Patagonia’s Baggies Shorts are overall, pretty sustainable, being made from recycled nylon and being Bluesign approved. However, they definitely are not perfect, as seen in the current use of PFCs as a water resistant finish. Although, Patagonia does appear to be making steps in the right direction in regards to replacing PFCs in their clothing. Patagonia is a very ethically and environmentally sustainable company which gives me hope that large corporations can have positive impacts on society and less negative impacts on the environment, despite inevitably consuming from and polluting the Earth. It’s important to remember that one of the most sustainable purchases you can make only buying what you need, especially if it is from a sustainable brand (like Patagonia) or if it is second hand.
Patagonia’s Barely Baggies shorts are made from 100% recycled nylon from post-industrial waste fiber from weaving mills and post consumer fishing nets. In the Fall 2020 collection, 67% of nylon fabrics are recycled causing an 18% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to virgin nylon. I wonder why not all of Patagonia’s nylon products are made with recycled nylon? Is there not enough fiber waste to supply or is the recycled nylon lower the quality of the product? I reached out using the chat function on the Patagonia website to see if these questions could be answered and they basically said that they are working on integrating recycled nylon into more of their virgin nylon products as a blend of the two. Patagonia Baggies are made with Bluesign approved fabric, meaning they are a sustainable material made with ethical labor in a sustainable supply chain.
Baggies are made with a durable water repellent finish. Patagonia makes it pretty clear on their website that said finish contains ingredients that are harmful to the environment, primarily perfluorcarbons (PFCs), which are an industry standard finish. There are concerns with PFC pollution in natural environments as well as biomagnification across trophic levels, where toxin levels increase up the food chain as predators consume smaller organisms containing the toxins (PFCs). This can in turn can impact humans through the animals we consume, which can tend to be higher on the food chain. Studies have also shown that PFCs may negatively impact human development, growth, reproduction, and liver function. However, Patagonia is working on replacing PFCs from all of their products with alternatives, which could include silicon-based, wax-based, or oil-based water repellents. Although, wax and oil-based repellents might compromise the quality and longevity of the product. 90% of Patagonia’s products that currently contain PFCs finishes will be PFC free by fall 2022. The other 10% of their products will likely remain containing PFCs as the long lasting water repelling quality is integral to the product’s use (ex: a rain coat that is meant to keep wearers dry during hours of rain exposure), but hopefully an alternative can soon be applied instead!
If Baggies were made with an alternative finish that was better for humans and the environment, I would likely give three earths out of three for this category. I would also grant what Baggies are made of 3 earths if Patagonia completely omitted a water resistant finish as I don’t think it is necessary for a pair of shorts. I would opt for a product containing PFCs if I needed it to keep me dry for long periods of time, such as a rain coat or a tent fly.
I could not find any information regarding how Baggies are specifically made. However, Patagonia does provide a “how it’s made” section under their product reviews, but it basically just outlines what Baggies are made of (recycled nylon and a water repellent finish).
Patagonia is a part of the Fair Labor Association and follows their Workplace Code of Conduct which ensures that there is no child labor, no harassment, guarantees minimum wage, etc in the factories that they partner with, as Patagonia does not own any of the factories their products are manufactured in. Patagonia has their own Code of Conduct so the factories they work with don’t subcontract as a way to get around ethical labor laws.
However, Patagonia has seen some issues with exploited labor in the past, especially during a period where they were sourcing cheaper labor. They recognized their fault in using cheaper labor and even explain how it negatively impacted the company, including producing lower quality goods, late deliveries, customer dissatisfaction, and loss of profit. I really appreciate that they are transparent about their past mistakes with customers especially in regards to labor as this might heed warning to other companies that may want to source cheaper labor.
I could not find any information regarding who (or where) specifically makes Baggies. However, Patagonia has a reputation as a sustainable and ethical mainstream brand. They are transparent about the ways they are improving their carbon footprint with regards to environmental, social, and business responsibility. Patagonia has a goal to become carbon neutral by 2025, donates at least 1% of their profits to environmental causes, and is a certified B Corporation. This communicates to me that they care about making their company and products more sustainable and that they are aware of their negative impact on the environment as a producer of new clothing. I value the fact that Patagonia as a brand has made bold promises and actions in regards to their sustainability, especially in comparison to competitors, such as Eastern Mountain Sports (a regional competitor, I suppose).
In 2017, Patagonia came out with Worn Wear, which is an initiative to keep Patagonia products in use by repairing, re-crafting, and in some cases, reselling them. I think this idea is very noteworthy because the company is inhibiting potential sales by enabling consumers to have their old Patagonia clothing fixed (for a price). To me, this shows the true integrity of Patagonia as they are putting time and energy into extending the lives of their products rather than manufacturing clothing that is meant to wear out quickly and be rebought many times.