Environmental Internship Program
After many years of giving money to activists, we realized that if we could share profits, we could also supply time and muscle. Many Patagonia employees were inspired by the work of the grassroots activists we supported so, in 1993, we created the Patagonia Employee Internship Program.
Every spring, core groups of bicycle-loving employees all over the company gather to plot and plan ways to encourage their colleagues to bike to work. In May, our Bike-to-Work “Week” was extended to two weeks as employees cumulatively cycled some 14,500 miles and, with incentives provided by the company, raised $19,494 to support the efforts of bike advocacy groups.
In addition to performing the many tasks required to run a successful outdoor clothing company, 55 Patagonia employees have traveled to Chilean Patagonia at company expense to spend three weekshelping to restore a former sheep ranch and create what will soon become Chile’s newest national park.
Some 83 employee volunteers from our Reno Service Center provided 665 hours of free labor in 2012 to environmental groups in their area through an informal program supported by Patagonia. Every department participated, giving employees time away from their jobs to do the following fieldwork.
In March, 19 employees met up with the Sugar Pine Foundation at Waddle Ranch Reserve near Truckee, California, to plant almost 750 sugar pine seedlings. On their way to the first planting location, volunteers in the lead vehicle came upon a big black bear sitting on a tree stump.
Volunteers with the Mono Lake Committee spent a day uprooting invasive sweet clover along Rush Creek as a part of the group’s restoration project. Afterward, the Mono Lake Committee put volunteers in canoes and took them on a history tour of Mono Lake.
Employees from the Reno Service Center assisted Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship on two occasions in 2012. The nonprofit maintains and enhances trail systems in a mountain area 90 miles north of Reno, and our people helped them move rock, lop shrubs, sweep dirt and cut tree limbs. This was the third year volunteering with the group. Every summer employees raise funds to adopt a trail and Patagonia matches up to $500. Employees also helped to create the Lost Trail 50K Endurance Race, with two Patagonia runners placing first in their age divisions.
Reno Service Center employees helped The Nature Conservancy and Truckee River Fly Fishers plant native chockecherry and willow, and clean up trash along the Truckee River. They found a lot of tennis balls that had been thrown for dogs, along with more predictable tires, beer bottles, ice chests, fishing line and a few life vests.
On another front, 110 employees also donned boots and gloves to pick up trash as part of the Reno Service Center’s annual Truckee River Cleanup. They’ve been doing it for years, and the riverbanks are yielding less and less trash. After the toil, employee Phil Otero treated participants to his signature Solar Smoothies.
These field days benefit everyone. Employees get the chance to work with colleagues from different departments. Non profits get volunteers, new members and more exposure. And everyone gets the satisfaction that comes from working together on behalf of nature and our communities.
Conservation Next – Backyard Collective
Employees from our Ventura offices got their hands dirty in April 2012, when they spent the morning pulling weeds and planting 600 native plants in the San Marcos Foothills Preserve near Santa Barbara. They worked alongside employees from Horny Toad, Deckers, Vapur, REI and Channel Islands Outfitters. Organized by The Conservation Alliance, The Backyard Collective brings together employees from its member companies for a day of environmental action. Work was followed by lunch and a raffle.
Miracle Grants Program
Our Miracle Grants program was conceived to share the excitement of the company’s environmental grant giving by involving Ventura-based employees directly in the process. Employees in Ventura are given the chance to nominate an environmental group they think is doing especially valuable work that could benefit from an unsolicited check for roughly $5,000. Members of each department read their colleagues’ nominations, and then they vote. This year, 11 environmental groups shared $50,000 and the cash was just part of the benefit. Employees were also given the opportunity to volunteer eight hours of their time, on Patagonia's dime, working for their selected group. As a result, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy received help with the Ventura River Steelhead Preserve, Friends of the Ventura River got an assist restoring sand dunes at Surfer’s Point, and VCCOOL, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging Venturans to lower CO2 emissions, received help with its website from Drew Story, a member of our web team. In addition to giving the VCCOOL site a new and more functional look, Drew spent a day training their entire organization on web software and wiki pages.
Though Patagonia doesn't celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday, in the spirit of Dr. King, the company encourages employees to volunteer for half a day with nonprofit groups. In 2012, Ventura-based employees spent the morning of MLK Day working with four groups of various persuasions. Twenty or so drove up to an illegal shooting site in the Los Padres Forest to pick up microtrash – in this case bits of glass, clay pigeons, bullets and refuse of every type – with Los Padres Forestwatch. Fifteen demolished an old structure, weeded, planted, painted and netted aviaries for the Ojai Raptor Center. Thirteen served lunch at the Ventura County Rescue Mission, and another group pulled weeds in the recently minted Ventura River Steelhead Preserve with the Ojai Land Conservancy.