Yvon Chouinard was born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1938, and raised in Southern California. There, as a teen he taught himself how to climb, surf, skin dive—and blacksmith. By the early 1970s when he founded Patagonia, Chouinard Equipment pitons, carabiners and ice axes had become the world standard.
Spending 140 days a year in the natural world, Chouinard learned early in his life as an alpinist, surfer and fly fisherman the seriousness of the environmental crisis—and he brought this knowledge to bear on his work. In the late 1980s he instituted Patagonia’s earth tax, pledging 1 percent of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
In the 1990s, Chouinard encouraged Patagonia to consciously to reduce the environmental footprint of its products and activities, beginning with a 100 percent switch from conventional to organic cotton and the introduction of fleece clothing made from recycled polyester. He then sought to work with other partners to companies to reduce environmental harm on a global scale. Chouinard, either independently, or with Patagonia helped co-found with others the Fair Labor Association, One Percent for the Planet, the Textile Exchange, the Conservation Alliance, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. In addition, Patagonia has been a B corp member since 2012.
Chouinard continues to surf and fly fish. He is the author or co-author of Climbing Ice, Let My People Go Surfing, The Responsible Company and Simple Fly Fishing.