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    Annie Leonard and our New Book: Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists

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    For over twenty years, Patagonia has organized a Tools Conference, where experts provide practical training to help make activists more effective. Now Patagonia has captured Tools’ best wisdom and advice into a book, Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists: Best Practices for Success in the Environmental Movement, creating a resource for any organization hoping to hone core skills like campaign and communication strategy, grassroots organizing, and lobbying as well as working with business, fundraising in uncertain times and using new technologies.

    Above: Pages 28-29 feature a Greenpeace activist parachuting off a Gavin Power Plant smokestack (photo by John Myer) and the beginning of a story by Annie Leonard entitled “Taking Our Work to the Next Level.” Photo: Tim Davis 

    Throughout Tools for Grassroots Activists are inspirational thoughts from acclaimed activists, such as Bill McKibben, Dave Foreman, Annie Leonard, Terry Tempest Williams and Brock Evans. Leading up to the release of the book, we’re sharing audio clips from the keynote speeches these activists gave at past Patagonia Tools Conferences. Today we’ll hear from Annie Leonard. 

    Continue reading "Annie Leonard and our New Book: Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists" »

    Solutions Series, Part 7: Vote!

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, U.S. citizens will vote in the 2014 midterm elections. Patagonia supports candidates who will push hard for clean, renewable energy, restore clean water and air and turn away from risky, carbon-intensive fuels. We support leaders who will act on behalf of the future and the planet.

    Voting is an action we can all take, the ballot a place we can all be heard.

    In this installment of her Solutions Series, Annie Leonard, founder of The Story of Stuff Project, writes about the importance of voting, especially in the midterm elections where participation is disturbingly low
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    “Good citizens take an interest in people and issues outside themselves. . . . They inform themselves. They volunteer. They listen. They take the long view. They vote.”
                                                   
    –Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

    In 1990, I visited Haiti just after the country chose its first democratically elected president. In the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haitians proudly showed me their inked thumbs, marked as they entered the polls. They were so excited at being able to vote that two weeks later they hadn’t washed off the ink.

    Contrast that with the United States, where about 60 percent of those eligible vote in presidential elections. The midterm congressional elections in November draw about 40 percent. Compared to other countries such as Australia, Belgium or Chile, where 9 out of 10 voters turn out, that’s pitiful.

    Artwork (above): Besties by Todd Gilloon, part of our crowd-sourced poster project to get the vote out. A portion of the proceeds benefit the artists and HeadCount.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 7: Vote!" »

    Solutions Series, Part 6: Resist giving in to disillusionment

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    The 2014 midterm elections are fast approaching in the United States. Patagonia supports candidates who will push hard for clean, renewable energy, restore clean water and air and turn away from risky, carbon-intensive fuels. We support leaders who will act on behalf of the future and the planet.

    Voting is an action we can all take, the ballot a place we can all be heard.

    In this installment of her Solutions Series, Annie Leonard, founder of The Story of Stuff Project, writes about what voting and citizenship mean to her. Stay tuned for a follow-up post, with actions you can take, later this week

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    “True patriotism . . . is loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.”
                                                                                        
    –Mark Twain

    Recently, trying to fix a discrepancy between my passport and driver’s license, I had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. I arrived at dawn to stand in a line down the block. It started raining; soaked and frustrated, I left. Before the next visit I made an appointment on the DMV website, but when I got there the queue still looked like Soviet-era shoppers outside a Moscow grocery store. Finally someone suggested I go the day before a holiday, and so it was that I spent the morning of Christmas Eve rectifying a bureaucratic error.

    Artwork (above): Flower Power by Amy Diebolt. A portion of the proceeds benefit the artist and HeadCount.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 6: Resist giving in to disillusionment" »

    Solutions Series, Part 5: Taking Action

    By Annie Leonard

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    In my last essay, I talked about an updated vision of environmental changemaking, one that recognizes that many businesses are potential allies in the transformation to a responsible sustainable economy. Not all businesses, mind you, but a good number really do want clean energy, safe products, and decently paid workers. This time, we’ll talk about what we can all do to scale up these kinds of solutions, whether we work within a business or we use its products and services.

