This piece was written by Jen Gurecki, our CEO, and originally published in our Lady Parts newsletter on April 22nd, 2021.
Happy Earth Day friends! Today I'm digging deep into a few of my past papers that I wrote a lifetime ago when I dedicated a few years to a Ph.D. in sustainability. You can't call me Dr. Gurecki and my student loan debt is stupid (because I dropped out), but at least I can talk about the carbon footprint of skis.
In 2013, Dr. Tobias Luthe, Thomas Kagi, and Dr. Jan Reger conducted a lifecycle analysis of a pair of skis. Here’s what they found: A traditional pair of skis produces 22 kilograms of carbon emissions per pair (think of all the materials, transportation of the materials, and energy used to press the ski). Compare that to some other things we love consuming to give it some context. One gallon of gas: 19 kilograms. One bottle of beer: 328 grams. One ride up the chairlift: 3 kilograms.
You might be asking yourself about those environmentally sustainable skis. They must put a dent in the carbon footprint, right? Well, using basalt instead of fiberglass, sourcing core wood materials locally, and switching out epoxy for an eco-friendly resin all have a positive impact—a reduction of 3.15 kgs of CO2. Unfortunately, the footprint isn't significantly altered because of the amount of energy it takes to press them (7.8 kgs of CO2 to be precise).
Skiing has been depicted as a sort of canary in the coalmine for the impacts of climate change, yet there is a significant rift between people’s environmental beliefs and their active participation in ecologically destructive practices. Researchers call this detachment between people’s abstract values and their embodied behaviors “ecological irony.” We may believe in protecting the environment, but we love endless, deep pow lines more. So we buy skis and snowboards and drive the mountain or trailhead and most of us ride on chair lifts and some of us even heli-ski. (Just the car drive alone to and from the mountain ONE time produces six times more CO2 than the whole life of a ski).
In the face of an ecological crisis, all of this is pretty overwhelming. I'm sure that you, just like me, spend your days trying to figure out how to be better to the earth in our daily practices. As a small business, it's not easy. We don't have access to all of the sustainable materials that we'd like to use in our manufacturing and in our packaging. (Think about that plastic wrap on a brand new pair of skis. Yeah, we're working on it.)
We really are looking to all of the big guys, whose purchasing power commands the supply chain in the snowsports industry, to make changes so that sustainable materials for the manufacturing of skis and snowboards are readily available. We already use FSC certified wood in our skis and snowboards, but would like to integrate ecological resins and recycled plastic bases. But we don't have the purchasing power to integrate those materials into our production today. (A girl can dream.)
As a small business, rather than focusing on the change that we can't make, we have been focusing on what we can do. And that is why we have been working with Zawadisha* to plant a tree for every ski and snowboard we make. Not only does planting trees have the "mind-blowing potential to tackle the climate crisis," we also are creating jobs for the women who plant and care for them.
We know that we have so much more to do, and as with everything, we are committed to being better.
* Full transparency, Jen Gurecki founded Zawadisha nearly 10 years ago and today sits on the Board of Directors and proudly serves their all Kenyan team in their work.