Environmental Issues

It's enough to make you mental.

The Surfrider Foundation has been fighting pollution and other environmental transgressions for fifteen years. The 25,000-member nonprofit organization attracts devotees more easily than many other environmental associations because surfers, other water-sport enthusiasts, and general beach lovers see and feel the results of pollution and poor environmental policies very directly. Swimming past trash, getting sick from going in the water, and being barred from your favorite surf spot because it's not safe to be in the water–these realities alone could encourage a person to dish out 25 dollars to become a member of The Surfrider Foundation and join the fight to save the beaches.

The organization recently launched the Snowrider Project, whose goal is, according to Snowrider literature, to “empower, enlighten, and educate 'snow-riding' enthusiasts everywhere about the intimate and powerful connection between the snow, land, and surf, and how each of these ecosystems must be preserved, protected, and restored to help ensure the future health of our environment.”

The next logical step is to get skateboarders involved, too. Skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing, which have much in common, can join forces to become even more powerful. But what can skateboarders do, and why should we care? Increasingly pollution and environmental issues are becoming everyone's problem. In the past, altering your business practices in order to be more environment-friendly was not the most economically sound decision. But recently, a few organizations have been popping up to help manufacturers through this time of change. By offering their expertise, the transition can be more affordable, ultimately making the shift a reality for more businesses.

One such group is the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, which offers a business-assistance program. They communicate with organizations throughout the United States that are working to develop alternative pollution-reducing products and processes. Their goal is to assist businesses with the challenge of obtaining maximum economic viability with minimal impact on the environment. For more information call: (805) 961-8868, or e-mail: business@apcd.santa-barbara.ca.us

If your business is located in California you're in luck, because almost every county in the state offers an assistance program similar to the one in Santa Barbara. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) can give you advice, or at least point you in the right direction if there are no other options in your district. Contact CARB at: www.arb.ca.gov or call: 1-800-272-4572. For those outside California, most states have government agencies designed to offer aid to businesses seeking environmental guidance. If you reside in a state with no such support, check with the federal Environmental Protection Agency for further help: www.epa.gov

Skate One Corp., makers of Powell and Bones skateboard products, is one skateboard manufacturer that has continually developed its production processes to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. Developing and fine-tuning original techniques, they have pushed the envelope in many areas of production. Last fall they received the Green Award from Santa Barbara's Green Consortium for their environment-friendly business practices. Some of the procedures they were honored for included composting wood scraps for fertilizer, returning excess glue to manufacturers, and recycling steel drums, aluminum, cardboard, and paper. They also converted their printing operation from an oil-based lacquer to a lead-free, water-based paint that also allows them to clean printing screens without using thinnerr.

Skate One's General Manager Abraham Powell explained skateboarding's unique position to Business Oriented Air Quality News: “In the skateboard industry we use wood to make decks, or 'boards,' and polyurethane to make wheels. We don't have many affordable options in terms of the materials we use. There is hope on the horizon, however, especially in the area of the deck manufacturing, although we have not been able to find a viable alternative to urethane. We've worked slowly and methodically looking at everything we do, then finding ways to use less toxic materials, and ways to reuse or recycle our waste.”

Powell is the first skateboard manufacturer to make a dedicated effort to alter their business practices in order to benefit the environment. Handling every aspect of production has its advantages–they can monitor everything and have the ability to make changes if necessary.

P.S. Stix started UV-curing water-based finishes about four years ago, citing that this process creates a stronger, more durable seal than other methods. Additionally, all P.S. Stix's wood scraps are recycled to make fertilizer or energy fuel. Owner Paul Schmitt explains how deck manufacturers approach wood gathering in a more eco-friendly manner than other industries: “You don't clear-cut forests for skateboards. Maple grows by natural regeneration. You pull them out of the middle of the forest, where they are surrounded by other species of trees. This actually keeps the forest from becoming too dense.”

Another prime example of a manufacturer altering business practices and innovating products to benefit the environment is NHS. Aside from switching to water-based screenprinting almost four years ago and recycling all their paper and cardboard, they invented the NuWood board, an injection-molded, fiber-filled thermoplastic skateboard. Though the NuWood board has been temporarily taken off the market in order to perfect the construction, it represents the type of product innovation that has historically been required from a manufacturer wishing to remain at the top of an industry.

Many environmental agencies stress that waste reduction and recycling lead to greater efficiency, which ultimately leads to increased profits. Some simple examples are reducing disposal costs through recycling, eliminating material costs through packaging reduction, and lowering distribution costs through product streamlining.

Obviously any changes you make to your business to better the environment are helpful, and you don't have to overhaul your business in order to make a difference. Hopefully at some point the government will give tax breaks to eco-friendly businesses. But until then, it's up to manufacturers who want to make a change.