In response to some marketing claims by other wetsuit manufacturers, Patagonia has commented at length on whether petroleum or limestone based neoprene is greener:
We have drawn the conclusion that both versions of polychloroprene [the main component of neoprene] have equally significant environmental impacts
…don’t settle for marketing “greenwash!” Limestone doesn’t make a wetsuit more environmentally friendly.
So what makes a greener wetsuit? Patagonia says:
The biggest environmental gain, however, is efficiency”
It's pretty common knowledge that their 3mm keeps you as warm as a petro based 5/4mm suit, which sounds great. Factor in durability though, and the argument falls apart.
Almost all unbiased reports portray limestone neoprene (whether Patagonia, Matuse, or NinePlus) as very fragile. They are prone to rips which require panels to be replaced and at times, the whole suit is replaced by the manufacturer. If a 4mm suit lasts twice as long as a more fragile 3mm limestone suit, the petro suit uses 1/3 less material to cover the same amount of water time as a limestone suit. Chalk it up as a win for petro.
Have you ever had to wear an old a backup suit while your limestone wetty is off for repairs? I have. It sucks. Chalk another one up as a win for petro.
But what about the social and political problems with oil? Oil spills regularly ruin whole ecosystems. Mining limestone certainly has it’s social and political drawbacks, but how often do people fight wars over it? Does limestone’s market price ever affect entire economies? Chalk those up as three wins for limestone.
That looks to be a 3 to 2 win limestone coming out on top, largely due to the social and political issues associated with petroleum. Address the durability issues associated with limestone neoprene though, and it isn’t a contest.
Maybe they’ll work it out over the summer and we’ll all be in super sick, long lasting wetties that make us all look like steve zissou.