Eco Series: Part 2 – Eco-Friendly Snow Brands
As much as we all love the mountains, not many of us stop to think what we might be doing to the enviornment and what we could do to help on our end. Check out Clem’s mini-series Part 2, those brands already doing their part and are eco-friendly.
We typically associate and reflect on a ski/snowboard trip to the mountains as halcyon days. A rejuvenating experience that’s a delight for body and soul. Yet, the harsh reality is the traditional production of snowboards and skis is fairly toxic. Acers of forests are used in manufacturing without being replanted, noxious resins are used to create snowboards that are harmful to people and the environment, whilst discarded ski items that are no longer considered fashionable, are just a sample of the waste and destruction that goes into producing items for our favourite pastime.
As mountain lovers, we have to make loving decisions for the mountains and choose products and brands that support eco-friendly options. Here are a few companies that are blazing the trail.
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm.” Patagonia is at the forefront of encouraging environmental awareness. Back in 2005, they introduced the “Common Threads Recycling Program” following these key aspects: “Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.” They can proudly boast that 65% of their products can be recycled through this programme. They’ve taken back 45 tons of clothing for recycling and made 34 tons into new clothes. Plus, they’ve made fleeces out of recycled plastic bottles. There really is no excuse for ditching your old ski jacket with initiatives like this in place. Go Patagonia!
Niche strive to use alternative construction materials – not only for eco-friendly reasons, but also because they believe it improves riding performance, making boards more durable with added elasticity. They opt for lacquer-free top sheets (lacquer being the shiny bit on top of the board which is typically loaded with chemicals) to make the boards lighter and use bio-resin composed of bio-renewable materials. They use basalt stringers (instead of fibreglass) which is 100% inert. Hence, no toxic reaction with air or water, and it’s non flammable. Plus, basalt is much easier to recycle than fibreglass and when riding, it can allow for better impact absorption and strength.
Niche are big on recycling products: using recycled base material for their snowboards, recycled steel edges and recycled ABS sidewalls. They’re also fierce stalwarts for protecting the forests that they use to source their wood cores, continually replanting what they take and emphasising their non-use of harmful chemicals in their forestry programme. Plus, they underline the importance of respecting international workers rights, with an emphasis on indigenous groups whose forests may be under threat from the continuous harvesting of wood. Clearly Niche have carved out their place in the eco-friendly market, producing snowboards that showcase many fantastic facets of eco-friendly manufacturing.
“We’re mobilising the outdoors sports community against climate change”. Founded in 2007 by pro-snowboarder, Jeremy Jones, Protect Our Winters (POW) fights climate change from the front line, bringing together the global snow sports community to take action. Jones Snowboards acknowledge the environmental damage that creating snowboards can wreak. By developing eco-technology (their 2016/2017 snowboards have bio plastic film top-sheets made from castor beans) and driving social change through POW, they hope to reduce this environmental footprint.
POW focus on educational initiatives (such as their “Hot Planet/Cool Athletes” programme that brings professional athletes into schools to talk about climate change), political advocacy and community-based activism. Subsequently, for the 2016 U.S. election, they teamed up with Patagonia to encourage voter registration and mobilise support for climate action. It’s a great site to join, making it easy to take action with email alerts and updates, whilst buying a Jones Snowboard means you’ll be sending your money to all sorts of worthy, ethical causes.
Teton Gravity Research, an extreme sports media company, renowned for producing films with environmental messages, note that snow sports: “require gear that’s mostly made out of materials whose production only worsens the amount of carbon pollution in the air.” Yet, with increased efforts to ameliorate manufacturing and improve eco-tech, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon and they conclude: “skiing and snowboarding are not sustainable sports… but they could be.”