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Patagonia Debuts World’s First Rainforest Alliance Certified Natural Rubber Wetsuits

Patagonia is incorporating a more sustainable material for its surf apparel.

The outdoor apparel company launched the world’s first natural rubber wetsuits that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by International biodiversity nonprofit Rainforest Alliance. This milestone will expand Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuit line from two to 21 full-length suits for kids, men and women.

Patagonia’s new high-performance wetsuit line is made with natural rubber co-developed with Yulex and FSC certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The FSC certification ensures that the source plantation preserves ecological functions and doesn’t contribute to deforestation. Rainforest Alliance conducts audits to make sure the source plantation complies with FSC’s standards for tropical landscapes.

“Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers—including Patagonia—have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it’s a nonrenewable, petroleum-based material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process,” said Patagonia’s wetsuit development manager Hub Hubbard. “Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative. Through our partnership with Yulex we’ve invested in a plant-based game-changer and built it into our entire fullsuit line.”

Yulex’s plant-based polymer found in the new wetsuits is sourced from Guatemala. Although hevea trees in the area have been used for rubber-based products for years, most are grown in cleared rainforest zones—contributing greatly to deforestation.

Patagonia’s neoprene-free Yulex wetsuits have a main polymer based from trees, not factories. FSC certified fiber found in the new wetsuits is blended with a tiny amount of chlorine-free synthetic fiber for UV resistance. Using this natural rubber also reduces 80 percent of CO2 emitted in wetsuit manufacturing.

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Features of Patagonia’s Fall 2016 wetsuit line include floating front-zip entries and inverted microgrid linings. The floating front-zip entries have an asymmetrical flap for better mobility. Made with recycled polyester content, the microgrid linings dry faster and keep surfer’s bodies warm in water temperatures varying from 75 degrees to 32 degrees.

The wetsuit line had a global launch in Australia this past March. Starting Aug. 1, all 21 fullsuit styles will be available in Europe, North America and Japan.

“Yulex could not have found a better partner than Patagonia to champion this breakthrough for the surf industry. The collaboration between our companies has been an example of how sustainable products can be brought to customers without sacrificing performance and cost competitiveness,” said Yulex Corporation CEO Jeff Martin. “Patagonia has an exemplary business model which Yulex and others continue to embrace.”