I know what you are thinking. What does this book have to do with my mountain experience? Well, if the author wasn’t Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of Patagonia – I presume you all know what the company makes? I am sure you will recognise this logo
I would agree with you that it would not have much to do with me and with the time I spend in the mountains.
Don’t worry this is not the “review” section of the blog. The only reason why I wanted to talk, or rather write about it is because this book has been an amazing source of inspiration on different levels for me so I only wanted to give those of you who didn’t come across his name and the history of his company so far and are interested in knowing more, the chance of learning more about it.
Blacksmith, climber, surfer, fly fisherman, Zen prankster, Yvon Chouinard is arguably the most successful businessman in the history of the outdoor industry. He has created in Patagonia a company that remains on the cutting edge, not only in technology and design but also in the ethical values it practises and preaches.
From its roots in the early seventies Patagonia had pioneered sustainability as a legitimate business aim. The highly successful “One Percent For The Planet” non-profit organisation that Chouinard co-founded in 2001, afforded the company something of a cult following, while a self imposed environmental audit cemented their commitment to using non-toxic, sustainable resources.
By applying the principles of producing the best outdoor clothing in the world causing the least possible amount of harm to the natural world to an otherwise hypocritically depletive industry that was (and largely still is) encouraging us all to love the planet to death, Patagonia as a brand has become somewhat iconic amongst a generation who see themselves as environmental activists – even if that activism is encoded solely through their consumer choices.
The below paragraph is taken from the book. It’s essentially about how to try to communicate the “entire story” using the catalogue.
“..The first goal of the catalogue is to share and encourage a particular philosophy of life, of what undergirds the image. The basic tenets of that philosophy are: a deep appreciation for the environment and a strong motivation to help solving the environmental crisis; a passionate love for the natural world; a healthy scepticism toward authority; a love for difficult, human powered sports that require practice and mastery; a disdain for motorised sports like snowmobiling or jet skiing; a bias for wacko, often self-deprecating humor; a respect for real adventure (defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive – and certainly not as the same person) a taste for real adventure; and a belief that less is more, in both design and consumption..”
Another one I really like:
“…we make certain assumptions about our customers, not just that they are intelligent. We assume that they don’t shop as entertainment, that they are not out to “buy a life”, that they want to deepen and simplify, not junk up, their lives and that they are fed up with or indifferent to being targets for aggressive advertising..”
I have been so inspired by all Patagonia’s philosophies, product design, production, distribution, image, financial, human resources management, environmental.. all of them – I could write about them for hours.
I could not agree more with Yvon Chouinard when he says that we should all try to live an examined life. The point is – it’s about time we all start taking responsibility for our actions and choices. What I am saying is I wish more people, including a number of close friends of mine and members of my family, before buying an item started to ask themselves – do I really need this? and what is the environmental cost of this choice and purchase. I am really talking about every day stuff, food, drinks, a t-shirt, a pair of shoes..a piece of furniture. I wish more people would buy less and better.
I have lots of wishes. One is that a lot more people would get into the simple habit of taking their own shopping bags with them instead of using the horrible cheap supermarket plastic bags which eventually end up in the sea and in all sort of places where they should not be. Is it really that complicated?! Together with many other aspects of today’s society, the total lack of interest and indifference most of people seem to have towards such a simple gesture is beyond my comprehension. What people usually reply to me when I asked them, is that their life is complicated enough and they have more important things on their mind than plastic bags. No comment. I guess I am just glad I am lucky enough not to have a complicated life and to have the time to do my bit for the environment.
It’s a been a number of years now I have started living a more environmentally conscious life, trying to consume less and better and I can happily say that it’s actually not that difficult as I thought it would be at the beginning. My impression is that generally things seem to improve very quickly. You just have to keep eyes and ears open to spot the changes. I always try to eat food sourced and produced locally, although it might not be my favourite, recycle everything I can, I try to find people and companies who try to run their business following a number of steps aimed at reducing their impact on the environment. It’s encouraging to see that whatever I need, a snowboard (http://jonessnowboards.com/), a surfboard (http://www.glass-tiger.com/), a piece of furniture (http://www.gatheringmoss.com/), clothes (http://www.patagonia.com/web/eu/home), I can find it.
This past winter I have built some very simple mirror frames using recycled wood and then I bought more and made 2 shelves for the bathroom. Once you clean it properly and dye it, the wood looks great and I love the idea that using material which otherwise would have been wasted I didn’t have to cut more trees to produce my furniture!
Okay, I usually don’t find easily what I need in the shop around the corner and I usually have to put in time and energy to do some homework and research but that is also something I like. I reckon that is what makes the whole process more interesting and fun. I think it can be seen as a part of the whole personal/learning development. I like going to bed at night knowing that every day I do my little bit to live according to my principles, trying to live a simpler life where less is more, which obviously is not going to make a different on a global scale but it helps me feeling better about my personal contribution to the environment. Essentially, without being too philosophical about it, using one of Gandhi’s most famous phrases – I am trying to be the change I would like to see in the world. Very often it’s certainly not the easiest way of living but it’s the one I choose for myself.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a snowboarder, a skier, a surfer, a sailor, a cyclist, a runner…whatever you do.. an all-around outdoor enthusiast.. when you spend a lot of my time in the outdoors you, like me, do it because that time produces the greatest joy in your life. I personally feel that the least I can do is try to give something back to nature. I have a sense of responsibility for the natural world and that’s why I am trying to shape my life every single day more towards a life which ultimately will allow me to live as close as possible to nature and as much as possible in harmony with it as well, reducing my impact on it and going forward, with the help of technology trying to use less, better and more wisely. Although I know it’s not going to be easy to get there, I also know that every effort made in that direction will be well worth it.
I guess I am just somebody who dreams about and feels the need to live a more connected life with the natural world and doesn’t accept a way of life as it is now presented and provided by this modern consumer-driven society in which I constantly seem to make an effort to find my comfort zone and niche and then once I find it, I even have to make a bigger effort to find people I can share that niche with. And that’s okay, I am used to it now and I am no longer worried about it.
I actually find it very interesting and challenging at the same time learning how to just let go, confront yourself with your fears, follow your instinct and make your own way through life without letting people and circumstances around you influence your decisions, having a negative impact on you.
So all the travels, the people I met, the different experiences and ways of going through life I have learned about..essentially everything in its own way helped me discover more about myself and ultimately made me realise that it’s really all part of the process I currently find myself in, which is basically try to follow whatever keeps me inspired in life and learn more about it.