Feb 082010

It’s long been said that despite our communion with the ocean, what’s under our feet – the polyurethane foam blank covered in polyester resin – is toxic and bad for the environment in terms of manufacture and disposal.

I think about the environment a lot, especially in producing hollow wooden boards, and have tried to minimise the environmental impact of producing them. I believe that wood boards do represent an environmental choice.

First of all, wood is a natural and not a synthetic product. Using wood therefore reduces reliance on fossil fuel intensive products. Use of wood in the manufacture of products – provided it is sustainably grown – can facilitate the expansion of forests, which in turn take CO2 out of the atmosphere. And a hollow wooden surfboard should far outlive a foam board. This negates the need for replacement, saving carbon emissions because the raw material is not needed on a repetitive basis.

I feel pretty good about using locally-grown Saligna Gum and recycled Oregon pine in some of the boards I’ve made. The recycled part seems like a no-brainer – if you can make a surfboard out of something that would otherwise be thrown away then that’s a winner.

But in striving for lighter boards, I am using imported woods, which carry their own environmental issues.

When climate change panic set in, airline emissions were fingered as one of the biggest culprits, but, as it’s turned out, emissions from shipping transportation are also pretty noxious. There are carbon emission miles in imported woods and there’s no getting away from that.

On the positive side, because wood is shipped in bulk it means the quantity of wood I’m using is responsible for a very small amount of emissions. And the imported wood that I have used – Obeche and Western Red Cedar – are both listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being in the category of least concern, meaning they are not in any danger of extinction.

I’m also assured by my supplier that they are grown in a sustainable fashion. There aren’t any rain forests being cut down.

That’s my thinking so far. In this post I’m only looking at wood, not the manufacturing process itself, which I hope to get to in later posts. If I’m missing anything, add your comment below.

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