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The Ultimate Guide on How To Lower My Carbon Footprint - Surfer's Edition
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The Ultimate Guide on How To Lower My Carbon Footprint - Surfer's Edition

Wave Tribe

Surfing as an industry has often been labeled these days as toxic.

Published by Wave Tribe

That’s not far from the truth given its reliance on fossil fuels, like petroleum, to produce the ultimate surfing experience.

From the latest neoprene wetsuit to the most popular high performing polyurethane surfing boards, these are the by-products of burning fossil fuels. And as we now realize, it’s not a good thing.

Burning fossil fuels is the reason why the world is dealing with global warming.

As these fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other toxic chemicals that pollute the environment. When carbon levels increase in the atmosphere, they create a greenhouse effect, trapping the heat inside earth’s atmosphere.

This greenhouse effect is what’s causing the Earth’s natural equilibrium to become out of whack. Rising sea levels are threatening to drown coastlines, warm ocean waters are killing reef life, weather patterns are getting stronger and unpredictable.

How does one respond to this? One way is by cutting down on their personal carbon footprints. By monitoring your contributions to carbon emission in everything that you do, you can look for ways to reduce them. Through this, you can be more responsible for the impact you have on the environment. BTW, here’s a calculator if you want to try it out.

With the surfing industry being what it is, it follows that surfers also tend to have high carbon footprints. And this is such an irony, since surfers are natural environmentalists. We seek the pristine waves and yet, we’re often lured into making environmentally dubious purchases because it’s convenient and comfortable.

But it doesn’t always have to be the case. Recent trends in the industry have given us more eco-friendly choices when pursuing our love for the surfing sport. In my years of surfing, I’ve learned a few important and simple things to help lower my carbon footprint. Heck, I’ve even poured my heart out into developing a few of these eco-products in order to give our oceans some breathing space.

Here’s my ultimate surfers guide towards lowering one’s carbon footprint.

1. Use Eco-friendly SurfBoards
2. Ditch the Neoprene Wetsuit
3. Use Hemp-based Travel Bags and Recycled Leashes
4. Rub Organic Surfing Wax on Your Boards
5. Put on an Ocean-friendly Sunscreen
6. Just Walk or Use a Bicycle When Going to your Surfing Spot
7. Use a Glass Water Bottle, instead of Bottled Mineral Water
8. Use Less Plastic Packaging
9. Choose Direct Route Flights
10. Go Vegetarian

We all have the responsibility to do whatever we can to address climate change. Big or small, our action and choices can make a difference in the long run.

— Derek Dodds, Naked Armor Founder

1. Use Eco-friendly SurfBoards

Modern surfing boards are a toxic lot. Made from polyurethane, a petroleum by-product, and wrapped with layers of toxic polyester resin, it’s basically the poster boy for why the surfing industry is so not eco-friendly.

From the time it is manufactured until the point when it ends up in your purchasing hands, a typical 6’0” shortboard will have contributed more than 270 kilograms of CO2 to our atmosphere. No wonder that surfers have 50% more carbon footprint than an average person!

Fortunately for us, there’s a new breed of surfboards that have lower carbon footprints because they use recycled or sustainable materials.

These surfboards now use recycled polyurethane blanks, eliminating the need to burn more fossil fuels to produce fresh polyurethane. Some take it further by using bio-resins, instead of polyester and timber, instead of fiberglass. And it doesn’t stop here.

Some out-of-the box ideas include developing surfboards out of mushrooms, and algae-based surfboard blanks. Others go back to the roots by developing natural wood and cork-based boards. The point is that there are now alternatives for people who want to be more responsible while surfing.

2. Ditch the Neoprene Wetsuit

The neoprene wetsuit is basically made of synthetic rubber that’s produced from either oil or limestone, both of which are non-renewable sources. This means that this isn’t a sustainable source of raw material and depleting these resources will have a negative impact on the environment.

Even more problematic is that the extraction methods for oil and limestone have high carbon footprints. So essentially, you’re wearing gear that contributed a lot of carbon emissions to the atmosphere and will most likely become toxic once you’ve disposed of it in a landfill.

The good news is, there are more wetsuits now which have less neoprene or are, at least, made of recycled neoprene. Even better, there are companies which produce wetsuits that are sourced from plant materials. The Patagonia brand produces wetsuits that are made from guayule, a flowering shrub that grows in Mexico and Southern USA. It’s stretchier than neoprene, a good insulator and smells like pine. Definitely a better alternative to synthetic neoprene.

3. Use Hemp-based Travel Bags and Recycled Leashes

Don’t just stop at using eco-friendly alternatives to surfboards and wetsuits. Switch to eco-friendly surfing board bags and recycled leashes.

Wave Tribe’s hemp-based surfboard travel bags are high-quality bags that don’t break. That’s because it’s made of hemp, which is one of the most versatile and durable alternatives to commercial fiber. The coolest thing about this is that it has great potential to be a climate change solution. Industrial hemp farms are natural carbon sink reservoirs. The plants trap carbon dioxide, bonding it permanently to their fibers so that when they are harvested and processed, the carbon dioxide isn’t released back to the atmosphere.

When using surfboard leashes, you could also consider Wave Tribe’s recycled eco leashes. We make it from recycled plastic pellets and we guarantee that they are unbreakable. Sourcing our materials from recycled plastic allows us to cut down on carbon emissions. And it also helps keep the plastic from littering our oceans too!

4. Rub Organic Surfing Wax on Your Boards

We know how important surfing waxes are for our boards. But conventional surf wax is toxic because they are made from paraffin, another by-product of petroleum. Not only do they have a high carbon footprint, but they also contain dangerous substances like benzene and toluene which have been determined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as probable human carcinogens.

