You’ve probably already heard some of the great green gossip about Patagonia: that their fleece is made from recycled soda bottles rather than crude oil, that the company has given more than $20 million dollars to grassroots environmental groups, or that they converted their entire sportswear line to organically grown cotton.
But the real shocker in Patagonia’s long list of above and beyond eco-accomplishments is its policy of offering free environmental activism training to all employees, and its promise to post bail for any program graduates whose peaceful protest ends in arrest.
Patagonia first implemented the policy in the mid ’90s when three of their employees were arrested while attempting to save Northern Californian redwoods from logging. The company now offers all interested staff a civil disobedience training program taught by Ruckus Society, a nonprofit dedicated to providing environmental, human rights and social justice organizers with the tools, training and support to achieve their goals. Ruckus schools Patagonia employees in tactics for keeping the peace in the face of conflict, and offers a clear perspective on both the risks and rewards of activism. “It helps them make choices that are in alignment with what they want to participate in and what they believe,” said Lu Setnicka, Patagonia’s Director of Training and Employee Development, a recent Ruckus graduate herself.
While no jailbirds have been freed as of late, Patagonia employees completed a Ruckus training seminar a few months ago in Ventura. The company audaciously affirms: “It may sound as if we are training and subsidizing a bunch of tree huggers, hellraisers and brassbound ecologists. We are.”