Roy Exum: Why I Wear "Good 'Gonia"

Sunday, January 20, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Many years ago – at least a quarter of a century – I fell in love with an outdoor clothing company named Patagonia and I must have over 100 pieces of the stuff by now. From everything to baggy swim shorts to down-filled jackets, I bet I wear several Patagonia products every week, all year long, because I think it is the best value in America. It is always in style and it never wears out!

Seriously, I have some jackets that are easily 25 or 30 years old but now my favorite company has just sent me a message: “Don’t buy any more from us!” That’s a bit startling, especially from a world-respected company whose fan base is among the most loyal return customers on the planet. And when you figure Patagonia earns over $400 million a year in revenues, the puzzling plea becomes all that more bizarre.

So here’s the rub: On a recent flyer that said in big black type, “Don’t Buy This Jacket!” a royal blue soft-shell rain jacket comes with the message, “To make this jacket required 135 liters of water – enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60 percent recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. The jacket left behind, on its trip to Reno, two-thirds of its weight in waste.”

What Patagonia wants all of us to do – really – is to not buy anything unless we really need it. They want us to consume much less of everything, even their superior clothing. If we do, it will greatly lessen the impact on the environment by reducing greenhouse gasses, pollution and natural resources. At first that sounds like suicide, because Patagonia products are so well made and held to the highest standard soon the clothing will outlast the demand.

But the truth is that, from the very beginning, Patagonia has made the earth on which we live its stage. Sure, the California-based company is freakish about the environment and every catalog, produced on recycled paper, includes essays on saving a desert or a tree frog, conserving water, and embracing our habitat. Call them eco-freaks but the better word is “sincere.” The whole company feels a deep responsibility to our greater good. That’s a heckuva advertising campaign in itself.

I have to admit I buy what I call “good ‘Gonia” because time and time again it has proven to be the best there is. I learned long ago if you buy high quality, it actually reduces quantity. The Maine outfitter, L.L. Bean, is consistently the most admired company in the country because they stand behind what they sell 100 percent. Patagonia and other high-end stores do the same thing.

It goes against my grain to send merchandise back; if something goes bad it’s because a hot ash from my cigar or a happy dog’s toenail was the culprit. But several years ago the plastic zipper on a relatively-new Patagonia jacket kept separating and I instead wrote a nice letter, praising the company but wanting them to be aware of a defective zipper. Almost immediately I got a new jacket, along with a note they had already been alerted a supplier had grievously sent inferior materials.

The only other beef I have with Patagonia is that it seems they want me to look like a rock or a tree. They have all these grey and brown clothes, many far too drab for a sport, and I wrote them a letter about that too, explaining when you aren’t very good at what you do then a good defense is to look a little more flashy. They saw my picture and admitted there wasn’t much they could do.

I’m not quite the tree-hugger or the “earth activist”  that maybe I should be, but I believe Patagonia is very sincere and quite forthright in taking the stance it does. I happen to believe I can do more for the common good in some other arenas while leaving environment efforts to people far more knowledgeable, passionate and determined. I also figure when I buy a piece of “Good ‘Gonia,” they’ll use part of the sale to further benefit an antelope habitat somewhere or help fund a Tibetan trailhead.

More and more I respect the idea that if we would buy only what we need – rather than trying to impress the girl in Apartment 3-G or become part of the next fad – this world of ours really would become a better place. The easiest way to do that is buy Patagonia products because I’ll swear they will last forever.

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Oversight Needed In CVB And Chamber Of Commerce Spending

The Hamilton County Commission adopted a resolution that requires that all taxpayer-supported agencies receiving 25 percent or more of their annual operating income to adhere to Hamilton County purchasing policies.  For the commissioners that voted to protect the public tax dollars, you get an A plus in elected representation.  It is about time that the CVB and Chamber ... (click for more)

Public Markets To Manage And Operate Finley Stadium

The Stadium Corporation board of directors, at a special board meeting Thursday, gave approval for Public Markets, Inc., (PMI) the entity that oversees the Chattanooga Market, the River Market, the Collegedale Market and Cambridge Square Market, to handle the management, operations and administration of the stadium. Executive Director of PMI Chris Thomas and his staff stepped ... (click for more)

Man Charged In North Chattanooga Murder Says "Wrong Number" Led To Drug Deal That Went Bad

A man charged in a North Chattanooga murder said a "wrong number" led to his chance meeting with victim Charles "Chas" Holsey and a drug deal that led to the March 2, 2015, slaying. Briston "B.J." Smith Jr. told investigators he thought he was dialing a friend named "Clack" who he said sells marijuana. By getting one digit wrong, he wound up texting with Holsey, who by chance ... (click for more)

Inclement Weather Forces Cancellation Of Thursday Night's Lookouts Game

Not only was Tropical Storm Cindy responsible for the cancellation of Tuesday's Southern League All-Star Game, but now the storm has also resulted in the cancellation of Thursday night's game at AT&T Field with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The First Half North Division Champion Lookouts announced that Thursday's (6/22) game has been postponed due ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School Selects Joey Knox As Head Wrestling Coach

Cleveland High School has selected Joey Knox as the next head coach for the Blue Raider Wrestling program.  Coach Knox has been with the wrestling program as an assistant since 2013.  During his assistant coaching tenure, the team has secured six Team State Championships, including five individual State Champions and 20 State Medalists.    Cleveland High ... (click for more)