It may not be a surprise that Patagonia would be involved in using a less damaging material for wetsuits, but I was interested that the company has chosen to encourage others to work with material — instead of protecting the right to use it for competitive reasons. That seems cool!
The suit, which has begun hitting the market, is made not from conventional, petroleum-based neoprene but from a natural rubber derived from a desert shrub. It is one way Patagonia is trying to nudge along a sport that has not always been environmentally conscious despite its roots in the natural world.
Patagonia executives are also convinced that the many years of development and testing they have supported have resulted in a revolutionary material that will wind up not only in wet suits but also in everyday items like sneakers and yoga mats.
But if they have their way, only a few of those products will bear the Patagonia name. Instead of holding the manufacturer of the rubber, Yulex, to a yearslong exclusive contract, Patagonia is encouraging its competitors to use the product, hoping to see its use grow and drive down the price.
Other wet suit and athletic apparel companies have shown interest, and Quiksilver plans to have a biorubber wet suit on the market next year.