Patagonia Japan introduced a line of organic cotton t-shirts in January that sported messages on the front and back addressing environmental problems in various regions of the country. They donated $5 from the price of each shirt to Japanese environmental groups. The t-shirt line was completely sold out by the end of March.

I don’t know a lot about the political climate in Japan with regard to environmental issues, so I can’t tell if this is a great success story or not. Is this a triumph for environmental awareness or a triumph for the latest materialistic shopping fad? I guess I would argue it’s positive either way, because some of the profits are going toward environmental and conservation goals, and it’s raising awareness.

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At the same time, however, I don’t think that a similarly themed line of clothing would ever meet with such success in the U.S. (go ahead and prove me wrong if such a thing already exists). Wearing a shirt supporting the cleanup of a Superfund site or the protection of a wilderness area immediately labels you as a leftist enviro-lunatic in this country. Which may be fine for some of us, but we’re not going to set any sales records …

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