Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sustainable Living: Area 241

When I first read about Mike Basich's house in Transworld Snowboarding's article Open Spaces (December, 2011), I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the back country and the design of this amazing house. Most prosnowboarders are lucky if they get to stay in one place longer than a week, but Mike decided to build his dream home- a rustic, homemade cabin that is truly sustainable. 

Located outside of the Lake Tahoe area at 7,100 ft in elevation, the house was built out of granite rocks taken from the building site. The design of the cabin itself is pretty unique, a pentagram layout based on the measurements a person standing with their arms out reaching towards the sky (think da Vinci's Vitruvian Man). The materials, stone and unfinished wood, were assembled by Mike with the help of family and friends. The cabin is powered by two solar panels (12-volt microgrid), enough for charging cell phones, a TV, and computer; while the water tank is located below the floor of the cabin and links year-round to a creek1. LED bulbs light the cabin and two antique stoves are used for heating (non-electric heat circulating Ecofans) and cooking (an outdoor freezer takes advantage of cool temperatures). Fixtures of the house, including the sinks and toilet were fabricated from repurposed and recycled material. 

Photo: Area 241

One of my favorite aspects of this house are the gigantic glass windows that open outwards allowing fresh air and a gateway to the beautiful mountain view. The size of the windows allows heat from the sun to warm the house. 

Can you imagine sitting in this hot tub (bottom right)? I totally want an invite!

The house is low impact from an environmental standpoint because it is made of stones found onsite (reducing energy to transport materials) and incorporates repurposed and recycled materials. It is self-sustaining by taking advantage of renewable sources of energy and onsite water source. To me, however, it is the intricate design (such as the stained-glass windows and iron star-shaped door handles) and sources of inspiration that make this place a work of art. 

Mike has described the area (known as Area 241) as a creative playground for his company, 241. It has its own rope tow (see how it's built on Off the Grid Part 1) to take riders to the top of hill and a biodiesel- powered Snowcat used to make jumps and sculpt homemade terrain features. 

Photo: Cliff Bar Blog

If you ever wondered how snowboarding, art, and protecting the environment all fit together, I encourage you to watch Open Space, Mike's story. It is very inspiring!

Expression-Design-Art-Environment-Where is it I feel alive the most?

Open Space – A Film: The Untold Stories of Mike Basich | TransWorld Snowboarding

1 Transworld Snowboarding December, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Repurpose, Recycle, Rad-Environmentally Conscious Terrain Parks

On a larger scale, ski resorts can invest in projects that help them reach environmental initiatives, but what about the terrain parks that reside within the boundaries of resorts? How are terrain park managers getting creative, while trying to balance fun and progression, and being environmentally friendly? I asked my friend Bryant Thomas, Terrain Park Manager from Ober Gatlinburg Terrain Park to help me out by answering a few questions.

Ober Gatlinburg is located within shouting distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the U.S. This area is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world and is in the un-glaciated Appalachians, an ancient mountain range characterized by less-severe slopes and different ecosystem type of the western U.S.

Most terrain parks are part of a larger ski resort where you have to adhere to the resort's environment initiatives. How much feedback does the staff at the terrain park provide the resort on sustainability initiatives and what do you do to contribute?

Ober in general always strives to be as “green” as possible. Our local Chamber of Commerce recognized the resort as a Gold Level member of the Gatlinburg Goes Green campaign, meaning that to reach that level we had to show everything that we do to reduce our environmental impact. This includes encouraging visitors and staff to use our electrically driven Aerial Tram up to the resort, placement of recycling bins, and decreasing energy usage by renovating the ice rink1. For the terrain park itself, I try to keep with the Resort's overall goal. I am constantly looking at items lying around and in junk piles, thinking of ways to reuse and repurpose them. Some things work like corrugated pipes, tires, oil drums, while some things I wish would work never end up coming to fruition. 

