My 2018 trail running season has begun and before I share about incredible recent experiences around that, I have to share one particularly important decision and transition from the beginning of this year.
I haven’t written about my transition from The North Face to Patagonia except for brief snippets on social media. It was really hard to ‘leave’ the incredible team of athletes that make up the The North Face; some of whom are mentors and best friends. But my decision wasn’t about athletes or teams. It was about the connection between consumerism, products and environmentalism. In short, Patagonia epitomizes what I think this world needs, and frankly, what I need: **a constant push to take better care of our planet and of each other. **
After I won Leadville in 2016, I actually reached out to Patagonia. They were my dream company to represent. Unsurprisingly, Patagonia doesn’t pick up runners merely after winning races. Of course they have world-class athletes for ambassadors, but they are not called athletes. Instead, a Patagonia ‘Ambassador’ is treated as a conduit of the company’s conservation ethos, not just a fast mountain runner, amazing surfer, baller skier, or skilled climber, etc.
**OBSESSED MUCH? **
Long before I was trail running, I was fretting about the Earth’s fate. Coincidentally, or not, I read ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ in middle school. In high school, I ran our recycling club and in college, a fossil fuel Divestment campaign. I started breathing environmental ethics after studying the utilitarianism ethics of Peter Singer. It’s undeniable that we have a duty to make this world a better place. And currently, we really suck at it.
My dreams before trail running were to go medical school in order to work in developing countries in family planning, or to continue to research coral ecology. Even though I got to SCUBA dive for hours a day, months on end while researching a niche field of coral ecology—crevice theory, which basically tests whether more complex reef structures will promote more resilient reefs after a disturbance like an intense typhoon or bad bleaching episode—it was just so depressing! The oceans are our lifelines, regardless if we never see one in our entire lives, and I hated thinking about our dying blue planet every moment of every day. I wasn’t cut out for research. Or med school for that matter.
Fast forward to 2017, after Leadville, when I found myself running a lot, traveling a lot and talking a lot about running a lot. I was constantly hustling to make ends meet with sponsorships, but honestly, not feeling like I was doing that much for the world by being a marketing asset for a large corporate brand. It wasn’t enough. Running will never be enough. The ability to run for leisure, let alone a job, is a privilege. I have to do more.
One beautiful thing about trail running is that I can connect it to the ever-pressing question: How can I hurt the Earth less?
**WALKING THE TALK: GOOD PRODUCTS **
As a trail runner, I am a marketing asset for a clothing brand. When the opportunity to represent Patagonia arose at the end of 2017, I literally cried in relief. I can better walk my own talk by representing a brand I stand fully behind. A brand that explains where and how its products are made. A brand not afraid to forgo profit for environmental health. A brand not afraid to stand up to people and lobbyists who will do anything to prevent renewable energy freedom. Sure, Patagonia and The North Face are incomparable in so many ways and both great in so many ways. One’s still privately owned and the other is publicly traded. That doesn’t make the latter intrinsically bad, but my best fit was clear.
If I’m going to share facts and spread awareness about climatic and environmental and political facts, I need to hold myself to the highest of standards, and with Patagonia—which is like a photovoltaic cell in a world of oil rigs—I can finally do that.
So what about the clothes? Before joining Patagonia, I admit, I had no clue what organic cotton was. Well, I was blown-away and straight up embarrassed that I didn’t know what I was wearing before. It’s my job! Shouldn’t I know about the products more than ‘they feel good and look good?’ Let’s take cotton: organic cotton is truly the only option for a concerned consumer today who can afford to care about what brands she is buying.
ABOUT ORGANIC COTTON
Compared to conventional cotton, ORGANIC COTTON is infinitely better for our environment, from topsoil biodiversity, water usage, and health for farmers and all people who come into contact with the cotton.
Conventionally grown cotton uses extensive amounts of synthetic fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants and other substances that wreak havoc on soil, water, air and living things, from local ecosystems to humans that work on cotton farms. Basically, you can wear a shirt that’s half synthetic chemical that uses a ton more water, or you can wear a shirt that is pure cotton, promotes soil biodiversity (important insects and plants) and is safer for farmers. Oh, and it uses way less water.
Again, organic cotton uses no fertilizers and way less water, but it’s more expensive and time-consuming to produce. So you have to make a choice that’ll cost you $5 more. Catch up more here.
DON’T BUY MORE SHIT
I’m not telling you to go buy an organic cotton shirt. The best thing you can do is not buy anything. Keep your stuff! Keep your many different brands!
But, alas, we’re only human and we need to buy things sometimes. So when you do buy a t-shirt, if you’ve made it this far in my blog, you have the capacity to purchase one that’s made of organic cotton. I encourage you to do so. And to be super freaking proud of it. Conscious consumerism is cool. It’s empowering. It’s making you an environmentalist, a pragmatist and part of the solution with one simple action.
DOWN JACKETS ‘N OTHER GOOD STUFF
Patagonia created the Traceable Down Standard: which ensures no birds, like geese, were force–fed or live–plucked, and prohibits the use of blended down, which is often untraceable.Additionally, Patagonia helped develop the [Responsible Wool Standard](http://www.patagonia.com/blog/2016/07/our-wool-restart/), which ensures that sheep are treated with respect to their Five Freedoms and also ensures the best land management and land protection practices. Raising sheep can be incredibly damaging to land. The RWS ensures it’s not. Wool from certified farms is IDed thoroughly and tracked all the way to end product. Read about this in depth [here](http://www.patagonia.com/static/on/demandware.static/-/Library-Sites-PatagoniaShared/default/dw9294a7c0/slots/RMA/PAT_2016_Wool_Standard_r5.pdf). I could go on and on about the many [standards Patagonia](http://www.patagonia.com/environmental-impact.html) uses when creating their products, and I will. For now, just think about how each product we buy and wear has a footprint. What do your footprints look like? The smaller the footprint, the better the [horrific garment industry](http://riverbluethemovie.eco/) becomes and the bars are raised higher when more consumers are buying thoughtfully made products. Cheers to transitions. And making uncomfortable decisions when the status quo is just fine. Challenging ourselves to be better can, in fact, make us better, eh? P.S. Not to forget, FAIR TRADE: