Eco-Friendly Extreme Sports: How Sustainability is Entering the Sporting Arena

Eco-Friendly Extreme Sports: How Sustainability is Entering the Sporting Arena

Many extreme sports take place outdoors. This makes those who participate in them the first to notice the pollution and the degradation of the places they love to perform their sport. In recent years, the outdoor recreation industry has come to recognize their contributions to environmental pollution, waste and overall environmental impact. 

With the topics of sustainability and climate change front and centre, most people understand our environment is changing. As the general public is wising up to the need to protect the natural world, corporations are feeling the push to evolve and adopt more sustainable business practices. However, it is more than just meeting their bottom line and making a profit.

Sport is going green

If you’re an athlete or outdoor sports lover, you’ll likely have seen the negative impact humans have had on the natural environment. Surfers and scuba divers particularly have noticed the amount of plastic trash in the oceans. Litter and environmental pollution has spurred many athletes to clean up the places where they play, restoring the environment to its natural state.

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Eco-Friendly Extreme Sports- How Sustainability is Entering the Sporting Arena

Many companies and sporting individuals are also reevaluating their environmental impact and implementing sustainable strategies to mitigate it. Manufacturing sporting equipment is one area that is currently being reviewed; efforts are being made to ‘green’ the production process and the resulting product. The use of virgin materials and natural resources to produce sports equipment is connected to depleting forests and generating waste.

Additionally, transportation of athletes and sporting equipment further contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Putting it into perspective, one skydive emits roughly 27 pounds of carbon emissions.

Innovative design 

Equipment used in extreme sports gets beaten up, thrown around, and often has to be replaced because it can’t be fixed, or for safety reasons. The old equipment gets dumped in the garbage. This is good for sporting businesses that enjoy sales revenue at the expense of the environment and ever-expanded landfills. Improving the way sporting goods are produced, choosing high-quality materials, building them to last, and improving recyclability are all necessary in the quest for a more sustainable industry.

The surfboard industry started implementing changes in 2005, when the main manufacturer of polyurethane foam blanks for surfboards closed their doors after being investigated for poor environmental practices tied to the chemical toluene diisocyanate. As a result, surfboard companies have converted to using eco-friendly materials such as recyclable epoxy resin and bamboo and hemp as alternatives for their blanks.

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In the same surfing vein, wetsuits are also a topic of environmental concern as well. There are many factors that go into choosing a wetsuit; its fit, its likely uses, and even its style; but now too the sustainable materials with which it’s made from. Eco-friendly wetsuits are on the horizon with some brands such as Patagonia producing neoprene-free wetsuits made of recycled polyester and Yulex® natural rubber derived from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council® certified by the Rainforest Alliance. 

As for land-based sports, the skateboard company Uitto is on a mission to produce an eco-friendly and recyclable skateboard. The life of a skateboard for an aggressive skater can be as short as a month. Uitto created a board that is durable enough to withstand repeated tricks and body weight – but is 100 percent recyclable. The high-quality board is made of biocomposite wood sourced sustainably from Nordic forests where harvest does not outweigh regrowth. The boards are also waterproof and do not warp or delaminate. 

With innovation and intention, sporting companies can design safe and reliable gear without causing additional harm to the environment.

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Giving back

As a means of making amends with the physical toll some sports have on the landscape, athletes are becoming activists. They are setting their sights on what actions they can take to restore the land back to its pristine state by either volunteering their time or investing in companies that employ others to get their hands dirty.

One example is the mountain bike community who work with local biologists, botanists, and ecologists to determine the ecological impact they have on recreation areas. In an effort to minimize impact, mountain climbers are also donating their time and energy into restoration and conservation efforts. The Climb for Conservation group climbs mountains for a cause, aiming to educate, advocate and fundraise for wildlife conservation.

Other organizations, such as the Access Fund, work to conserve and protect wildlife habitat in public and private lands where many enjoy participating in extreme sports. The organization imposes closures on sites during breeding and spawning seasons of various wildlife to avoid ecological disruption. 

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the adrenaline and thrill of your outdoor adventure or extreme sport. Just remember when purchasing new equipment or booking your next guided adventure, to support companies that have sustainable business practices at the forefront of their mission. And don’t forget to leave the natural environment as you found it.

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All images via Pexels and Unsplash.

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