How do you work "green" efforts into your park construction and how do you think terrain parks in general could do this or do it better? For example, Heavenly's Ante Up park has features that are actually made by recycling old boxes and rails into new creations and re-purposed material like old water piping, steel from fan blades, and trees that feel onto runs.
Aside from finding and repurposing items into features, we don't build any of our rails. Hopefully in the future we will, but for now we purchase our rails from the highly skilled KAB Rails. I know the guys at App Terrain Park (part of Appalachian Ski Mountain2) recycle a ton of their features into new ones, they buy very little steel for as many jibs and rails as they have. Those guys are super smart and creative, constantly pushing the envelope of what a terrain park can be in the Southeast. Ric and Drew at App are so awesome, I get a lot of inspiration from those guys for sure!

Photo: App Terrain Builders Blog

Terrain parks are about fun, progression, and variety. Can you talk in general about the use of natural terrain features such as trees and wooden structures, the use of dirt as a foundation for building features in the summer before it snows, and the importance of the quality and amount of snow to shape?
I love resorts that are able to incorporate natural terrain into the park. You see this in two ways, one of which is adding 'semi natural' features i.e. The Stash, and you also see resorts using their natural topography and geographical features. For a good example of the latter, check out the Capita Team Shootout video. Now they most likely don't have rails set up off of cliffs for public use, but you can see the possibilities.

Who do you think builds the most innovative parks?
Innovative can be pretty subjective. On one hand you have people like Snow Park Technologies that are contracted by resorts like Northstar, Aspen, etc. They build top of the line, amazing parks. They do the X Games courses, Simon Dumont's cubed pipe, and so much crazy stuff. But, a lot of that is out of reach to the majority of the populous. I think resorts that can be creative, but at the same time accessible, are the most innovative. Resorts like Big Bear, which is also a SPT resort, have always been super innovative with terrain park design. Appalachian Ski Mountain is the Bear of the South! Brighton also does some really cool and interesting set ups. Those are the resorts I watch and look to for forward thinking terrain parks. Oh, and you can't forget HCSC and Windells, they do some super fun looking set ups.
What inspires you to ride and run the terrain park?

Snowboarding has been a passion of mine for a long time. I grew up skateboarding and had skied and snowboarded a bit when I was younger, but once I got in high school I really got into it. There's just something about the way snowboarding makes everything else fade away that I've always loved. Having fun with friends, just cruising or riding pow or the park, its all so much fun. I think growing up snowboarding in the Southeast makes skiers and snowboarders appreciate the time they do get to ride so much more. We basically have a 3 month season in the South, so kids are super motivated to make the most of what they get. I grew up in Pigeon Forge and rode Ober Gatlinburg for years. I know the mountain like the back of my hand, even more so now.

Ober had decided to put in a park for the 09/10 season. I had a long term goal of what I wanted for the park, and its part of the puzzle that is Ober. I think we have continued to push ourselves and step it up each year. I have a great crew that works from me, as well as some amazing bosses and coworkers. My park crew guys deserve a lot of credit, they work hard and we all push each other to give our riders and guest a better experience. 

Its funny though, with as much as I'm in the park, I really have more fun hitting the banks and bumps, all the natural stuff that I grew up hitting!

Photo: Bryant Thomas


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The "Eco-Friendly" way

What makes a product eco-friendly and how can you find them?
Make sure you check out my latest blog post on BWG Mag

The magazine is amazing! You'll find some great snaps and articles on snow/skate/surf!

Photo credit: Niche Snowboards

Friday, August 26, 2011

A glimpse of sustainability initiatives at Apsen Snowmass.

I recently interviewed Matt Hamilton, Sustainability Manager for the Aspen Skiing Company that operates several resorts including Aspen Snowmass. If you you get a chance, visit their website at http://www.aspensnowmass.com/environment/. They are doing some really cool stuff!

Thanks to Matt and Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company. In fact, as I wrote this article I noticed that Auden is planning a trip to Washington DC along with Gretchen Bleiler and Jeremy Jones (POW) to inform policy makers on carbon dioxide legislation!

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing the ski/snowboard industry and why?

Climate change and the associated long-term impacts and viability from a business standpoint.

The risks and potential impacts of climate change in Aspen have been highlighted in several published reports from Aspen Global Change Institute. For example, Aspen’s climate has changed noticeably over the past 25 years. Temperatures have increased about 3 degrees F, and the average number of frost free days per year has increased about 20 days (1). It is important to remember that climate change is based on long-term trends and that you cannot take seasonal fluctuations as evidence of climate change because those are meteorological changes.

The risks of climate change to a ski resort include the impacts of temperature on the ability to make snow and the quality of that snow. Increasing temperatures impact the costs of making snow and ultimately the ability to make snow at all. Without man made snow resorts are less capable of operations early and late in the season. Shorter seasons ultimately impact the long term profitability of the resort. Climate change could reduce the amount of terrain available for operations limiting acreage available for skiing to the upper reaches and higher elevations.

How long did it take you to achieve ISO 14001 Certification and can you share any lessons learned?

The actual process itself took approximately one year to 18 months to complete. The Aspen Skiing Company is fortunate, however, that we have looked at long-term environmental risks going back many years prior to the certification. Once you receive certification it doesn’t mean that you are done, there are continuous improvements that are required as part of the certification process. Certification has allowed us to improve our environmental management system database to create and track standard operating procedures, such as hazardous waste tracking and minimization.

One important lesson learned is that it was key to find an ISO auditor that understood and related to the hospitality and tourism industry and that was able to think outside of the box. You really need to be able to understand how you can take their advice as a consultant and apply this back into your business in a way that makes sense.

How do you measure and report metrics for your environmental policies?

We have published an annual Sustainability Report since 1999 and use this document as broad discussion on the improvements of our environmental performance. For example, we have a goal to reduce our CO2 emissions and energy use 10% below 2000 levels by 2012. To achieve these goals, we have 10-20 initiatives that vary from small process improvements such as replacing compressor valves to improve to larger projects such as replacing three 22-year old boilers in our lodging facilities.

I notice that you operate solar power at several locations on Aspen Snowmass and have a 147-kW installation offsite at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. How important were state incentives and do you think that you would have done this in the absence of a state renewable portfolio standard?

State incentives and rebates for solar installations were critical for our payback and return on investment, even though the cost of solar has come down. In the absence of incentives, it would not have made financial sense.

I recently met former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter at a solar conference. He had a very aggressive state renewable energy plan. How much do you work with policy makers to advise them on policy issues and how important is it for the ski industry to work with their state/local/federal politicians to push for renewable incentives and climate change legislation?

Aspen Snowmass is a member of Business for the Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass energy and climate legislation (see http://www.ceres.org/bicep). We also actively talk to members of the House and Senate and leverage lobbyists to take a stand and advocate. This is very important because it is an opportunity to leverage our brand to lobby on behalf of energy efficiency and policies that reduce the impact of climate change.

Do you have a land management plan and how do you determine ecosystem health?

We are permitted by the US Forest Service and have to develop a Resource Management Plan that includes compliance and mitigation.

Your small hydroelectric system incorporated into your snowmaking infrastructure is very innovative? Can you tell us a little more about it?

The micro-hydroelectric system generates renewable energy by utilizing the existing retention pond and snowmaking pipes on the mountain. It generates during the spring runoff period when snow is melting and the piping is used when not making snow to generate power. During the first year of operation the system made 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity ~40 homes, preventing 400,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions.

What are some of simplest things that you have done that has resulted in improvements?

One interesting story involves the Cliffhouse Restaurant on Buttermilk. We started scrutinizing our electricity bills and noticed that during the summer months when the facility was closed the bills were high. Upon inspection of the building we noticed that the heat tape that is in use during the winter month for the freezer was running during the summer. When this was turned off and the problem corrected, there was a noticeable improvement in the bill amount. This is just an example of a small action that was looked into, but that made a difference!

1. Climate Change and Aspen: An Assessment of Impacts and Potential Responses

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Snowboard Life Cycle Analysis

A life cycle analysis (LCA) is a tool that is used to evaluate the processes associated with material manufacturing, production, disposal, and use. Simply put, an LCA is used to measure the impact a product may have on the environment from the "cradle to the grave". LCA's can be pretty complex. First off, several models exist to calculate impact and there isn't one that is perfect for all industries or needs. Secondly, they each vary on what level of analysis you are interested in and the data needed can often require a lot of time to track down (for example, the life cycle can be based on a whole manufacturing sector itself like the wood products industry or can be customized at a more granular level, specific to the products in a companies particular supply chain). Lucky for us, there are also many ways to find some level of data to enter into the models from a variety of databases supported by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Ecoinvent and software available to purchase such as KCL Eco and SimaPro.These tools can walk one through the LCA, but you have to ask yourself first what your main interest in the data is and therein lies the complexity.

An LCA usually focuses on the following processes:
-material extraction (growing and harvesting wood, extracting coal, or ore)
-material processing (making plastics or adhesives)
-transportation and distribution (trucks, air, boat)
-disposal (wastes)

Life Cycle Analyses have been conducted for surfboards (Schultz, 2009; http://best.berkeley.edu/~schultz/documents/The%20Surfboard%20Cradle-to-Grave.pdf) and for snowboard bindings (Hamilton, http://wiki.ece.cmu.edu/ddl/index.php/Snowboard_binding), but I did not find anything out there on snowboards! Thus, I decided to conduct an extremely caveatted, back-of-the-envelope, nerdy exercise to estimate the LCA for a typical snowboard.

 A few upfront explanations to set boundaries of my analysis and to caveat.

-I restricted my exercise to a typical snowboard design that focused on the use of a wood core, fiberglass, and epoxy (anything else I considered too small of an impact and outside the bounds). I based my calculation on the Carnegie Mellon University, Green Design Institute EIO-LCA online tool http://www.eiolca.net/. This free, online tool is based on the Economic Input-Output theory. The tool does not allow you to input the amount of material used in the manufacturing, it only evaluates the sectors used in manufacturing on a higher level. I focused my study on the following sectors miscellaneous wood product manufacturing (sector #321999), epoxy/adhesive material (sector #325520), and mineral wool manufacturing/fiberglass (sector #327993).

-Results from the EIO-LCA approach are based on the dollar amount of the product in the US from 2002. For my first model run, I conducted an LCA on one snowboard (valued at $350). I decided that this was really too small of a level to mean much to the consumer; therefore, I based my second model run on $1 million U.S. dollars. I have no idea if this is a typical week in sales (based on 500 snowboards made in a large factory a day) or how much a company can hope to make in a season! Regardless, my study was based on this amount. It may be an inflated dollar amount, but the intent is to show how much impact occurs based on the resources not an accurate financial audit.

-Results are presented in graphs for greenhouse gas emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent for CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and HFC/PFC), water use, toxic releases (from air to water and land), hazardous wastes (RCRA), and energy use. I have grouped impacts based on the three sectors. Take this with a grain of salt and see which process contributes the most.

-Lastly, you may think, who really cares or can put this into perspective! It really boils down to consumer choice and information. One interesting thing that I noted is that it isn't as simple as showing up and buying a board. Did you think about grain farming, power generation, sawmills, refineries, and plastics before shredding ze gnar?

Click on image to show results.

-The fiberglass sector contributes the most greenhouse gases via the power generation required to produce the material . Overall, CO2 equivalents range from 28.2-447 metric tons. A little point of reference, various carbon legislation proposals define large emitters of CO2 emit at least 10,000 metric tons-maybe small beans. Fiberglass also emits more toxic air emissions compared to the wood and epoxy sectors at 1,180 kg.

-Epoxy uses the most water from the adhesive manufacturing process up to 1.34 million gallons of water per $1 million.

-Wood product manufacturing requires the most energy from power generation and supply at 3 MW-hours.
-The manufacturing of organic chemicals used in making epoxy contributes to 1.4 million short tons of hazardous wastes emitted.

All data aside and with a grain of salt, if you are really looking for a material to tweak to produce less CO2 perhaps consider fiberglass alternatives. To play devils advocate, fiberglass makes the material stronger, so you may be sacrificing long term quality for fewer emissions. If you want a board that has a smaller energy footprint, I might consider one where the wood is harvested regionally; however, this may mean fewer suppliers with a limited supply and therefore more cost to the company.

Most importantly, I think it is important to appreciate various innovative manufacturing strategies and alternatives and for riders to be educated on the amount of materials and work that goes into making the product. There is no magic snowboard wand.

Note: Please be kind and reference this work by citation.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Forest Stewarship Council-a stamp of sustainability and a lot of work!

