Campus News

Patagonia VP discusses environment at UGA Zero Waste Extravaganza

Manufacturing any product inevitably causes environmental harm, according to Rick Ridgeway, vice president of public engagement at Patagonia. But what sets the outdoor clothing company apart from other companies is its attempts to lessen the harm it causes and improve the environment.

Speaking at the UGA Zero Waste Extravaganza, Ridgeway detailed not only Patagonia’s history and mission, but he also discussed ways the company is trying to make the world a better place. His talk was part of the university’s Signature Lecture Series. 

The Zero Waste Extravaganza was an event that sought to educate UGA students and faculty on ways they can live lifestyles of limited waste.

Beginning the morning of Feb. 21 on Tate Plaza, the event featured Patagonia’s Worn Wear Tour truck, which travels to college campuses around the country, repairing damaged clothing and gear, including products that weren’t made by Patagonia. The point being that the longer something like a jacket lasts, the fewer number of jackets are made, which decreases the environmental impact of jacket production. An estimated 1,000 people visited the Worn Wear truck to have their clothing repaired.

That evening, Ridgeway was one of three speakers discussing environmental issues in Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center. Environmental activist Adam Werbach discussed the political side of the environment, and Scott Briscoe, a member of the first African-American team to summit Denali, talked about his experience on that expedition.

Ridgeway discussed Patagonia’s mission, history and efforts to combat melting glaciers and eroding grasslands.

“When you see things like this, you feel morally obligated to do something about it,” he said. “And if you’re in the business, you ask yourself how you can use your business as a tool for environmental protection.”

Ridgeway discussed ways Patagonia curbs its environmental footprint, like replacing a component of the company’s neoprene products in an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions and the number of rubber trees harvested.

Patagonia also partners with 1% For The Planet, a business network where each member donates 1 percent of its total annual sales to nonprofit environmental causes.

“Whether we are having a good year or a bad year, rain or shine, we take that 1 percent off the top and put it into a fund,” Ridgeway said.

In the end, Ridgeway sees Patagonia’s purpose as not only to make durable and quality products but also to implement solutions for the environmental crisis.