They also pose a threat to the environment. When they degrade off the surfboard, they become part of the marine debris responsible for the deaths of marine wildlife. They pollute beaches, costing local governments a lot of money for clean-ups.

The alternative to this is to use organic surfing waxes. These are made with natural ingredients so they don’t have a large carbon footprint and are safer for you and the environment. You can even make your own too. Just substitute paraffin for beeswax and tree resin and add coconut oil to make it smell nice and tropical. For more details, you can check out this recipe.

5. Put on an Ocean-friendly Sunscreen

These days, even a small thing like sunscreen can have an impact on the environment. Titanium oxide is the latest chemical now used in most formulations of sunscreen these days. But producing this chemical is both resource-intensive and environmentally-taxing.

Similarly, oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of the common chemicals found in sunscreens, are toxic to coral reefs. They cause the corals to undergo bleaching. With coral bleaching already as widespread as it is due to the warming of the ocean, the addition of these chemicals into the mix will aggravate the phenomenon.

That’s why using ocean-friendly sunscreens can help our oceans no matter how small its impact is. Be aware of the reef friendly sunscreens that you use. You can check this table for the chemicals to look out for.

6. Just Walk or Use a Bicycle When Going to your Surfing Spot

Transportation is also a major contributor to the carbon footprint. In America alone, the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, our combined vehicle emission is responsible for about a third of America’s climate changing emissions.

To lessen your carbon footprint, the best thing to do would be to walk to your regular local surfing spot. The other option would be to take a bicycle ride. Both options are also healthier for you.

But if bicycles are not an option, then share a ride with your surfer friends. One vehicle ride will be far lesser in carbon emission than a group of vehicles going to the surfing spots. In fact, ride-sharing has been found not only to reduce pollution but also to reduce traffic congestion by a factor of three.

7. Use a Glass Water Bottle, instead of Bottled Mineral Water

Stop drinking plastic bottled water. Plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which are also derived from fossil fuel. This means that during its production, a lot of energy and carbon is emitted which adds to the global warming.

Bottled water, in general, is wasteful. And I’m not just talking about the plastic. In fact, the process of producing bottled water requires 6 times as much water as there is in the container. So it makes more sense to just use a glass drinking bottle and refill it when needed.

We throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles a year and only 23 percent of that is recycled. The rest ends up in the landfill and the ocean where it becomes an environmental and wildlife hazard.

It poses significant health risks too. Plastic single-use bottles not only pollute the environment but also contain other toxic chemicals that disrupt our endocrine system. It can even leach out into the drinking water!

8. Use Less Plastic Packaging

Whether you’re using plastic for your wet bag or for packaging your surfing gear, you need to find other alternatives. Worldwide, about 40 percent of plastic packaging is produced, used once, and is immediately discarded. This plastic finds its way to the ocean where it forms 80% of the floating trash that’s found there. That’s why we need to reduce our dependence on plastic because this is the only way that we can stop more plastic from ending up in the ocean.

And there are alternatives. Using compostable bags is a great way to store your essentials when traveling for surfing. But if you’re going to countries where there is no way to compost these bags properly, be responsible enough to bring it back home and dispose of it properly. Just because it’s compostable doesn’t mean you can throw it anywhere; a compostable bag won’t decompose in the ocean and marine turtles will still die from choking on it.

9. Choose Direct Route Flights

People don’t realize it but air travel actually has a negative impact on our atmosphere. Not only is it the quickest way to increase one’s carbon footprint, but it also spews other toxic fuel by-products into the air when it burns its fuel.

A plane trip from Europe to Australia adds about 4. 5 tonnes to your carbon footprint. For professional surfers hopping around the world in between tournaments, that’s a very significant carbon load.

To reduce that, pick direct route flights as much as possible in order to cut down on carbon emissions. Much of the carbon is generated during landing and taking off; if you change flights frequently, you’ll have contributed more carbon to the atmosphere by the time you reach your destination.

If it can’t be helped, you can always consider carbon offsetting. It’s an indirect way of reducing your carbon footprint because for every ton of carbon that your flight releases to the atmosphere, you can pay a small fee to offset it. The small fee goes towards supporting projects that mitigate global warming. The good news is, more and more airlines now include this in their booking options; it’s worth trying it out.

10. Go Vegetarian

Eating more vegetables and cutting down on your meat is not only healthier for you but also for the environment. In fact, there is a study which shows that the widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet can bring down carbon emissions by 63%.

That’s because livestock farming, next to transportation, is the second highest source of carbon emission. It emits 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the leading cause of deforestation and water pollution.

In America alone, animal factory farms generate more than a million tons of manure each day. This is stored in football field-sized pools which are always in danger of leaking. When that happens, animal wastes can pollute the environment because they contain dangerous phosphorus, nitrogen and antibiotics.

The United Nations actually released a study that discovered that raising animals for food actually generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined!

If you can’t commit to a vegetarian diet, then at least cut back on your meat consumption. Setting aside a day for a meatless diet is a popular option, and an easy one to stick with. We might not be ready to fully embrace a life without rib-eye steaks, but at least we can start to eat healthier, not only for ourselves but also for the environment.

Be the Change you Seek

You don’t have to be a surfer to resonate with the list that I just shared. Anyone can follow this guide; it’s easy to implement and effective in reducing your carbon footprint. We all have the responsibility to do whatever we can to address climate change. Big or small, our action and choices can make a difference in the long run.


Stuff you might like to read more
How to Make your Surfing Travel Plans Eco-Friendly
What El Nino means for Surfers and our Planet
What if We Can Eat Plastic?

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