If you love skiing — heck, if you love the planet — here are two words sure to send a chill down your spine:
For anyone who believes global warming is a myth, it’s time to re-evaluate your thinking. Even a study funded by the Koch Brothers (oil billionaires and devoted supporters of conservative causes) has confirmed that it’s real. Global warming is here, it’s already wreaking havoc, and in the better-late-than-never department, it’s time we did something about it.
So it’s encouraging to learn that some gear companies are working to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s not only responsible, but it makes good business sense. Without snow, there’s no skiing. And without skiing, they’re out of business.
Not long ago I posted about Soul Poles, a new company that’s making ski poles out of eco-friendly material. But Soul Poles isn’t the only one making an effort to be environmentally friendly. Here are a few others who are going green to save the white:
Grown Skis: Grown sells the first ski with an individual ecological footprint calculation expressed in grams per cubic centimeter volume of ski, allowing customers to compare products by their ecological performance. The company makes its skis out of wood from sustainable forests in Europe. They also eliminate most non-natural materials in the top sheet, side walls, and reinforcements. Instead, they use volcanic basalt and recycled material. Grown skis claims to have the first climate neutral skis on the market, where the remainder of the carbon footprint has been offset with climate protection projects in Europe.
Liberty Skis: Liberty is the only ski company to use bamboo laminate as the core material in all of its skis. Not only is bamboo strong and lightweight, but its fast growth makes it a sustainable resource. The company also relies on wind power, and uses volcanic basalt fiber in its topsheets.
Grace Skis: Like Libery, Grace uses manufacturing processes that are respectful of the environment. The company puts a priority on producing skis in the most environmentally responsible way possible. This means continuously evaluating materials for their eco-friendliness and implementing manufacturing techniques that reduce overall waste.
333: This company is a hoot. You’ll have to pardon my comment, but their factory just blew me away. I mean, look at it (see the pic above). It’s a small, portable trailer that travels from one spot to another. The entire operation — skis, press, etc. — was built using recycled and abandonned parts. The company uses a solar generator to produce its skis, using under 10 oz. of petrol per pair.
Atomic: One of the big players in the ski industry. No matter; it’s still working to reduce its carbon footprint. Atomic revamped its manufacturing processes at its plant in Altenmarkt, Austria, cutting its annual fuel oil consumption by 950,000 litres while lowering CO2 emissions by an estimated 4 million kg per year. It also filters and recyles all its grinding residue and gets its electricity from renewable energy sources. Recycling is also mandatory: 15 different types of waste are collected separately and recycled. Atomic has received two awards for developing the first ski boot from renewable raw materials.
Head: Another big player working to make a difference. Head has partnered with Cool Earth, an organization dedicated to protecting rain forests that might otherwise be destroyed. The company is committed to saving more than 7,000 acres of rain forest from destruction: the equivalent of 7,000 American football fields.
Patagonia: Few clothing companies have as big a commitment to the environment as Patagonia. They’ve actually made it part of their corporate culture. For example, the company has a program that allows employees to leave their jobs to work for the environmental group of their choice for up to one month, during which Patagonia pays their salaries and benefits, and environmental groups get them for free. They’ve also given more than $43 million to more than 1,000 environmental organizations. What’s particularly encouraging is that even though the company wants to sell you its products, they also want to make sure these items don’t end up in a landfill. So in addition to accepting them for recycling, Patagonia has launched a web page on which people can sell their gently used Patagonia garments. And here’s something cool: you can track the impact of any Patagonia product, from design through delivery. Go here.
Conservation Alliance: This is a consortium of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to community-based campaigns to protect threatened wild habitat, preferably where outdoor enthusiasts recreate. Founded in 1989 by REI, Patagonia, The North Face, and Kelty, the Alliance has more than 180 member companies, and has contributed more than $9.5 million to conservation projects throughout North America.
1% For The Planet: I first learned about 1% from my intereview with Bryon Freidman at Soul Poles. 1% For The Planet is a group of companies that donate 1% of their sales to a network more than 2,600 environmental organizations worldwide. An admirable effort, and one that I wish more companies would make.
All these efforts are extremely commendable. But obviously, they’re only a drop in the bucket, when you consider all that needs to be done. So while it’s important for more gear companies — heck, more companies of any sort — to commit to reducing their carbon footprint, it’s something all of us should get behind, too. What can you do? Buy green products (nothing speaks greener than green cash). Recycle. Reuse. Carpool when you go skiing. Better yet, take public transit, if at all possible. Every little thing we can do helps. And maybe all together, we can make a difference.
One more thing: I can’t wrap this up without referring once again to Alison Gannett’s Save Our Snow Foundation. I’ve featured Allson in this blog several times, and found her efforts truly inspiring. Not content to rest on her laurels as a world champion extreme skier, Alison founded SOS in 2006. Its mission: to demonstrate that solutions to climate change can be cost-effective, actually increasing profitability while reducing pollution and increasing energy security and green sector jobs, while also saving our snowpack and our planet’s ecosystems. I urge you to visit her site and support her efforts.