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Patagonia’s New Weed-Infused Wetsuit

Outdoorsy retailer Patagonia amps up their eco-friendly offerings.

Photo courtesy Patagonia

One would think the surf industry would already be at the forefront of environmentally conscious practice—after all, sand and sun already seem to have an inherently eco-friendly sheen about them. Yet most wetsuits are made of neoprene, a decidedly anti-green material that is both petroleum-based and nonrenewable.

Patagonia, the outfitter of all things outdoorsy, and also guilty of manufacturing neoprene suits, recently decided to take a hard look at their own offerings, introducing a revamped wetsuit comprised of 60 percent “biorubber” and only 40 percent neoprene (hey, it’s a start). This natural biorubber, made by biomaterial manufacturer Yulex, is derived from guayule, a desert shrub that grows in the American southwest and doesn't require much water to thrive.

Patagonia hopes to encourage their competitors to adopt biorubber into their own products, so that not only can the use of neoprene eventually be eliminated but also, as the market grows, the consumer cost for these eco-conscious wetsuits can decrease—currently one will set you back between $529 and $549. Ouch. Apparel companies have been tossing more muscle behind material innovation, maybe in a nod to our planet or possibly just in response to the increasing consumer interest in the story behind their clothes, but price point has consistently been an issue. Sure, most people support or want to support a greener lifestyle, but what if their budgets just can’t handle it? To what degree will they open their wallets to match their ideals?

Photo courtesy Patagonia

Time will tell how well Patagonia’s guayule wetsuit will fare in the market, but to nudge surfers into buying biorubber, a well-placed weed joke in one of their fall advertisements probably doesn’t hurt either.

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