Gearing Up for Vermont: My First Vermont Winter
A few months ago, I was headed into my very first Vermont winter, and I was nervous. I grew up in California where winters are an entirely different thing. The weather changes slightly (I’d say it gets crisper, not quite colder), but mostly, we pray for rain that rarely comes. For the most part, I comfortably survived the season with my Mom’s old Better Sweater, one good pair of wool socks, and the occasional rain shell.
This year, in the months approaching winter, I had a number of conversations with Vermonters who spoke of the snow and the cold with endearing reverence. They recalled epic adventures in the Green Mountains in sub-freezing temperatures with fierce wind chills, and I would grimace behind my mask. Whenever I voiced my skepticism, I was enthusiastically reminded about the importance of proper gear. I came to understand that with the right layering of the right gear and a good attitude, even I, a scared and stubborn Californian, could learn to thrive in a Vermont winter. I set out to upgrade my wardrobe, and did so with a few principles in mind.
The gear I wanted needed to be versatile, durable, effective, responsibly produced and repairable.
Fortunately, most everything we stock at Patagonia Burlington meets that criteria. I did my research, talked with my coworkers, and went into winter with a few critical garments that have exponentially improved my quality of life.
Patagonia's New Campaign: "Buy Less, Demand More."
This fall, around the same time that I was winter-prepping, Patagonia announced a new campaign: "Buy Less, Demand More.", and it blew me away. The campaign aligned with the same principles that guided me through acquiring winter gear; "Buy Less, Demand More." calls for consumers to purchase sustainable, multi-functional, and enduring products with the broad goal of achieving corporate accountability in the industry and of doing work to manage environmental impact.
I was shocked that Patagonia would choose to embark on such an initiative at a time like this. The holidays, that are often marked by wasteful consumption, were rapidly approaching. On top of that, there was a wave of pandemic induced shortages spreading across the country and world. People didn’t have the money to do extravagant holiday celebrations, and that meant that more and more shoppers were hunting for bargains.
And yet, here was Patagonia, sticking out like a sore-thumb amongst the other big-name retailers, and taking a stand. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. "Buy Less, Demand More." engages with the ideas that are at the heart of the Patagonia mission. It’s about responsible consumption and ethical production. It’s about questioning the forces that leave us feeling compelled to consume, and asking critical questions about why those motivations exist, how products are manufactured, and if we really need to buy them.
Dressing for Work and Play
This year, I bought my winter gear with "Buy Less, Demand More." in mind One of the garments I purchased stands out to me as especially embodying the spirit of the campaign: a Women’s Capilene Midweight Crew. I originally bought my Capilene Midweight Crew base layer to wear at work. Alongside my job at PB, I volunteer with a local ambulance service, and I’ve found that dressing for EMS is tough. It’s warm inside the ambulance, but there’s always the possibility, depending on the calls we get, that I’ll need to spend long periods of time outside in the cold. I needed something that I could layer underneath my uniform and that would keep me warm when I was outside, but something that was breathable enough to comfortably wear at room temperature.
My Capilene Midweight Crew meets those expectations and beyond. On top of wearing it to work, it’s my favorite base layer to wear running. It can stand alone on some warmer winter days, and, paired with a Houdini Jacket, it keeps me going on colder days too. It’s breathable, dries fast, and keeps me at a comfortable temperature. This garment has quickly become one of my most prized possessions. I wear it multiple times a week, every week; it comes with me running, hiking, working, grocery shopping, and more. It’s a staple piece that I feel I can demand a lot from, and it always rises to the challenge.
The Pressure to Buy
When I first moved to Vermont, I felt pressure to buy. Parts of this feeling were valid. The simple reality was that I didn’t have the right gear to dress comfortably in the Vermont climate. The not-so-simple parts of my motivation to buy stemmed from some societal expectation that I needed stuff and things, and that alongside my accumulation of stuff and things came forms of social capital. There are big bright signs advertising the latest, sexiest, and best parkas and boots every place I go.
Often the idea of buying new things feels inevitable; the world as we know it requires that we purchase things (be it shoes or healthcare or computers) in order to survive. Patagonia exists in the same marketplace as companies who are selling trends and fast-fashion, with important distinctions that set it apart. Campaigns like "Buy Less, Demand More." greatly contrast much of the mainstream advertisement, and create an incredibly beneficial space to explore the nuances of consumer culture and of the companies we patron.
While we may have no other option but to buy, we do (to varying degrees) have the agency to control what we buy and from whom. One day, when I’m forced to buy a new or different base layer, I hope to hold true to those basic principles of quality, ethics, and versatility that guide my behavior as a consumer. "Buy Less, Demand More." is a simple sentiment with resounding impact, and I think it has an important part to play in shifting the landscape of consumerism in America.
For now, my Capilene Midweight Crew and I are signing off. The systems won’t change unless we do, so next time you’re in need of something, "Buy Less, Demand More."
- Indiana Peters, Patagonia Burlington