    When I talk to all kinds of people working to make today’s companies more sustainable, often they’re focused on getting the public to change their shopping habits. If people refuse to buy toxic junk, the thinking goes, companies won’t make it anymore. The theory here is that consumers control the manufacturers and we can change business-as-usual just by shopping differently because companies are just making what people demand.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 5: Taking Action" »

    Solutions Series, Part 4: Solutions in Business

    By Annie Leonard

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    "There is no business to be done on a dead planet." 
    –David Brower

    Back in in the day, an activist colleague of mine liked to wisecrack that whenever corporations talked about environmental solutions everyone could live with, what they meant were "solutions" only a politically acceptable number of people would die from.

    That is so 1980s! Sure, some businesses haven't changed; they're still trashing the planet, wreaking havoc on the climate and endangering our health with toxic chemicals. But those tired old assumptions that pollution is the inevitable price of progress, or that we have to choose between good jobs and a healthy environment, are increasingly outdated.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 4: Solutions in Business" »

    Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_bio_photoA few months ago, we started a conversation about solutions with the Patagonia community.  We identified three areas where solutions are needed most:  our communities, our businesses, and our governments. Last time we talked about solutions in our communities – the closest place to home. This time, we’ll offer some contacts for rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

    The only bright side about our current system being so messed up is that there are any number of ways to dive in and make things better – so many options, in fact, it can be hard to decide where to begin. My advice? Follow your passion. If gardening excites you, form a group to reclaim vacant lots for community gardens. Is education your thing? Volunteer to help local schools green their operations and engage the kids in activities like stream cleanups. Love biking? Recruit some fellow cyclists and work for bike lanes in your town. It doesn’t matter so much where you plug in, as long as you’re sharing your skills and passion with others in your community.

    The beauty of community-based solutions is that you can start today. Grab a friend and get going. There’s no need to be part of a national or international network to get started making change in your community. On the other hand, networks can be a great source of inspiration, advice, and lessons learned. Here are some of my favorite networks working on solutions at the community level.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In" »

    Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_bio_photoIn 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.

    To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities" »

    Solutions Series, Part 1: The Babies in the River

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_leonardOnce upon a time in a riverside village, a woman noticed a shocking sight: a drowning baby, crying its lungs out, being washed downriver. She rushed to save it, rescuing the baby just before it went over the falls at the edge of town.

    The next day there were two babies in the river; the day after, three more, then four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them, too. When babies kept washing downstream, the village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Still the babies kept coming. So the community installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was still overwhelmed trying to save them the babies.

    Continue reading "Solutions Series, Part 1: The Babies in the River" »

    Love

    By Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardLong before we were labeled treehuggers, before environmentalist, ecologist and conservationist, people with a passion for the Earth were commonly called nature lovers. What better time than February to re-embrace the term? If there's one thing the Common Threads community has in common, it's a devotion to hiking, skiing, climbing, surfing, fishing and other outdoor sports that bring us into loving contact with our beautiful yet fragile planet.

    But with all due respect to the Beatles, love is not all you need. And to turn around Edward Abbey's well-known advice to activists, it is not enough to love the land, it is even more important to fight for it.

    Continue reading "Love" »

    Being Thankful

    by Annie Leonard

    Annie_leonardIf you ask people what they’re most thankful for in life, three things nearly always come out on top. Not their car (even if it’s a hybrid), their shiny new ultrathin laptop or a 700-fill-power goose down ski jacket. Surveys consistently find we’re most thankful for friends and loved ones, good health and the wonders of nature. What’s more, clinical studies show that gratitude is good for us. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and better able to cope with problems. Being thankful even helps us sleep better.

    It’s a good time, then, to ask: Why don’t we walk the talk?

    Continue reading "Being Thankful" »

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