All Articles
All Articles
TECH

Patagonia's Plant-Based Wetsuit

TECH

Patagonia's Plant-Based Wetsuit

The technology behind the eco-pioneering company's prolific green innovation

by Hans Aschim
on 20 June 2013
patagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-1.jpgpatagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-2.jpgpatagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-3.jpgpatagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-4.jpg

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 in the industry using it," McCaffrey explains. Patagonia will share the Yulex wetsuit technology with all of the major wetsuit manufacturers in hopes of having the greatest environmental impact. "Eventually we want every suit from every company to be Yulex, but that's a ways off," says McCaffrey. Educating producers and customers about the traditional wetsuit production process is the first step in changing people's minds, McCaffrey says. For Yulex, their collaboration with Patagonia is just the beginning. "Yulex’s Guayule-based biomaterials can replace petroleum-based synthetic materials," says Yulex CEO Jeff Martin of his company's plan to expand into various consumer and industrial products—further illustrating the far-reaching possibilities for the new technology.

patagonias-plant-based-wetsuit-malloy.jpg

In addition to being far more sustainable than traditional wetsuits, the plant-based suits perform the same in terms of warmth, flexibility and durability as their petroleum and limestone-based counterparts. "We've given wetsuits to a few friends to test without telling them it's made from plants," McCaffrey says, "the only difference they notice is the smell." The Guayule-based suits naturally have a eucalyptus-like scent, a welcome change from traditional neoprene's peculiar chemical smell.

Keep an eye on Patagonia's wetsuit line as they integrate a Yulex blend into select suits this fall. Custom-made full-blend Yulex suits will be available from select flagship Patagonia surf stores in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy today's holiday as International Surfing Day.

Images courtesy of Patagonia and Yulex

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible
Loading More...