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Patagonia's Plant-Based Wetsuit

With a committed mission to reducing their environmental impact, Patagonia has partnered with eco-friendly biomaterial firm Yulex to create the first plant-based wetsuit material. "Performance, natural rubber has not been used in wetsuits, ever," says Patagonia's director of surf projects Jason McCaffrey, adding, "the manufacturing process is almost entirely green." The natural rubber is made from organic matter derived from the little-known Guayule plant, which grows in dry, arid environments and produces terpene resins that act as a natural pesticide. Requiring few resources and rendered inedible, a rise in the plant's demand will not adversely impact food equity, as can be the case with some biofuels.

patagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-field.jpg

Once the Guayule plant has been harvested, it is mixed with water as a solvent for extracting rubber. "Traditional rubber plants and synthetic rubber production both use environmentally harmful solvents and create a vast amount of non-biodegradable byproducts," McCaffrey says. Yulex's Guayule-based rubber production creates only organic byproducts and uses only water solvents. As the plant pulp is mixed with water, the sap rises which becomes the rubber and, eventually, your new wetsuit. "The suits themselves are also biodegradable," McCaffrey says.

Patagonia has spent several years developing the technology, but they don't plan on keeping it to themselves for long. "There's no point—from an ecological perspective—to develop this technology and be the only ones...

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