As I flip through my papers and notes to write this post a few thoughts come into mind. As a scientist and one who has spent time looking over and preparing project plans for carbon offsets, the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) makes perfect sense. It would be foolish to strike out without a plan-sure there'll always be those things that we don't think of until afterwards, but that's what a council is for-always brainstorming and creating a living document of input. The recipe looks right: goals, monitoring, quality assurance, stakeholder opinions (and opinions sought for those who don't even know know or care that their lives may be changed by decisions). It is a nice process. Then, in the blink of an eye you try to comprehend what it is you are trying to manage-a complex ecosystem. Premise #1 for the science behind adaptive ecosystem management: Both science and society are influenced by individual and societal values that are sometimes recognized but often forgotten (Maser, 1994).

So, do you want to know what this FSC stamp is that you see on all revered paper and wood products? What makes manufacturers pay those extra bucks for certified material? Let's start with a few factoids....

The Forestry Stewardship Council was created in 1993 and is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder (ie., partner) organization and membership whose main purpose is to improve forest management, chain-of-custody, and serve as an accreditation to management sustainable ttechniques. Remember in the last post, if you want to know for certain where your timber products come from and that they follow a sustainable standard-FSC is an option. Not the only option, but the most recognized. FSC covers all forest types (including natural and plantation forests) and includes strategies for social benefitts and economic viability (the three interdependent pieces of sustainability). The FSC process ensures that the harvest of timber and non-timber maintains biodiversity, productivity, and ecological processes.

Some stats (for those who like em): There are 81 countries that have certified FSC projects, 143 million hectares, and a total of 1,041 certifications (www.fsc.org, accessed 5.24.11). North American holds 38% of the certificates (with Canada holding more over the US) and the EU 43%. Most certifications are made in the Boreal forest type (49%), followed by temperate (37.7%) and tropical (12.4%).  So how does this process really ensure sustainability??

The core of the council are guidelines and documents, frameworks for how timber managers and industries can ensure that their forests ecosystems (including wildlife and human inhabitants) are treated in a sound manner to ensure future growth, quality of life, and profit. The root of which are 10 principles:
-Compliance with laws and standards (respecting the law)
-Demonstrated, clearly defined long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources (in other words, legally stating that you plan on a long-term land commitment for managing a forest a certain way)
-Recognition and respect of indigenous people
-Maintenance and long-term social and economic well being of working communities and rights
-Equal use and sharing benefits from the forest (avoiding dependence on a single forest product)
-Reducing the impact of logging and maintaining ecological functions (ie. accessing environmental impacts)
-Continuously updating the management plan (silvicultural and/or other management system and rationale
-Monitoring and assessing conditions (yield of products harvested, growth rates and regeneration, composition and observed changes in forest, cost, productivity, and efficiency of management).
-Maintenance of high conservation value forests (key species-not just trees-but flora and fauna)
-Plantations must contribute to reduce pressures on and promote restoration and conservation of natural forests.

Those guidelines sound simple and common sense enough, but to acheve the stamp of approval (literally), one has to go through a third party verification and certification that you have met these 10 principles. A certification is an audit of forest management operations in this case. It is a yearly process that is transparent. The FSC process is based on the ISEAL Alliance Code of Good Practice. The first time I read, " Assessing the Impacts of Environmental Standards Systems v1.0 (2010). I thought to myself, no-duh! Then I found myself wanting this document as a reference at work-I mean we all know how to start a plan, but this details it and is a good checklist. I found myself telling my coworkers about it and referencing it for definitions. In simple, it's project plan-you define your scope, define roles and responsibilities, make sure your people are trained, and literally go through a checklist to ensure that you haven't forgotten (or tried not to until v.2) or accounted for a potential impact that could influence long-term management. It really gets nitty-gritty down to data collection, processing, and reporting. It shows you understand the breadth of impact analysis and structure. If you want to know more about the FSC, go to www.fsc.org.

Manufacturers often choose to select products that have either directly been purchased or procured though a company that is certified through the process described above or through a company who can trace their product back over it's lifespan and has been followed and checked off along the way that it follows the standards (chain-of-custody-including processing, transformations, manufacturing, and distribution).

Forestry includes six fundamentals- soil, water, sunlight, biodiversity, and climate. Ecosystems are complex-are another blog post (and course for that fact) alone. The FSC management process is just one way to organize and ensure sustainability. Do you know if your board is made with FSC-certified wood? Do you care? You'll probably pay more for it, because think about the work that goes into tracing and ensuring it's origin. If it matters to you, chances are you're willing to pay more.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Good wood. What makes wood good? Would you? Could you? Good.

The staple snowboard core material is constructed of wood, mostly hardwoods such as poplar, aspen, birch, and beech. Manufacturers often brag about  how much of the board is constructed of wood (tip-to-tail, boyz), the technology behind the flexibility of the wood (rocker and camber), and the kind of wood used. From a sustainable resource perspective, timber is deeper than just growth rate and carbon sequestration. Wood product and forests are a long-term commitment and how they are managed can determine the success of sustaining future growth and providing long-term economic stability.

So, what kinds wood are we talking and what makes it sustainable?

First the wild card, Paulownia. Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa) aka. Princess Tree is a fast-growing tree that can be harvested in 5 years. It grows up to 40-50 ft. and once harvested, new trees can regenerate from the existing root system (up to 4 or 5 harvests)1. It grows in a variety of soil types (even poor soils and reclaimed sites) in tropical to temperate climate. Paulownia is very attractive to manufacturers because it is rot-resistant and doesn't warp, is 30%  lighter than hardwoods2, and can be dried to 10-12% moisture content in 24 hrs (using less energy to process)3. As far as strength goes, less material is needed, but can meet the same strength as balsa core3. Another positive attribute of paulownia is that is has deep roots that can improve soil stability and water efficiency. It is also used in agroforestry and has shown to improve food production when interspersed with crops4. Several companies involved in global reforestation efforts have used this tree. One nag note-this tree is considered invasive in the southeastern U.S.

Poplar is another tree species used in core construction. There are many kinds of "poplar" of the Populus genus. These include: aspen, balsam, large-tooth, and white poplar. Yellow poplar (Liridendron tulipifera L.) is often lumped in as "poplar" even though is is a different genus.

Aspen (Populus tremaloides Mich.) can be found in Canada and parts of the western U.S. and in the northeastern U.S. to WV and grows in sandy, gravelly slopes. It's height ranges from 66-82 ft, depending on growing conditions. They are fast-growing and short-lived. In intensively managed, thinned stands it is grown in 50-year rotations4. Aspen is smaller in size than other commercial species, but it holds glue well and has a low density. Aspen can reproduce by root suckers5. Yellow poplar is an eastern U.S. hardwood that grows over wide geographic distribution in moderately moist, well-drained soils. At 5 years, trees may be 10-18 ft. (depending upon latitude) and reach pole size at 20-30 years6.

Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) trees are found across northeastern Canada, northeastern U.S. and throughout the Appalachian Mountain range to northern Georgia in the U.S. They grow in well-drained, fertile loams  and in cool areas with abundant precipitation. Birch are found in 3 forest types (Hemlock-Birch, Sugar Maple-Beech-Birch, Red Spruce-Birch). They have a slow growth rate and optimum seed bearing age is 70 years6.  Poplar, birch, and aspen are financially mature at 12-14 years5.

Overall the types of trees that produce the wood used in core construction can take up to 70 years to harvest. How you manage and reforest your forest can determine the sustainable return.

The amount of lumber used in product manufacturing (from a companies perspective) needs to provide enough material to meet the demand of sales. This depends on if you want to produce limited edition, customs or to compete in a mass market. So how much do you need and where do you get it?

A typical person might think, "I have a small forest near my factory, I could just cut a few trees down here and there." Sounds simple enough, but it isn't really responsible or sustaining a future source is it?
So what are your options? You could procure lumber from a standard dealer and ask yourself, "Did they take this from an old growth forest? Did they clear cut? Is this a trash tree that won't perform the way I need it to?" The other option is to procure lumber from a dealer you know thinks about managing their resources to provide social, economic, and environmentally sustaining products.

There are at least two ways to ensure forested products come from a well-managed, respected, and sustainable source: directly from producers that adhere to certifiably sustainable management or through proper chain-of-custody where the lumber seller or producer can trace the lifecycle of the product.

Make sure you check back for the next blog post on certified, sustainable forestry practices!

1. Wikipedia- Paulownia (accessed on May 27, 2011).
2. American Paulownia Association (www.paulowniatrees.org)
3. www.PaulowniaSupply.com
4. www.MillerPublishing.com/Naw/hw_glossary.html
5. Aspen Management in Michigan. www.forestry.msu.edu/extension/aspen.
6. www.ns.fs.us/pubs/silvics_manual. (vol 2.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Four out of eight immortals use bamboo

I decided that I need to post an addendum to my first bamboo post, partly because one of my friends let me borrow this really cool book on bamboo published in 1984 by David Farrelly called "The Book of Bamboo". Much of the scientific information provided in my earlier text is similar, but this book has some jewels of eastern philosophy related to bamboo and how this plant is really interwoven into the eastern culture.

-If you peer deep enough into the misty peaks of China's past, you'll find Chang Kuo Lao, a mountain hermit who carried a bamboo drum (along with his magical white mule), Han
Hsiang Tzu with his magical bamboo flute, Chung Li-ch'uan whose bamboo fan was one of two remaining items after he decided to burn his house down to set off wandering (The other item was his copy of Tao Te Ching...go figure), and finally Lan Ts'ai-ho a bamboo basket-carrying gypsy and garden protector.

Upon reading this, let me know if your bamboo board grants you any magical jib powers or summons the pow Gods!

-Bamboo Satori. " Wrapped in this emptiness of memory and desire, steeped deep in mountain silences, ears scrubbed with secret scriptures of the dew, one morning clearing his path with his bamboo broom, Kyogen swept a piece of broken tile against a bamboo culm-konk! In that magical moment, the membrane popped between the total texture of reality and his imagined "me". The one hollow klunk echoed...centuries down a sudden amplitude in Kyogen's skull, hollow of its last illusion. As a Buddhist gracefully scribbled once of that same moment when
a mad mind halts:
Time after time
I patched the old bucket.
Tonight, the bottom fell out.
No water. No moon."

So yea, this isn't really related to the topic of sustainability. However, if you decide to shred with a bamboo board you can rest assured that you have zen covered in a few angles :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mervin Snowboards Factory Trip with Tactics

Check out this super cool video of the Mervin Manufacturing factory. Thanks to Tactics!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bamboo snowboards- a sustainable grass?

Bamboo is one of the more popular “sustainable” options used in constructing snowboards, beginning in construction of the snowboard core and often used in topsheets and sidewalls. Out of 46 snowboard manufacturers featured in the Transworld Gear Guide (2010),  nine offered “green” boards constructed or enhanced with bamboo. So, why bamboo? 

Bamboo is actually not wood, but is from the true grass family with over 1,400 species (Nijhuis, 2009). Bamboo grows in diverse climates ranging from eastern Asia, northern Australia, India, and in parts of North and South America (Wikipedia, accessed 2011). It requires moderately moist, well-drained soil and a generally temperate climate. Bamboo is considered sustainable because it is extremely fast-growing, therefore has increased biomass or yield over its wood counterparts over a shorter time period. Depending upon soil and climate conditions, some species are capable of growing 39 inches or more per day and up to 75 feet tall (Nijhuis, 2009). Bamboo grows in clumps and spreads via rhizomes (the underground plant stem that produces shoot and root systems of a new plant, Britannica Online, accessed 2011). It is generally harvested  from 2-7 years vs. approximately three or more times that for a commercial hardwood forest. 

Studies conducted on river terrace soil and upland soil in the southeastern U.S. (Auburn, AL, http://www.ag.auburn.edu/hort/landscape/bamboo.html) compared the growth of bamboo vs. loblolly pine in 216 X 216 ft plots. Bamboo yielded 14 tons/acre, while the pine yield was 8 tons/acre. The average bamboo yield varied from 17-54 tons/acre over 15-20 years (Sturkie et al., 1968). The aboveground biomass of a six-year bamboo stand from a separate study ranged from 131-138 tons/ha (over-dried) ~8.8 tons/ha/yr (Scurlock et al., 2000). Geographically, eastern Asia produces higher yields. In one study, the aboveground biomass from Japan was 15.5 tons/ha/yr compared to 7.4 tons/ha/yr in Alabama, US, 9.1 tons/ha/yr in Georgia, US, and 2.2 tons/ha/yr in northern India (Scurlock et al., 2000). In a nutshell, bamboo grows fast and can produce more material for manufacturing. As far as water requirements go, it varies by species; however, in studies the maximum transpiration rate (12 hr/day) was 13 liters/ square meters of soil surface/day (Scurlock et al., 2000). 

Bamboo has recently been praised for its carbon sequestration potential, or the ability to storage carbon via biological processess and storage in the soil. Trees and plants use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis and have the ability to offset carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to some degree. The rate of carbon sequestration of bamboo can equal or surpass that of fast-growing trees over a short time period when actively managed (Yiping et al., 2010). The annual net carbon storage for a newly afforested bamboo plantation (Phyllostachys pubescens) was estimated (via biomass models) at 5.5 tons carbon/ha over five years and sequestered more carbon than Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) during the first 30 years assuming a managed, harvest stand. If the bamboo was not harvested, the rate of storage potential would have been significantly less (Yiping et al., 2010). The same study determined that the average bamboo forest had a storage capacity ranging from 102 tons carbon/ha/yr- 289 tons carbon/ha/yr (including soil). Most of the carbon was stored in the soil (67-81%) compared to 19-33% in the culms and vegetation. So...bamboo can store carbon at a high rate as well!

Bamboo sounds pretty sustainable, but there are other considerations. 

Most bamboo is grown outside of the US (in order to meet the supply demand for construction), so you still have to ship the bamboo to the place of manufacturing, thereby increasing the use of transportation fuel and carbon emitting sources. While there is some small commercial growth of bamboo in the southeastern U.S., I am unsure of how much of a demand there is to sustain an marketable industry. 

Since bamboo is a grass, it has to be processed which also increases the energy required to process the material before it is ready to be used in manufacturing. The bamboo is harvested  in strips when the sugar levels are low; however, is still needs to be boiled to remove the starch content, and then it is planed, dried, and glued into strips that are pressed and finished (Wikipedia, accessed 2010). 

In addition, bamboo plantations are monocultural, thus biologically less diverse and provide less suitable habitat compared to hardwood forests.

So is bamboo more sustainable? Next post will compare bamboo to the use of wood in snowboard core material and FSC certified and managed stands. 

Stay tuned!!

Nijhuis, M. 2009. Bamboo Boom. Scientific America (7/20/2009).

Sturkie, D.G., et al. 1968. 

Scurlock, J.M.O, et al., 2000. Biomass and Bioenergy 19:229-244.

Yiping, L. et al. 2010. Bamboo and Climate Change Mitigation: A Comparative Analysis of Carbon Sequestration. INBAR (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan). 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sustainability and snowboarding...what does it really mean?

What pops into your mind when you think of the word "sustainability"? Being a responsible "green" citizen? Living in a house that has all of the latest Energy Star appliances? Conserving water? Is it a lifestyle that you strive towards? One definition of sustainability is to continue a defined behavior indefinitely1.

While sustainability has many different meanings to us all nowadays, the term commonly refers to three aspects-environmental, social, and economic factors.

Environmental sustainability is the ability of the environment to support and maintain a level of defined quality and natural resource use indefinitely.

Social sustainability refers to society's ability to function at a defined level of well being and maintain quality of life indefinitely.

Economic sustainability is the ability of an economy to maintain a defined level of production indefinitely.

There are many visual attempts to depict how these three aspects of sustainability are interdependent upon one another; however, the easiest way for me to grasp the concept is the yin yang. The balance between each aspect is more often out of balance with each. For example, I always try to buy organic food (deceasing the environmental side of impact), but it is often expensive (increasing the economic side of impact).

The concept of sustainability can actually be pretty philosophical. The intention of this blog is not to focus on all three aspects of sustainability (although we must keep those in mind), but to focus primarily on the environmental aspects. 

My hope is to evaluate the different materials and processes used in the snowboarding industry that are being considered as sustainable or having a low impact on the environment. What makes these materials sustainable and does their use improve society's ability to indefinitely support what is important to us?

How can we shred forever?