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On reclaimed farmland in Guatemala, this hevea plantation is where our new natural rubber wetsuits begin. TIM DAVIS

We grow our own.

By choosing renewable natural rubber from hevea trees grown in the highlands of Guatemala, we’re reducing CO2 emissions by up to ~80% when compared to conventional, nonrenewable neoprene—causing less harm to the planet we love and the oceans that give us waves to ride.

The volcanic soils of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas Range have supported the local population for countless generations. Here in the foothills, the farm that produces our hevea rubber also grows coffee, avocados, limes, mangosteens and macadamia nuts. TIM DAVIS

Accordance with the principles and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council® ensures that our source plantation isn’t contributing to deforestation, and that it’s managed in a way that maintains the ecological functions and integrity of the forest.

The Rainforest Alliance—an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods, with a focus on tropical landscapes—performs audits to confirm that the plantation adheres to the FSC’s standards on the ground.

(Left) Rubber tapping is skilled labor that requires a sure and well-trained hand. TIM DAVIS (Right) To protect against infection, a blue fungicide is painted onto recently exposed areas of the trunks. TIM DAVIS
“We knew using natural rubber would reduce CO2 emissions in manufacturing. By going to Guatemala, we were also able to do our due diligence to verify that the rubber is bringing real social and ecological value to the region.”
Manager of Product Responsibility at Patagonia

The FSC standards require that forest management operations “enhance the long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities,” and that they meet or exceed all applicable laws covering the health and safety of employees and their families.

In contrast to agricultural operations that rely on migrant labor, the workers at our source plantation are given extended contracts, bringing steady income and generating a more skilled and stable workforce.

A farm employee teaches Patagonia Surf ambassador Ramón Navarro about the harvesting process. TIM DAVIS
“Our design philosophy is simplicity. We found that by taking rubber from hevea trees and then using Yulex® purification, which is really clean and simple, we could cut back a lot of the process and reduce the carbon footprint.”
Director of Innovation Research at Patagonia

Surfers have been relying on neoprene for more than 60 years, but it’s a nonrenewable material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process. In 2008, we started experimenting with renewable natural rubber to help us reduce our reliance on petrochemicals.

Our R&D work with hevea rubber eventually revealed another benefit that was just as important—because the polymer was produced in trees instead of factories, using solar energy instead of generated electricity, up to ~80% less climate-altering CO2 was emitted in the manufacturing process when compared to conventional neoprene.

Thanks neoprene, it’s been fun! Half Moon Bay, California. FRANK QUIRARTE
“I’ve been working with wetsuits since the early ‘90s, and being part of the team that’s taking a big piece of the process and replacing it with something plant-based and less carbon-intensive is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Wetsuit Development Manager at Patagonia

Testing in the lab and the water showed us that the performance characteristics of Yulex natural rubber equaled or exceeded those of conventional neoprene. Once we’d found a sustainably harvested, FSC-certified source, we decided to go all in.

Rather than introducing FSC certified rubber in just a few styles, we’re using it in all 21 of our full suits this season. We’re also sharing our technology with the rest of the surf industry, hoping to inspire other companies to shift away from nonrenewable materials.

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