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Mindful : June 2015
creative solution to reduce overhead without laying people off.” And that’s what he did. After a few rocky quarters around the financial crisis, sales began to ramp up to unheard of levels. The subsequent yea rs have been the most successful ever. “ Why is that?” Sheahan said. “It also coincides with the greater awareness we’ve brought to our impact as an appa rel manufac- turer. The greater tra nspa rency we’ve brought to our customer about what is going on in our factories, what is in our products.” When Sheaha n decided to retire in early 2014, he passed the mantel to former CFO Rose Marcario, who is also a decades-long meditation practitioner and a board member of Naropa University, the Boul- der, Colorado, college dedicated to adva ncing con- templative education that has a master’s program in environmental leadership. Prior to taking on the CEO job, Marcario had worked with Sheahan to broaden business throughout Europe, Japan, and Australia, and help Patagonia focus on innovation a nd new product development. A nd yet, Ma rca rio is firm in promoting the idea of “for-benefit” compa nies. Though Patagonia doesn’t call it such, they’re doing their pa rt to foster a movement known as “mindful consumption.” Like mindfulness itself, mindful consumption is as simple in theory as it is difficult in practice. It implores us to be honest with ourselves about what we need, as opposed to what we want. And it requires that we investigate the underlying causes and conditions behind each item we buy, each good we consume, and each service we request. “Mindful consumption is premised on consciousness in thought and behavior about conse- quences of consumption,” according to an oft-cited paper by professors at Emory University a nd Cal Poly on the burgeoning movement. Mindful consumption works on a number of levels. It shifts the onus of sustainability from corporations a nd other faceless actors, and puts it squarely on the individual. The goal is to foster a “mindset of caring for self, for community, and for nature.... In business, a nd particularly in marketing, consumption has generally been treated as a proxy for market demand, and more of it has been seen as being always better for business,” the authors write. Even when overcon- sumption is acknowledged, it is usually presented as a problem that can be solved if only things were greener, more environmentally sustainable. In other words, it’s not the impulse to consume that’s the problem, it’s the fact that consuming harms the envi- ronment. But mindful consumption doesn’t accept that consumerism is all right so long as it doesn’t harm the environment. It questions the very premise of our materialistic culture, demanding that we investigate the motivations behind our purchasing habits. Are we buying that new bag because it’s the latest trend? Or because we actually need a new bag? → PHOTOGRAPHBYJAYL.CLENDENIN/LOSANGELESTIMES/CONTOURBYGETTYIMAGES A longtime meditator, Chouinard connects most deeply with mindfulness through the outdoors. Now Patagonia’s chairman, he oversees product development, and is committed to putting out high-quality, environmentally sus- tainable products. June 2015 mindful 61