Elissa Foster, E.S.E. 2016, Senior Manager of Product Responsibility for Patagonia

The comprehensive education and experience Elissa Foster received in the Environmental Science and Engineering doctoral program made her an expert in environmental sustainability. Her dissertation on product life cycle assessment and usage in the apparel industry gave her skills to evaluate environmental effects of textile and apparel industries, including raw material extraction, knitting and weaving, dyeing, manufacturing, distribution, usage, disposal and recycling. Now, as a senior manager of product responsibility for Patagonia, Foster is responsible for developing sustainable strategies at the apparel company. Her challenge is to consider how the company can continue to make great products — apparel, equipment, and accessories ­— to satisfy high demand while reducing environmental impact. To achieve Patagonia’s goal of a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2025, Foster oversees a team of environmental researchers and data scientists, using life cycle assessment to give the company accurate information and suggestions. “I think that by choosing more responsible materials and manufacturing processes ­­— recycled instead of virgin material, specific dye technologies or no dyes at all ­— there are ways we can reduce impact.”