The following comes directly from Patagonia.
When we started making wetsuits in 2006, our aim was simple: Build the best possible suits in the least damaging way.
The most environmentally harmful aspect of a wetsuit is neoprene, a synthetic, petroleum-derived material with a highly toxic manufacturing process. After a few years of exploring alternatives, we started working with Yulex Corporation, an American company making plant-based biorubbers.
Using guayule, a small shrub native to the Southwest, we were able to co-develop a natural rubber alternative that performed as well – or better – than traditional neoprene. Grown without pesticides, the guayule plants are harvested and mulched, and a high-quality natural rubber is extracted through a water-based separation process.
In the Summer of 2013, we released this product to the entire wetsuit industry. Our competitors’ support has been critical and is greatly appreciated.
Last night the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association presented Patagonia with the Environmental Product of the Year award for our Men’s Yulex® R2® Front-Zip Full Suit, the culmination of five years of development. A big thanks goes out to everyone involved.