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Patagonia Board Member visits University of Iowa

BY DANIEL VALENTIN | NOVEMBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Hundreds of University of Iowa students filled Macbride Auditorium in order to watch Rick Ridgeway give a lecture on the topic of sustainability on Wednesday.

UI lecturer Dave Collins said he reached out to Ridgeway this past summer, and he agreed to come talk to the students at the university about the importance of the environment.

“I’ve been an outdoors guy for years,” Collins said. “I was thrilled when he told me he could come.”

Collins said part of the reason Ridgeway came to the University of Iowa is that he believes it is up to this generation of students to take responsibility for the survival and sustainability of the environment.

“The way students can change the world is through methods of innovation and collaboration,” Collins said. “This is the sure way we can find solutions to the big problems of today.”

Ridgeway, the vice president of environmental affairs at Patagonia, said the company abides by a mission statement: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

“You may expect a company to say cause the least harm,” he said. “That implies there is harm being done making the products.”

Ridgeway said all of the company’s cotton products are 100 percent organic to avoid pesticides and insecticides and to encourage the use of rainwater instead of rerouting rivers.

“We don’t like to hide anything from the public when it comes to our products,” he said. “That is our transparency.”

Ridgeway said Patagonia gives its technology and innovations to other businesses freely because he believes it is the right thing to do.

“Patagonia donates 1 percent of its sales for the planet,” he said. “$6.2 million were donated last year to 750 environmental organizations around the world.”

Ridgeway advised students to only buy clothes only out of necessity in order to help preserve the Earth’s resources.

“People are afraid of an economy that relies on people buying only what they need, because no one is sure what our world would look like if we did,” he said. “But we have to try.”

UI student Sergio Chavarria said the work done by Patagonia is important because it pushes companies to move in a sustainable direction.

“It was very inspiring and uplifting,” he said. “The ‘graybeards,’ as he put it, are doing their part, and it’s up to us to follow in their footsteps.”

Chavarria said he would change his habits when it comes to buying clothing.

UI student Jacob Ulstad said the key to sustainability is recognizing that there is harm in everything people do, and they should minimize the damage as much as possible.

“We aren’t doing enough to make a change,” he said. “We need more people like Rick.”


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