Selling Less Stuff

Patagonia Bucks the Trend of Encouraging Consumers to Shop, Shop, Shop

Having not broken my obsession with the print version of The New York Times, I was thrilled to greet the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree known as Black Friday by opening to a full-page ad from Patagonia that urged readers “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”

To the best of my knowledge, Patagonia has never purchased a full-page ad in the Times, and for this, the first time that they did, they are urging consumers to buy less stuff. This exhibits both true leadership and untarnished truth about what it means to be sustainable.

The copy reads: “Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.”

On Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, the company further states that: “It’s time for us as a company to address the issue of consumerism and do it head on. The most challenging, and important, element of the Common Threads Initiative is this: to lighten our environmental footprint, everyone needs to consume less. Businesses need to make fewer things but of higher quality. Customers need to think twice before they buy.”

We face an extremely difficult challenge: We’re depleting the environment of its essential life support systems as we produce ever more products — products that we often don’t really need. Yet, at the same time, the production of these un-needed products create the jobs needed to feed families and run a global economy — one that is addicted to making stuff.

While no single answer will resolve a complex system designed for destruction, what we decidedly need more of is companies willing to speak the truth and take bold positions on difficult issues.