Recently, the fashion industry has received coverage of its climate impact, but how does the impact of the rest of your gear stack up... We have written about outerwear, but what about boards?
Having an impact though what we buy is all about awareness – the more we champion and buy the eco-friendly options, the more we shift industry in that direction. So if you are looking to upgrade boards for the coming winter (and with Christmas coming up) do not fear, we have some inspiration for you!
First things first!
To start with, if you are deliberating over whether to buy a new board or not, it is best to consider 1) whether a new board is necessary? And 2) What to do with the board that you are now retiring?
Snowboards are difficult to recycle unless you bought it with that in mind. If you have outgrown your board but it still pops, why not donate it to a fledgling snowboarder? This will save them having to buy a new board that they will quickly out grow, especially if they are doing their first season. It also saves them forking out for an expensive new board. If it has seen the end of its days on the piste then upcycling it into a wall feature or piece of furniture is a great way to pay homage to its service, and you have a talking point about boarding and sustainability.
Saying that, there are only so many rocks a board can take before you are riding on more added Ptex than original base. So if it is time, here are three great eco-friendly manufacturers, pioneering snowboard design, manufacturing or climate advocacy while still producing exceptional boards.
If you are interested in what to look for when considering brands, scroll to the bottom for more information.
Like many great ideas, Nix Snow was conjured up over a beer. The setting – the French Alps, the year 2008. The concept was to make exceptionally functional bespoke snowboards and skis with the highest environmental standards possible.
On returning from a season in the Alps, James Mechie trained in Industrial Design and Engineering. He built his own press from the best sustainable materials available in a refurbished bus factory in London. .
After a few years refining, building and testing Nix Snowsports was launched in 2017. Nix are pioneers of British craftsmanship in both the quality of products and the sustainability of the manufacturing process. They are still based out of North London, meaning support for local manufacturers and reduced transport emissions on top of their eco-friendly designs if you live in the UK.
“We are passionate about sustainability… We have a pretty straightforward approach to sustainability; reduce the amount of non-sustainable materials used in our manufacturing process wherever it’s appropriate, and increase the product lifespan through design. Simple.”
For Nix the focus of their sustainability is in board and ski design. This includes eliminating glass fibres from their process and introducing the natural alternative of flex fibres. Flex fibres have a 100% carbon-reinforced bamboo core and now use bio-resin from plant waste. This and the use of hard wearing materials and free post-purchase servicing greatly increases the board lifespan meaning you get a board that you keep for longer.
From the outset Niche Snowboards have been committed to creating high performance snowboards with environmentally conscious material, design and manufacturing at their heart. From using 98% locally sourced materials to pioneering in the creation of a 100% recyclable snowboard,Niche are doing some seriously impressive stuff.
Founded in 2010 in Utah, a fusion of passion for quality and creative boards that remain environmentally friendly. To champion sustainability Niche moved its manufacturing to Austria in 2016, originally to take advantage of Capita’s Mothership factory.
“At Niche Snowboards, we’ve realised our vision of the future by changing the way we think about the relationships between our materials, our environment, and ourselves. Set up by designers, design lovers and passionate snowboarders, we make snowboards that reflect our love affair with nature and good design.”
The “goal from day one has been to create quality snowboards using environmentally conscious materials and manufacturing practices… We hope our success will change our industry and lead to good things for you and the planet we all share.”
Niche take action in two key ways- the first is environmentally conscious material sourcing and the second their innovative design.
Ninty-eight percent of materials are sourced locally. Eco-friendly materials include recycled bases, sidewalls and edges. They have high standards in wood sustainability, use flax fibres to replace carbon fibre, and use unique bio-renewable resins. They also use water based inks. Their most impressive accomplishment is achieving their goal of creating a 100% recyclable snowboard. A resin has been created that dissolves when in contact with a ‘top secret ingredient’ which allows the materials to come apart so they can be individually recycled or reused.
Burton is one of the worlds biggest snowboard manufactures With this comes different challenges and opportunities compared to smaller companies. While they are working towards structured time-bound goals of cutting environmental impact and improving the manufacturing process, they are also capitalising on their size and influence to push for more systemic changes beyond just their own business.
