonia is sharingthis groundbreaking innovation with other companies, hoping to create a shift toward cleaner and less harmful materials throughout the surf industry. The release of the new line is the result of a decade of Patagonia’s work in developing alternatives to neoprene. Patagonia published a blog post about the environmental impacts of neoprene in 2008, the year the company started manufacturing wetsuits. The post is available here.
The entire line of Patagonia’s all-new, high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber developed in partnership with Yulex and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The certification assures customers that the source plantation isn’t contributing to deforestation, and that it’s managed in a way that maintains the ecological functions and integrity of the forest. The Rainforest Alliance—an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, with a focus on tropical landscapes—performs audits to confirm that the plantation adheres to the FSC’s standards on the ground.
The neoprene-free Yulex wetsuits perform as well or better than conventional neoprene wetsuits. But because the main polymer is produced in trees instead of factories, using natural rubber reduces the CO2 emitted in wetsuit manufacturing by up to ~80 percent. The FSC certified rubber is blended with a small amount of chlorine-free synthetic rubber for increased ozone and UV resistance, and to meet Patagonia’s rigorous demands for durability and strength. The Yulex process also removes over 99% of impurities, resulting in a nonsensitizing material.
The new plant-based polymer pioneered by Yulex is sourced from Guatemala, where hevea trees are grown on reclaimed farmland. Hevea has long been the source for the most demanding rubber applications, including car and airplane tires. Some of the world’s supply, however, is grown in newly clearcut rainforest zones, making the rubber industry a major driver of deforestation in tropical countries. Patagonia avoided using hevea until a more sustainable source could be found.
This story and product release is a testament to Patagonia’s mission to build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. The Yulex, like each of their groundbreaking and mindfully designed and constructed products, is driving a paradigm shift that will continue to make waves in the surf, outdoor and textile industry. We are already looking forward what innovative product lies around the bend!
Patagonia wetsuits are available for purchase at Patagonia Surf stores, select surf shops and at Patagonia.com.