027: Rick Ridgeway/At The Edge Of The Cliff

“We’re in business to be an agent of environmental change.”

I’ve had a few heroes on the Looking Sideways Action Sports podcast, but Rick Ridgeway, my guest for episode 027, might just top the lot.

Rick Ridgeway first attained legendary status as a climber, mountaineer, explorer, sailor and adventurer. He was part of the first American party to summit K2, made the first coast-to-coast traverse of Borneo and has an endless list of similarly impressive achievements embellishing his adventure CV. He has also been a writer, film-maker, director and producer.

Rick and Yvon

Today, he is Vice President of Public Engagement at Patagonia, a company he’s been associated with since the start thanks to his lifelong friendship with founder Yvon Chouinard. What this means practically is that Rick is one of the key forces behind Patagonia’s environmental campaigns and activism, from Worn Wear, to the recent anti-Trump campaign, spending his time raising awareness about the grave environmental crises we face.

Rick with Yvon and Doug Tompkins on the summit of Cerro Kristine, 2008. Photo: Conservacion Patagonica Archives

Above all, he is a leader, helping to articulate the daunting challenges we face both collectively and as individuals.

Listen out for Rick on:

  • How environmentalism is woven into Patagonia’s DNA.
  • How the company uses business as a tool for environmental protectionism.
  • The importance of safeguarding your key values.
  • How nature and wildness can influence an individual’s own core values and sense of mortality and humbleness.

This one was a real privilege, a chance to spend an hour with one of the outdoor world’s true innovators and visionary thinkers, and I hope you enjoy listening to the wisdom of this wonderfully articulate and generous orator as much as I did. Don’t miss it.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Rick on how time outdoors can influence our core values and sense of mortality.

Connect with Rick

Show Notes

  • Arrival in England
  • Speaking at the COP23 Climate Change Summit.
  • We Are Still In – the unofficial American Pavilion
  • Rick’s current job now – Vice President of Public Engagement – and what it entails.
  • “The cliff out there on the horizon line.”
  • How Patagonia uses the business as a tool for environmental protectionism.
  •  How ‘micro’ environmental consequences were in the DNA of the company from the start.
  • Early battles against Ventura city council plans to destroy a surf break.
  • Supporting individuals and activists to effect positive change on a wider scale.
  • Rick’s day-to-day – less responsibility than privilege.
  • Patagonia Mission number 1.
  • Worn Wear
  • Mission number 2 – and the inherent contradictions contained therein
  • How these first two components create Patagonia’s business values.
  • Mission number 3 – implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Articulating the environmental crisis.
  • Patagonia’s KPIs – the state of the environment and the earth’s health.
  • Rick’s natural optimism and Yvon’s natural pessimism.
  • ‘The trouble with despair is that it’s useless and it’s no fun’.
  • Climate change as a symptom of the real problem – continued consumption and affluence amid a growing population.
  • The three categories of climate change solutions:
  • The importance of regenerative farming and grazing.
  • Making your own habits and opinions answerable to these drastic environmental needs.
  • Squaring your own contradictions and inconsistencies.
  • ‘Figure out what you’re good at. And use what you’re good at as a tool’.
  • How Yvon and Rick met.
  • How their relationship developed in line with the growth of Patagonia’s values.
  • The importance of protecting Patagonia’s culture as the company has grown.
  • ‘Patagonia as a company is paranoid about growth’.
  • The importance of guarding the company’s distribution channels to sustain the culture.
  • Patagonia as the first B Corporation in the state of California, thus enshrining the values into law and safeguarding them long into the future.
  • Rick’s views on his own adventuring life – ‘conquistadors of the useless’.
  • How nature and wildness can influence an individual’s own core values and sense of mortality and humbleness.
  • Witnessing first hand the degradation and decline of the wild places of the world.
  • How Rick views other brands trying to operate in a similar environmental space.
  • 1% For The Planet.
  • The Tinshed Adventures fund
  • Patagonia’s present – and what the future holds.

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned