Patagonia and Yulex have developed a wetsuit in which 85% of the neoprene insulation is substituted with natural rubber which is harvested from sustainably managed forests.
The most environmentally harmful material in ordinary wetsuits is the neoprene insulation, which is made from petroleum-based synthetic materials. To find a substitute for neoprene, Patagonia partnered with Yulex, a manufacturer of specialty natural rubber produced using environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing practices. The outcome is a wetsuit made of 85% natural rubber sourced from rubber trees grown in Guatemala. Not only is this rubber made from a renewable resource, it also has better elasticity and is softer than neoprene.
In addition, the high-stretch interior and exterior wetsuit linings are made with at least 55% recycled polyester fabrics. Patagonia wants to eliminate the use of neoprene in surfing wetsuits, so have made the proprietary innovation available to the rest of the surf industry.
Why you should care
There are approximately 35 million surfers around the world, and a $120 million annual market for wetsuit sales, creating significant environmental and financial opportunities for these wetsuits., Yulex, who supplies the rubber, is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. They ensure that their rubber plantations do not contribute to deforestation, and that they enhance the long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities.