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Q:How is a sustainable surfboard defined?
A: The ECOBOARD Project Benchmark gives the current definition. It is based on sustainable surfboard materials that have a significant reduction in environmental and worker health impact, without significantly affecting manufacturing or surfing performance. This Benchmark will occasionally be updated as market conditions evolve.
Q: Why does a recycled content blank and/or bio-resin matter?
A: There are two reasons for this. First, blanks and resin account for the majority of the impact of a surfboard. The CO2 lifecyle impact of the blanks and resin comprises 88% of the total carbon footprint for an EPS/epoxy board, and 83% for a PU/PE board.1 In contrast, fiberglass has an overall impact of 4% and energy used during shaping is also 4%. The majority of the remaining impact is from repairs over the life of the board. So therefore the most significant steps a surfer can take to reduce impact is to look at alternatives in the blank and the resin.
Secondly, the majority of the environmental impact from foam and resin comes from the production of petroleum-based chemical feedstocks. Recycled and bio-based feed stocks are the most effective method to minimize the environmental impacts of these surfboard components.
Q: How much environmental benefit can recycled blanks and bio-resins provide?
A: These products can make a very significant difference. The unfortunate reality is that environmental footprint of a surfboard is extremely large. Initial research shows that a 5.5 lb EPS/epoxy shortboard causes over 600 lbs of CO2 to be emitted over its lifecycle.1 The ratio of CO2 emitted to product weight is an extraordinary number at 110-to-1, comparable only to the impact of electronics and computers which use significant energy in their manufacturing. Most consumer goods have a ratio of approximately 4-to-1.
We are working on a more complete LCA on the benefits of sustainable surfboards. This LCA would incorporate calculation on the changes environmental benefits for the following components:
Q: Why does CO2 matter so much? Is Global Warming real?
A: There are many reasons why CO2 is a serious threat to surfing, regardless of what you believe about global warming. Two reasons are indisputable. First, CO2 is the best proxy measure of the energy and resources that goes into a surf product, so looking at this number gives a good idea of the sustainability of a product relative to other similar products. Second, CO2 levels are rising in the atmosphere to a level not seen since 35 million years ago, and at a rate never seen in the geologic history of the Earth. This is causing ocean acidification at a rate far beyond the natural buffering capacity of the ocean to absorb CO2 without significant increases to ocean acidity. There is no precedent to the impact this will have on ocean ecology, but calcifying organisms such as coral, some plankton, and shellfish have difficulty producing their shells in a more acidic environment. When combined with other threats, 90% of all coral reefs in the world will be threatened with extinction by 2030.4 So if you like the idea of surfing in tropical waters, you should care about CO2.
With regard to global warming, the scientific story on this is extremely strong and very difficult to argue against. There is strong observational evidence that the world is warming, that sea levels are rising, and that ocean circulation patterns are changing as a result of human-emitted CO2. This will produce significant negative effects on surfing. A 1-2m sea level rise will cause permanent high tide at most surf breaks, while stratification of the oceans has already caused a reduction of the amount of nutrients available to phytoplankton — which should concern those who like to eat fish and enjoy a healthy ocean.
1. Schultz, 2009. ‘Surfboard Cradle to Grave Study’, T. Schultz;
2. With new technology, EPS material can be recycled through many lifecycles. Various LCA studies have shown that majority of the CO2 emissions from EPS comes from the production of raw materials that eventually become EPS.
3. Entropy Resins is currently conducting an LCA on the benefits of bio-resin, with the results to be published soon.
4. World Resources Institute, “Reefs At Risk, Revisited”, 2011. http://www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited