Words: Daniel Burrows. The best illustration in the world, ever: Matt Ward.
Wasn’t snowboarding fun back in the early 00’s when there was still snow? Ah well, at least there are now plenty of indoor centres and dryslope to shred away those long hot winters. Scientists say that perhaps it is too late to reverse the damage that we have done to the environment but if we – as individuals, industry and governments – take a few simple steps now we might be able to at least maintain a status quo. So here is a snowboarder’s guide to saving the planet.
As a rider we spend a huge amount of cash on the gear that makes our days on the hill enjoyable. So why not direct our money towards companies that care for the environment in which we play? There are plenty of them and the more you spent your bucks with them the more the others will follow.
Being environmentally aware from a manufacturer’s perspective is not only about researching raw materials that are kind to the planet – such as sustainable bamboo and organic cotton for clothing – it also involves taking a considered attitude towards the sourcing of materials, eco-friendly manufacturing processes, using recycled materials in production and even the catchment area of raw materials.
Some companies that you should look into are SoleTechnologies, Holden, Volcom, LibTech, Arbor, ACG and although not specifically snowboardcentric, Patagonia. Plastic bags are also a pointless source of pollution worldwide, so why not take your own shopping bag with you? There are plenty of companies making these from unbleached cotton or other eco materials.
In conclusion we are all now wired up to the net and sport the latest gadgets and computers to keep us forever in touch. There is a problem, though, and that is that all these gadgets are pretty nasty as far as energy consumption and pollution goes. Our beloved personal computers consume a heap of energy and for once in my life I am going to lord the PC. Michael Dell – the founder, chairman and chief executive of the computer maker Dell – hopes that people will pay an extra £1 for a notebook or £3 for a desktop machine to part-fund the planting of trees to offset the CO2 generated by the electricity needed to power them over three years. They have also made a commitment to reduce their 'carbon intensity' of its operations by 15% by 2012 – “think different?" Apple, too, are aware of the impact their products can have and have implemented several means of attempting to reduce this.
It may sound odd but the food you eat and where you eat it can have serious consequences on the environment. The obvious change that you can make is to stay away from chain restaurants, whose mass farming methods degrade forestry and rob local producers of business and profit, not to mention the homogenizing of the world’s cuisines. Also be aware of where your food comes from and its seasonality. I read somewhere that English prawns were shipped to China to be shelled and then sent back to the UK for sale. Buy local produce that is in season and buy ‘bio’ if possible.
And last but far from least try and cut back on your meat consumption. We are not talking here of the effect that your personal expulsion of gas has on the environment but of the emissions produced by the herds of beasts that are reared for our consumption, not to mention the swathes of forests flattened to accommodate them. Worldwide, livestock emissions have reached approximately 94 teragrammes (Tg=one million tonnes) annually, which in Brazil, (the world’s largest livestock breeder with 160 million head of cattle) equates to 29% of the country’s methane emissions. That is a whole lot of farting.
Resorts are renowned for their expensive groceries and eateries but consider where you buy your food from and try to go local. It was always such an anomaly to me that a resort like Chamonix that professed to be an Alpine paradise could have a McDonald’s and that people actually ate there in droves.
Travel is an integral part of snowboarding in Europe but we can do it much more ethically with a little thought and effort. Car pooling is perhaps the best way to get to the mountains and cut emissions as well as congestion. If you reside in a resort, see if you can organise your own car pool. Alternatively take to public transport – there is surely not a resort on the planet that doesn’t run its own bus or train service.
In the resort or back home for the summer why not get on your bike? In London, unlike other cities like Amsterdam, Munich or Copenhagen where cycling accounts for one third of inner city travel, only 3% of the population cycle to work. If all of these people would cycle it would save 1 million tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere. You should check out the exploits of Travis Parker and Co and their peddle-powered exploits around the US: www.bikecar.com.
If you must drive a car with an engine and have the money to buy a new one there are plenty out there to choose from like the LPG Smart car. The problem is that there are not that many gas stations as yet to cater for such vehicles.
But the biggest polluter of all methods of travel is the aircraft and until they can make planes that burn vegetable oil this is an area where we all trip over our carbon footprints. Rail is a good alternative to air travel, or if you must fly you can offset your miles by paying a little extra on the ticket that is then re-directed towards environmental organisations. Check out Climatecare, an organisation set up by British Airways whereby fliers can offset their carbon miles by financing eco projects. Read more at www.climatecare.org.
PICKING YOUR RESORT
More and more resorts are going green and I am not referring to the grass on their slopes. For example Kaprun is committed to using solar power and recycling energy, as well as treating water and effluence and recycling rubbish. Other resorts in Europe that are doing their part include Warth in the Arlberg, Sivretta Nova, Adelboden, Fellhorn and Laax in Switzerland and a host of resorts in the States. You can read more about the top US eco resorts on www.skiareacitizens.com while a list of French do-gooders can be found on www.mountain-riders.org.
Reducing your energy consumption has to be one of the easiest ways in which to reduce your carbon footprint. Turn off lights, use a fan in the summer rather than air-conditioning, put on an extra jumper in the winter rather than cranking up the heating, and if you are a homeowner, make sure that windows are sealed and the walls and roof are insulated. Switch your TV and computers off rather than just putting them on standby/sleep. If everyone in Germany were to do this with all their electrical goods, we would be able to shut down two nuclear power plants. And unplug your phone charger from the socket, rather than just leaving it ready to jack into a couple of times a week. In the long run, you will be saving money as well as your environment.
Another good way of conserving power is to replace old light bulbs with energy-efficient ones – 90% of the power needed to light a bulb is burned off in heat. If you have some cash to spare, or your parents do, go solar panelled or get yourself a wind turbine; you can always sell excess energy to the national grid. On a personal level there are plenty of little gadgets available to charge up your mobile, computer or iPod, such as the O’Neill H3 pack or the Solio charger that we featured in this month’s Downtime. Also if you are buying batteries why not make them rechargeable? And when throwing old batteries away make sure that they are recycled. On 21 June, London was urged to switch off non-essential lights and appliances for an hour, saving nearly 380 tonnes of CO2 emissions. This event was based on the Earth Hour that originated in Sydney and reduced energy consumption in the city by 10.2%.
Littering is lazy. Why not pop that wrapper in your pocket and dispose of it properly later? Same goes for you smokers: globally, smokers discard over 4.3 trillion cigarette butts, of which 30% of all cigarettes smoked end up as litter. This equates to about 500,000 tonnes of pollution per year. Butts are made of “synthetic polymer cellulose acetate" and take roughly 12 years to degrade, and once in contact with water cigarette butts begin leaking chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into the environment. You can get hold of a Westbeach ashtray at all stockists of Westbeach clothing to make sure you’re not contributing to this. When we were in Val D’Isere this past winter the resort was handing out little pocket butt-tins at the base station – high five to Val D’Isere.
Mainland Europe has been making households recycle their waste for years but even without the municipal programme individuals can still make a difference. Some European countries such as Germany recycle up to 60% of their waste whereas the simpletons in England only manage 20%. Divide up your glass from your paper, and plastics from your tins, and make compost from stuff that can decompose. After all, man’s old axiom of “out of sight, out of mind" has reached meltdown. The oceans are full of radioactive waste, rubbish and out-of-date munitions, the earth is full of landfills that contaminate water supplies and poison the soil, and soon we will be shooting out rubbish into space so that you really won’t have to worry about it.