Patagonia launches sweet new down coat made with bio-material

Louisiana sugar cane replaces crude oil in a down hoody coat that keeps you warm while reducing your environmental footprint.

Patagonia, the major clothing retailer with a mission to protect the environment, is working with Virent to make a biobased material from renewable feedstock, thereby reducing the use of petroleum and greenhouse gas emissions in production.

Virent, a member of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), “converts bio-based sugar feedstocks into products molecularly identical to those made from petroleum.” Along with making drop-in sustainable aviation fuel, they produce 100% plant-based paraxylene, which has been used to make Coca-Cola bottles. Virent used a combination of corn and sugar beets to create a bioplastic for Coca-Cola that can be made with lower emissions and carbon intensity than traditional, petroleum-based plastic.

Combining Virent’s paraxylene with sugar-based ethylene glycol gives Patagonia “a petroleum-free version of PET (polyester) that’s virtually identical to its virgin petroleum-based counterpart,” but is produced with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Avoiding petroleum

In order to reduce their reliance on virgin petroleum, Patagonia in 2014 started seeking more sustainable alternative materials. After years of research, they introduced the SugarDown coat, which is made from 100% biobased polyester, sourced from Louisiana-grown sugarcane.

The sugarcane shell material is complemented by trims made from castor oil and other plant-based nylons and filled with responsibly sourced down. The coat, released in fall 2022 is lightweight but warm enough to handle subfreezing weather.

What’s next

Patagonia says it plans to expand in biobased materials, and Virent President Dave Kettner says to expect more applications soon from the company’s platform for converting plant-based feedstocks into low-carbon renewable chemicals.

SugarDown is Patagonia’s first venture into biomaterials. The business says it is eager to seek more strategies for utilizing bio-based synthetics, including those made from waste. The larger objective of Patagonia is to employ 100% preferred materials by 2025, including organic and Regenerative Organic cotton, recycled polyester, and recycled nylon, the company says.

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