Work across continents

Environmental work being done in Reno and South America

Many gathered to mingle and discuss environmental issues and changes in South America and in Reno at the reception on May 29 at the Patagonia Service Center.

Many gathered to mingle and discuss environmental issues and changes in South America and in Reno at the reception on May 29 at the Patagonia Service Center.

Photo/Sage Leehey

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Reno and the South American region Patagonia have quite the distance between them. Two global organizations with local units brought the two locales together to discuss their environmental programs present in the area.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Patagonia, Inc. are partners in programs in both Reno and Patagonia. On May 29, representatives from both groups came together at the Patagonia Service Center in Reno for a reception to talk about the programs going on in both regions. The project manager for the Patagonian Grasslands of Argentina and the Southern Andes Conservation Strategies Manager Carlos Fern&#;aacute;ndez was in town for this reception, too.

For the last three years, TNC, Patagonia, Inc. and a Patagonian sheep growers group Ovis XXI have been working on switching local sheep ranchers to sustainable grazing practices in order to save the grasslands of Patagonia. There are about 150 million acres in Patagonia—both in Argentina and Chilé—that are currently being used for sheep ranching.

“The whole idea is to put, in the next 5 years, 15 million acres under sustainable grazing in order to halt or reverse the tendency of desertification,” Fern&#;aacute;ndez said. “So it’s to avoid the Dust Bowl of the U.S. going and happening there and losing the soil, the coverage. The Nature Conservancy provides some of the science on the ground, Ovis XXI provides the implementation on the ground, and Patagonia has been our corporate partner that buys the wool from all the ranches that apply the standard.”

Prior to this program, Patagonia, Inc. did not receive any wool from the actual location of Patagonia. But the company has pledged to purchase 100 percent of their wool from Patagonia in five years.

“This is the first year that Patagonia has had their products [with wool from the program] out,” Fern&#;aacute;ndez said. “So, it started three years ago. This is the second year that Patagonia has been buying the wool, but it’s the first year that their products can be purchased by people. And in fact, this coming August, it’s going to be the first time the products are coming to Argentina and Chile.”

The grants manager of Patagonia, Inc. was also present at the reception and said the company works with TNC as a part of their mission.

“The reason we’re in business is to build the best product, cause the least amount of environmental harm and to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” Hunter said.

For the Reno portion of their work, clothing donations manager Kim Jardine Riley often schedules restoration days with local non-profit organizations, like TNC, for employees to volunteer at, too. They’ve done work at the McCarran Ranch Preserve and the Independence Lake Preserve recently. The company also donates one percent of their sales—approximately $6 million—each year in the form of grants and clothing donations to give back to the communities they work in.

“What we’re trying to show other businesses … is that you can do the right thing and be profitable,” Hunter said. “They’re not mutually exclusive.”