Since 1977 Burton has been at the forefront of snowboarding. From its early days, of pushing resorts to accept snowboarders, to now, pushing the industry to accept better environmental standards. Burton are still one of the best placed to make the change.
“At Burton, sustainability has become a part of everything we do. We have a responsibility to the sport we pioneered, and to the people and environment that sustain it. Our commitment is to make Burton as respected for our environmental and social impact as we are for our products.”
The approach to their sustainability has developed into a formal set of goals – The 2020 Sustainability Goals. These focus on letting their product teams develop the products to use fewer resources and better materials. The aims are – to achieve a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, divert 75% of waste from landfill by 2020 at global headquarters, to double repairs to at least 40% of warranty claims and only use recyclable and compostable packaging. Working towards their goals has involved looking deeply at their own process through life cycle assessments to see where their highest impact is, then improving it. This approach has also resulted in a big focus on the products post-use end of life.
While they are working hard to cut their own environmental impact – relative to other companies it is their advocacy where they can have the most impact. Being a responsible leader in the snowboarding industry means speaking out on policy issues that affect the environment and collaborating with other companies to improve the internal standards.
Burton does in three ways – flagships events, political advocacy and industry collaboration.
The Burton US Open – this flagship event is now carbon neutral, inspiring others to follow suit and highlighting sustainability issues at industry gatherings.
Political Advocacy – partnering with both POW USA and Ceres’ network of business climate leaders to influence stronger policy on climate change.
Industry Collaboration – While also acting to set an industry standard – Burton’s involvement in industry groups improve issues such as circular economy or materials.
Overall we will see quicker changes at the industry level when companies collaborate, pressure policy makers and learn from each other, rather than if sustainability is treated solely as an internal issue. Although this is less possible for smaller companies – with large business this is what we should be looking for when buying gear.
You can buy Burton boards at POW UK Ridgeline partner Surfdome.
An honourable mention to Jones Snowboards, their sustainability report shows they are taking strong action on snowboard sustainability, as well as being a 1% for the Planet member – and their founder Jeremy Jones also founded Protect Our Winters!
You can buy Jones boards at POW UK Foundation partner Absolute Snow.
What are manufacturers trying to improve?
Overall goal – reducing the carbon footprint and ecological impact of raw material sourcing, the manufacturing process, and the impact of disposing of the board. Done through focus areas, in order of impact –
- Reducing the emissions in their supply chain and at their own facilities.
- Use of sustainable materials and innovating with new manufacturing techniques.
- Developing end of life recycling programs.
- Cutting plastic and environmental impact of packaging.
Common sustainability issues to watch out for in snowboard design:
|Core||Avoid wood that does not have a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Wood without this certificate is potentially sourced from deforested areas or those without sustainable management. Look for bamboo. Bamboo is gaining popularity as a core material. It is more environmentally friendly than traditional wood stocks for a variety of reasons including quick regrowth and diverting wood sourcing away from tropical forests.|
|Topsheets||Avoid lacquer layers to produce the shiny finish which are toxic to the environment. Look for veneered wood or non toxic topsheet claims.|
|Resin||Avoid traditional epoxy resins, as they are made from petrochemicals, which are carbon intensive, and energy intensive in manufacturing. They also give off harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which are bad news for climate Look for eco-friendly bio-resins made from reusing plant based materials. Keep in mind resins hold the board together. If they cannot be dissolved the board cannot be separated into recyclable parts at the end of its life.|
|Edges and Sidewalls||Avoid non-recycled steel, as manufacturing it is carbon intensive and can be avoided. Look for steel from recycled sources or easily recycled plastics (ABS).|
|Rubber Components||Look for rubber from recycled sources.|
|Paint and Graphic Ink||Avoid toxic solvent based paints look for water based paints or UV based inks.|
|Fibres||Avoid carbon intensive process of manufacturing carbon fibre, look for alternatives such as flax fibres.|
|Packaging||Suitable packaging is important to protect the product avoiding losses, but too much or the wrong materials has a negative impact. The retailer can be important too. For example POW UK partner Surfdome has reduced plastic in their shipping packaging.|
We hope having read this you not only have some brands to consider, but a better idea of what to look for when next buying a board from any manufacturer! Remember, buying sustainable products not only directly reduces impacts, it also supports the industry in moving in the right direction.