Five Ways to Paddle More Sustainably

While the ecological impact of standup paddling may be trivial compared to some water activities, there’s no denying our favorite pastime has negative effects on the environment. CO2 emissions produced getting to and from the water and toxic waste from board manufacturing takes a damaging toll on our natural habitats. Fortunately, paddlers are also in a unique position to help relieve some of the issues plaguing our waterways. Here are a few ways to minimize the carbon footprint of your standup paddling and even leave the world better off for it.

Photo: Zach Mahone

1. Carpool

Did you know that on average, a gallon of gasoline equates to 8,887 grams of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere? Extrapolating just how much that equates to for an average paddle outing may be difficult, but it’s certainly a lot more than none.

Enter Captain Obvious with some not-so-subtle advice: ride sharing to cut that figure down is probably your easiest, most impactful means of minimizing your carbon footprint when it comes to paddling. Besides, just like getting on the water is more fun with a friend, so is getting on the road.

Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

2. Bike to SUP

 What’s even better than carpooling when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions? You guessed it, manpower. No gas, no traffic, just a couple of wheels and some good ole fashion brawn. People commonly rule this option out with the assumption that a bulky board and paddling gear are too much to haul via bicycle, but that’s just not the case.

Myriad SUP trailers exist to make towing your SUP a breeze on two wheels. Many trailers offer enough storage to accommodate a multi-day outing, and most are inexpensive enough to quickly pay for themselves in saved gasoline. Besides, it’s always good to warm up before hitting the water.

Photo courtesy of NSP, Facebook.

3. Use Eco-Equipment

Paddling is a relatively eco-friendly sport, but the traditional production of paddleboards is anything but environmentally responsible. Polyurethane resin, epoxy, fiberglass and foam…none of these components are easy for the world to digest. Thankfully, a handful of board manufacturers are taking measures to lessen the impact their products have on the environment.

Today, many brands are producing boards with natural or recycled materials, and consumers are finding that sustainable components like bamboo and cork provide equal or better performance than traditional layups. When purchasing your next standup paddleboard, consider ecological impact along with performance and price to make a responsible decision.

4. Pick Up Trash Along The Way

These days no matter where you are paddling, odds are you’re going to encounter trash. Between landfills and natural environments, the amount of plastic waste in circulation across the world today is estimated to exceed 6.3 billion metric tons. Since plastic takes a minimum of 400 years to biodegrade, most of that will at some point end up on beaches, freshwater habitats or the ocean—the final sink of the natural world.

While using less plastic is the first step to combating this crisis, picking up trash during your outings is another easy way to help nurture our favorite places. Try using your paddle to scoop up waste debris and put it on the deck of your board during your next cruise, it feels better than watching it drift by.

Plastic Tides collects water samples for research on a mission to ban microbeads. Photo: Plastic Tides

5. Join the Community

Between entities like Sustainable Surf, Sustainable Coast Hawaii and Plastic Tides, there’s no shortage of programs and organizations in the standup paddling community to tap into. These entities support environmental causes ranging from conducting critical on-water research, to hosting beach cleanups to advocating sustainable legislature, and their impact on conservation is elemental to keeping our waterways clean. If you’re passionate about the environment, inquire about getting involved with the nonprofit of your choice and turn your passion into action.


A First SUP-descent of Africa’s Zambezi River
The Devastating Impact of Plastic On Our Oceans
Paddle Against Plastic: A 1,000-mile SUP Expedition in the UK

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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