Surfers are known to be a weed-friendly bunch, but beyond hippie clothes made from hemp, few actually wear it. In a new ad that will appear in print publications in the fall, Patagonia proclaims to be offering just that possibility.
In reality, the ad—"We have the best weed in town (and we’re giving it away)."—is a bait-and-switch, given that the brand’s latest plant-based wetsuits are made from a weed, but not that weed.
For the last few years, the company has been working to make its wetsuits—traditionally constructed from the petroleum-based rubber material neoprene, which is made in a "highly toxic" manufacturing process—more environmentally friendly. At first, it tried to use other insulating materials, like wool, to reduce the use of neoprene in wetsuits, but quickly realized that it needed to create a new material that could actually allow them to totally get rid of neoprene.
To that end, it has partnered with Yulex, a company that makes plant-based bio-rubbers derived from the guayule plant, a desert shrub Patagonia says is grown in the American southwest without any pesticides. The companies co-developed a wetsuit material that's made from 60% guayule rubber and 40% neoprene, and put the product on sale in some markets last year. This year, Patagonia is expanding its offerings.
Patagonia’s long-term goal is to build a wetsuit that’s 100% made from the guayule plant, but to do that, the material will have to become less expensive. The ad touts Patagonia’s decision to open-source its plant wetsuit formula, so that more companies will manufacture it, bringing the volume up and the price down. It’s a similar move to electric car company Tesla’s recent decision to open-source its battery technology patents—because more electric cars on the road is beneficial to the whole industry.
In a blog post, Patagonia’s "surf ambassador" Dan Malloy states, "We can now grow our wetsuits, instead of drilling for them." Yeah, man.