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The Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave Project

May 10 2010 | Surf Protection, Sustainable Surf Gear,
by Mark Rauscher

The Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave Project

by Tobias C. Schultz

As the surf community has been made aware of its own environmental footprint, theinterest in creating a surfboard from "green" materials has grown exponentially. But without a life cycle assessment of the baseline materials used in surfboard manufacture, it is impossible to make informed decisions to reduce the footprint of the sport.

What part of the board contributes the most to its environmental footprint? Which parts of the process will be the easiest, and cheapest, to improve? These are the questions the surf community needs to answer before real improvements can be made; these are the questions the Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave (SCG) Project was started to resolve.

In the Surfboard Cradle-to-Grave Report, you can find the life cycle carbon footprint of the two most common types of surfboard, polyurethane (P/U) and expanded polystyrene (EPS). By comparing the environmental footprints of future boards against these baseline materials, we can find out which new types of board are truly ‘greener.’ “It’s easy to buy an ‘environmentally friendly’ surfboard and say you have reduced your footprint—but is it a ‘green’ board just because its maker says so?” says Tobias Schultz, the founder of the SCG Project. “The only way to make a real comparison is to assess the footprint of a new type of board, and compare it to the footprint of conventional surfboards.”

Over a surfboard’s entire lifetime, it is the manufacture of a board’s foam core and petrochemical resin that make up most of the carbon footprint; these two board components account for the lion’s share of the total toxic by-products, as well. The fiberglass that makes up a surfboard’s outer skin is responsible for a tiny fraction of these footprints—less than 5%.

“This means making a board with substitutes for fiberglass—balsa wood or bamboo, for example—do not produce boards with a significantly smaller footprint, even in a best case scenario,” the SCG Report states.

The SCG Technical Report contains information on both the carbon footprint, and information on total toxic by-products; these two metrics are very good indicators for the pollution arising from a product in general. Using the recommendations presented in these reports, we can all gauge the best ways to reduce our environmental footprint.

Read the SCG reports at: http://best.me.berkeley.edu/~schultz/projects_scg.html

Contact: Tobias Schultz, tobias.schultz@berkeley.edu
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