Many extreme sports take place outdoors. This makes those who participate in them the first to notice the pollution and the degradation of the places they love to perform their sport. In recent years, the outdoor recreation industry has come to recognize their contributions to environmental pollution, waste, and overall environmental impact.
With the development of groups like the Sierra Club and the celebration of Earth Day, most people understand our environment is changing. As the general public is wising up to the need to protect our natural world, corporations are feeling the push to evolve and adopt more sustainable business practices. However, it is more than just meeting their bottom line and making a profit. So, why is it important for companies to become more eco-friendly?
Why Go Green?
Climate change is happening as a result of human activity. What we do to the natural environment around us affects the future of our planet. It is a difficult pill to swallow, but it’s true. It’s time to reevaluate what kind of impact we want to have as individuals. The individual action of investing in companies that have poor environmental ethics must come to an end.
If you were going surfing and noticed the amount of trash in the water around you, it would likely spur you into action to restore the area to its natural state. Although athletes may want to participate in cleaning up the places where they play, there are other factors that affect the environment to consider.
The manufacturing processes of the equipment used in extreme sports are not always environmentally sound. The use of virgin materials and natural resources to produce the equipment we use are depleting forests and generating waste that is filling landfills. Additionally, transportation to get you to the places where you need to be to enjoy your sport could be significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. To put it into perspective, one person going on one skydive emits 27 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere due to their transportation by plane alone.
Some sporting equipment manufacturers are changing the way they have done business to be more eco-friendly. Equipment used in extreme sports simply does not last due to its intended use. It gets beat up, it has to be replaced for safety reasons, and the old equipment gets thrown in the garbage.
This is good for businesses but bad news for the landfills. Changing not only how items are produced, but their ability to be recycled is equally important.
The surfboard industry had to change production out of necessity. In 2005, the main manufacturer of polyurethane foam blanks for surfboards closed their doors after being investigated for poor environmental practices tied to the chemical toluene diisocyanate. As a result, surfboard companies have converted to using recyclable epoxy resin, bamboo and hemp as alternatives for their blanks.
In the same surfing vein, wetsuits are a topic of concern as well. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a wetsuit, such as its fit, its likely uses, and even its style. Another consideration when choosing a wetsuit is how sustainable not just its materials are but how sustainable the company’s business practices are. Truly eco-friendly wetsuits are on the horizon, though, with some brands beginning to make suits from plant-based rubber sources.
As for a land-based sport, the skateboard company Uitto has made it its mission to produce an eco-friendly and recyclable skateboard. The life of a skateboard for an aggressive skater can be as short as a month. Uitto created a board that is durable enough to withstand repeated tricks and weight but is 100 percent recyclable. The board is made of biocomposite wood sourced from Nordic forests where harvest does not outweigh regrowth. The company wanted to be sure to not jeopardize quality for an eco-friendly product. The boards are still waterproof and do not warp or delaminate.
With innovation and intention, it is possible to design safe and reliable gear without causing additional harm to the environment. If we can reduce our environmental impact in production, we also need to consider what the action of the sport is doing to the landscape.
As a means of making amends with the physical toll some sports have on the landscape, athletes are becoming activists. They are setting their sights on what actions they can take to restore the land back to its pristine state by giving back with physical labor or by investing in companies that employ others to get their hands dirty.
Industries, such as the mountain bike community, work with local biologists, botanists, and ecologists to determine the ecological impact they have on the areas where they recreate. In an effort to minimize impact, some extreme sport groups will donate their time and energy into restoration and conservation efforts.
Organizations, such as the Access Fund, work to conserve and protect public and private lands where many enjoy participating in extreme sports. The Access Fund ensures the protection of habitat for the wildlife that resides in rock climbing areas. One way the organization works to do this is by imposing closures on sites during breeding and spawning seasons of various wildlife to avoid ecological disruption.
While you are out enjoying the adrenaline and thrill of your sport, you don’t want to be bogged down with the knowledge that you are causing harm to the natural environment. When purchasing new equipment or booking your next guided adventure, be sure to support companies that have sustainable business practices at the forefront of their mission.
Photo is from unsplash
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.