I was 13 when I got into skateboarding. My mom had accidentally showed me a video of professional skateboarder Jamie Tancowny hurling himself down a set of stairs, landing on his back, and unleashing a load of cuss words. While my mother was still shocked from defiling my young ears, I got hooked on skateboarding after I saw him get up from the fall and land it the very next try. The majority of skaters have historically become interested in skateboarding a similar way that I did. However, skateboarding’s increasing popularity and its addition to the Olympic games in Tokyo 2020 will no doubt bring many new faces into skateboard shops and skateparks across the city. While this may bring terrific progress in green transportation and recreational activity in Edmonton, there are some environmental issues that will only worsen with an increased demand for skateboards.
Most skateboard decks are made from Canadian maple trees; whose short growing season makes compact tree rings and thus a harder wood that still retains some flexibility. This is the best wood available to withstand the wear and tear of skateboarding, and some skaters still may only need a week or two before they need a replacement. Because of their relatively quick use and the long time frame needed to grow Canadian maples, skateboard deck production has become one of the main contributors of maple deforestation in eastern Canada. As well, other skateboard parts such as deck veneers, urethane wheels, and griptape adhesives require the production of hazardous chemicals and plastics that will be around long after we’re gone.
Needless to say, if there’s any time to start thinking about the environmental side of skateboarding, it’s now.
Some sustainable projects have been popping up sporadically within the skateboarding community, with mixed results across the board. Some have been incredibly popular, while others make splashes in the industry and fade away. With this sporadic success, increasing awareness and promoting these sustainable initiatives could be the final push needed to bring eco-friendly skate products into the limelight. So whether you’re just starting out or have been skateboarding for years, here’s some products and ideas I’ve seen that could help incorporate an eco-friendly approach into your skateboarding experience:
1) Bamboo Skateboards and Used Deck Products
Multiple projects have sprung up that are making skateboards out of bamboo instead of Canadian maples. Bamboo grows incredibly fast, which is wonderful compared to the 60-80 years it takes to fully grow a maple tree in Canada. Some bamboo species can also be incredibly durable while staying fairly flexible, which sounds like a perfect material to make skateboards out of. Companies specializing in longboards have also been incorporating bamboo into their decks for several years, but those boards are way more flexible than what a regular skateboard deck would be. Nevertheless, the environmental costs are substantially lower when making bamboo boards, so it may be worth giving one shot the next time your on the market for a new deck.
Another idea that has seen incredible success recently is making things out of used skateboards. Products ranging from earrings to coffee tables are available online that use skateboards to make beautiful designs, giving new life to skateboards that would have otherwise ended up in the garbage. There are loads of companies making items out of recycled skateboards, and is something to definitely consider when you’re in the market for some new furniture or accessories!
2) Fabric griptape
Griptape – a sheet of sandpaper applied to the top of the skateboard – helps provide the friction and grip necessary to flick, catch, and land all sorts of tricks. Griptape is thought of as an essential component of skateboarding, but some skaters have found alternatives. Gou Miyagi, a famous skateboarder from Japan, is known worldwide for his out-of-the-box trick selection as well as his replacement of griptape with canvas fabric glued to his board. Although Gou does this to decrease the wear on his shoes, this can also mitigate the creation of harmful chemicals that are involved in griptape production. Moreover, using fabric griptape means that your shoes will last a much longer time, saving money and reducing your footprint on the planet. There are problems with fabric griptape however, as it doesn’t grip to your feet nearly as much as traditional griptape, making tricks much more challenging to land.
3) Mellowing out
While skateboarding is a very fun activity, it can be very challenging at times. After long battles of trying new or difficult tricks, it can be frustrating to not land something over and over again. Some skaters will deliberately break their board when frustrated, known as “focusing”.
Obviously, this will make you go through more boards, expanding your environmental footprint in turn. I find that listening to chill music and skating with friends helps to mellow me out when I’m skateboarding, and also makes me feel a lot better afterwards! If you find yourself getting frustrated often while you’re skating, I think that having ways to stay calm will help you have more fun and potentially use less boards in the long run!
Sustain SU Ambassador