Patagonia's Push for November Nirvana

Patagonia, the environmentally conscious surf wear/outdoor clothing company, is proactively campaigning for Americans to vote this November. The campaign, called "Vote the Environment," stresses that Americans have a moral obligation to take action in the battle to save the environment. Citing a host of environmental issues as dire indicators, Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard created the "Vote the Environment" movement to urge poll goers to make this the environment their primary concern when voting this year in national and local elections.

With the argument that on a dead planet, all other concerns fall by the wayside, Chouinard and Patagonia contend that the environment should truly eclipse all other issues being debated in this election year. "Our campaign is not endorsing specific candidates in any local, or national election," says Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia Executive Vice President of Marketing and Environmental Programs. "Instead, it's encouraging people to see the environment as an issue that really trumps everything. We recognize that this is kind of a bold way to think, but we also believe deeply here that the environment, and the environmental crisis, is an issue that if you look at it with a 100 year perspective, becomes more important than the economy and is more important than national security. There is no economy and there is no nation to keep secure, if the planet dies. It's all about stepping back, and taking a large overview instead of a narrow short term view. So, we're encouraging everybody to think like that, and to consequently vote for candidates who think that way as well."

The Patagonia campaign stresses education as a key, and it provides three easily accessible, and non-partisan sources for voters to enlighten themselves: http://,, http:///

But plugging these sites isn't the only way Patagonia is spreading the "Vote the Environment" message. Using a multi-pronged approach, Patagonia is employing a number of methods to promote education and action from outdoor lovers. In-store displays and in-store voter registration, online voter registration, customer email alerts reminding them to vote, and a line of "Vote the Environment" t-shirts are just the front lines. These methods are backed up by a riveting collection of catalog and online essays which outline environmental issues. Written by the likes of Robert Kennedy Jr, and ex-second head of the EPA and former Under Secretary of the Interior Russell Train, the essays provide a bi-partisan view of environmental concerns, and go to great lengths to explain how current governmental developments are actively working against environmental protection.

The campaign's most visual, and far reaching component, are a series of advertisements appearing in alternative weeklies, college newspapers and outdoor oriented magazines. These advertisements depict shocking and thought provoking outdoor scenes meant to highlight some of the environmental challenges facing us today. One such add, shows an completely empty lineup of perfectly symmetrical peaks reeling both right and left in the background. The foreground is dominated by a large orange sign which warns of water contamination, punctuated by the words "Keep Out".

An alternate "Vote the Environment" advertisement should be familiar to SURFER readers. In last month's issue, Patagonia ran a shot of Chris Malloy, with the words "I've never voted" in bold across the top, with text underneath explaining how he'll make the environment his chief concern on election day. Chris's involvement in this campaign is a key part of Patagonia's push to motivate voters. Using high profile outdoor athletes in an attempt to appeal to those who have never voted before, Patagonia is working to mobilize and educate outdoor lovers who may not necessarily equate their interests with politics.

Commenting on his involvement, Chris says that this type of activism was a major factor in his decision to sign on with Patagonia in the first place. "I've always felt that as a pro surfer I was thrown into a situation where my actions can have an effect on other people. To be with a company that makes products which are environmentally sensitive, and has a history of environmental activism, has given me the confidence to go out and voice my views." And when asked what those views are, Chris broke out a quote from Franklin Roosevelt to explain his feelings toward the environment, and current governmental disinterests in protecting it. "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself," Chris recites.

Lets face it, we should all be deeply concerned about the environment. As surfers, the effects of environmental mistreatment and misuse should appeal to our very souls. Just on a selfish, surf-centered level environmental concerns should raise some serious questions. Your home break could be affected by rising sea levels and your skin destroyed by a depleted ozone layer.

Voting the environment. The concept is kind of a no-brainer, but that's exactly Patagonia's point. The company is doing its part to make sure the idea sticks in your brain come the first Tuesday in November.

And for Patagonia, and those involved with "Vote the Environment" this is the heart of the issue. "Just because I'm environmentally conscious doesn't mean you know how I feel about everything else," say Chris Malloy. "I'm not trying to make statements about health care or the war or anything else. It's just, that stuff won't even exist if the environment is dead. Environmentalism is not a partisan subject. Democrat, Republican, or Independent, if you're a human, you should care."

For more information on Patagonia's "Vote the Environment" campaign, and Patagonia's long history of environmental activism, or to register to vote, go to: