Posted on

Where’s the green?

Air pollution in Yiwu, Zhejiang, China

This week I had more staring out of the airplane window instead of out to sea from my surfboard. I was thinking about how I want to mould Makara right from the start to custom shaping and building Makara surfboards out of 100% sustainable material. I like to say that Makara is as old as the Universe, well at least in Hindu it is. Therefore, everything that Makara represents should be about synergy with our environment. Materials, production methods, etc. should be about using environmentally friendly ways to produce. In the case where I can’t, it should be my responsibility to offer to Makara riders a way to take the used/unwanted items back from them and either recycle or upcycle them in order to keep them out of the landfills.

People like to blame the likes of China for our world pollution problems. But don’t forget the only reason why all the pollution is coming from places like China is because we from the West are always demanding cheaper product. The reason we are demanding cheaper product is because of our profit-oriented system that has brainwashed everyone over the last 100 or so years into believing the primary objective that overrides everything else is profit. I still remember the words of my corporate finance professor Dr. Donald Rowlatt at university 17 years ago…”your sole mission as executives in finance is to maximise returns for the shareholders”. So everything you do and every decision you make must result in this …funny where I ended up…

The Don is an awesome guy and he is totally right in a profit-oriented system. He certainly was the awesomest prof that I ever had. The problem is that system, as ever growingly echoed by many, is seriously flawed and not a good long-term fit for our planet. Heck in some places like where the impact of global warming is causing nations to disappear as I write this, it’s a serious short-term disaster like for the Maldives. Or look at Canada right now. People will argue about the cause of what is going on there, but all I see is a city burning from wild fires and a mass exodus of close to 100,000 people. Tinder dry conditions in the Spring? Maybe now that it is in our backyard and hitting people’s bank accounts they will finally seriously start taking action. The right system is a hybrid and governments should start rewarding businesses that make great efforts to do good for the environment through lower taxes, more market flexibility, etc. Penalise the ones who don’t. They should be footing the bill for the disasters that the production of their products are contributing to.

The current system works like this…Value or profit comes from maximising your revenue and minimising your costs. So the companies that create the products you love so much come over here and find someone to make it cheaper. Then suddenly their competitor finds an even cheaper source and sells theirs at a lower price. Damn! So that fav brand of yours then pressures their supplier to reduce cost more otherwise they find someone else to make it. That leads the factory to find other ways to achieve their profit margins such as using lower quality or more damaging but cheaper inputs, circumventing proper wastage processing, asking their staff to work longer hours, etc. You say it ain’t so? I have been in that industry here for 13 years and I know it as fact. That’s why brands then switch to cheaper suppliers from other countries like in Cambodia and Bangladesh. They do it only for cost not for their rosy environmental and labour protection records. But enough is enough. This system sucks and I don’t want the future of Makara to be about that. Makara surfboards need to be about maximising green in the environment, not the green in ours or others’ bank accounts. As one of the Makara Mantras goes, Catch what you need.

This annoying ramble matters because it makes it so darn difficult for me to find eco-friendly inputs for my surfboards in Asia because all those companies in North America and Europe are obviously not demanding environmental inputs. China is a nation of opportunity. When there is a market for something, investors and entrepreneurs flood it like surfers to Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast.

One of the concepts I heard of and am currently looking into is glassing with bamboo fibre cloth. Bamboo is an awesome renewable resource and it can be used to replace the fibreglass cloth normally used in boards. The drawbacks seem to be at this time is a slight tint after glassing, it sucks up more resin, and is a bit more difficult to work with. But like with anything, innovation will find ways to make something like this the way to go. For me, I am going to be testing it out as soon as I have the right supply sorted. With this trip, I think I found it.

I just wish more companies would do things like make it their only goal to maximise green in the environment while still making money at the same time or make it their responsibility to take back any unwanted ecologically damaging products too. Oh, but that wouldn’t be in the best interests of shareholders now would it? They would lose their jobs. No one wants to lose their job.

Like I said before, this model needs to change. There is more to the colour green than just the greenback. There’s a lot more and it is a heck of lot more important for the long-run. And no, we’re not all dead in the long-run as long as we play our cards right and fix all the damage we have caused over the last century.

Bamboo fibreglass is one of the first steps for me towards a green product. Next week I will start work on another one. So I am getting there one step at a time…but now it’s the time to get home!

Nanjing Airport Check-in