green technologies for winter sports

February 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

We’ve been dealing with an unusual amount of snow lately in some regions of the world, while others have been experiencing a shortage of it (sorry Vancouver but perhaps this is a heads up on a better environmental protection policy). I grief for winter and for snow as the warming of the atmosphere is nowhere near a slowdown.

To make the full out of this unusually snowy winter, this year I am going to have some real action in the mountains around my country and perhaps one trip abroad and I want to do it as green and light on the environment as possible.

There are tons on resources on the internet on green resorts, green/organic winter clothing and tips to lower your carbon footprint in general (which will apply in this case also) so I am about to write about the two very objects that define winter sports: skis and snowboards.

Skis and snowboards have been traditionally manufactured using polluting technologies, woods from non-managed forests, petroleum-based adhesives, epoxies and paints and ultimately they all end up in the environment , harming it. Isn’t it quite surprising how nature offers us one of it’s purest state and best views from the top of the world and how we repay that?

Fortunately that’s about to change and as long as there are more and more people that ask for it companies will get their act together and fill the need.

  • Some of the companies that manufacture green skis are:

Kingswood, using bamboo core skis, 100% handmade, but other than that I could see no other concern for the environment from the info on their website (still using regular epoxi, no mention on what adhesive the bamboo strips are glued together with to make the panels, etc );

Movement, featuring FSC (Forest-Stewardship-Council) or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified wood cores and not much else green-wise;

Grownskis, the first ISPO ecodesign award and a carbon-neutral company, offsetting its carbon footprint on the environment, claim their products “emitting at least 40% less CO2 emissions than comparable skis”. I understand they use local ash and fir wood for the cores and have replaced glass, carbon or Kevlar fibres with Basalt fibres made from crushed volcanic rock, with no additives. From their website I learn they use natural resin treatment for the side wall and Recycled PE for the base. Good score here! ;

Liberty Skis uses environmentally friendly core materials like bamboo and has been completely wind-powered since 2006 which isn’t bad but I expect bigger than that (no word on environmentally friendly production resins, adhesives, fibers, etc);

Fischer is the biggest ski manufacturer that has long been a supporter of the environment. They recently announced 100% of energy generated from biomass and also won the “Energy Globe Awards”, considered now the world’s most important and renowned environmental award. To lower their  environmental impact they use special filters and water treatment and they have drastically reduced the use of solvents. They don’t mention FSC certified wood though (and their eco-page doesn’t render in Firefox😛 ).

  • Green companies in snowboards business are:

Arbor use bamboo, poplar and paulownia for its snowboard cores, make snowboard bases with leftover polyethylene saving some landfill space and does a great deal on buying wind credits to offset CO2. They also donate to support green organizations, recycle anything recyclable and use recycled paper and soy-based ink for office work. As Bob Carlson (co-founder) states on their website, “right now, it is not possible to deliver a totally “green” product” and even they “select only those eco-materials that allow us to deliver better looking, higher performing, more durable products”, there are suitable green alternatives for many more production materials. These green companies should look in each others yard and see all the green over there, they will be amazed how green a product can get.

Venture snowboards use locally sourced American poplar and ash (FSC certified), their whole operation is running on wind power, they have a comprehensive recycling program and  experiment with low impact on the environment materials.

Salomon is by far the first producer to go green, it’s  Sick Stick’s core is made of bamboo and uses less petroleum-based resins and synthetic plastics than conventional boards, replaceing all traditional resins with new Polyethylene glue sheets that separate and recycle when you hit them with some heat (“No more fiberglass, no more messy resin”). By using the ABC Wrapper process, the use of structural bamboo veneers reduces fiberglass and resin content in each board by 25% and the plastic content of each board by 40% . The traditional ABS sidewalls are replaced by waterproof Bamboo rods. Big score for Salomon !!! which is also the winner of the best eco design at IPSO.

Entropy is one last manufacturer of winter gear I will mention in my list and the main drive for this listing of entropy is their ONO snowboard, built with Entropy’s latest sustainable material systems, one of which is the pine-based epoxy resin, able to “reduce petroleum content by up to 70% and replace it with a sustainably harvested resource. In its production, it consumes less energy and water than standard petroleum based epoxies, while also reducing the amount of harmful byproducts such as chlorinated hydrocarbons. As opposed to crude oil refining processes, the closed loop distillation processes of our bio-mass sources reduce wastes and greenhouse gas emissions. And if that were not enough all our bio-mass sources come from industrial waste streams and do not compete with food sources”.

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So, after all, bio-based resin is possible (entropy), natural basalt fibres to replace common fibreglass or kevlar  are possible (grownskis), FSC and reclaimed wood cores are possible (most of the above mentioned), natural bamboo veneers for the topsheet are possible, plastic-replacing bamboo rods for the sidewalls are possible(salomon), 100% renewable-energy production   based on wind-powered (venture snowboards) or biomass (Fischer) is possible, 100%+ CO2 offsetting for all the activity is definitely possible (arbor) and so many more.

It is also POSSIBLE to make the board yourself if you are into DIY (and can find eco-friendly alternatives to toxic or polluting materials). Check out grafsnowboards.com and you’ll agree. They only need to make their production green.

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