How can we as skydivers burn fossil fuels for fun while still reducing our impact on the environment?
We are not an environmentally friendly sport. As an industry, we burn a lot of fuel and produce a lot of harmful waste…
We use petroleum-based, non-renewable resources for our skydiving gear. We ride planes to altitude many times a day to jump out of them for fun. We are not a sustainable industry.
However, we can be better – less wasteful and reducing our impact on the planet. The concept is simple: treat the world’s resources like our wages. We only make a finite amount of money, so to spend the amount we, as skydivers, willingly pour into the sport, we must make sacrifices in other areas of our lives.
Just like our wages, we have finite space and resources on our planet. Since we spend a large amount of this on skydiving, we need to spend less of it in other areas.
The global lockdown has shown the enormity of human impact on the environment, with reports all over the world of clearer skies and resurgence of wildlife. This break from normal practice provides an opportunity to reassess, and to rebuild in a better way if we so choose.
This article gives some figures about our impact on the world’s resources as skydivers. It gives examples of practical actions jumpers, organisations and companies in the sport are taking – and what you can do – towards balancing our impact. They are just small steps but as a community, lots of small advances mount up to appreciable positive progress.
Our contribution [to the planet], both positively and negatively, whether we realise it or not, is happening. If you can open up to that, that’s step 1. After that it’s about trying to introduce some minor changes – no matter how minor. After time, that will set a new base line, that we can improve on thereafter”
Our Impact on the Environment
- 100 skydives uses about 140 gallons of fuel
- At 3 million jumps per year (USPA statistic), USA uses approximately 4,200,000 gallons of fuel and 44,000 tons of CO2
- A Twin Otter burns roughly 30 gallons of jet fuel per load, so 1.5 gallons per jumper
- One transatlantic flight is the equivalent of doing 288 skydives. Higher altitude flights (like commercial flights) do greater damage to the atmosphere due to the proximity
- A skydiver who does 250 jumps and 5 hours tunnel time a year emits 46% more CO2 than the average European citizen
- A vegan who does 250 jumps and 5 hours tunnel time a year emits 21% more CO2 than the average European citizen
- About 400 skydives is the carbon equivalent of driving across the United States six times (30,000km)
- Production and distribution of plastic water bottles accounts for 714 MILLION gallons of oil annually – imagine each bottle of drinking water being a quarter full of oil
Did you know?…
My Skydiving Footprint lets you calculate your skydiving carbon footprint, by jump numbers and plane type.
What Can Jumpers Do?
This list is almost limitless…
We are a society of car indulgence; burning fossil fuels, adding CO2 and polluting the air. How often do you see 30 skydivers drive from the same hotel to the drop zone in 20 cars?! Use our close community to find ride-shares, especially at events.
- Bike, walk, or car share to the DZ, work, wherever
- Skydive closer to home
- Look for hybrid or electric vehicles if changing your wheels
Pay beer fines with cans… or even a keg
- Cans are made from 70% recycled content
- Bottles are only 20-30% recycled content
- People recycle cans 20% more often than they recycle glass
- Less packaging required, due to less weight
- Transportation of cans emits 20% less greenhouse gas than bottles
- Bonus – beer stays fresher in cans because light cannot enter
Recycle, and recycle properly – learn about what can and cannot be recycled in your area and separate items appropriately.
Avoid or reduce meat consumption. While going vegan or vegetarian is not for everyone, it is relatively easy to cut back on meat intake, especially with the wide variety of delicious vegan and vegetarian options on the market. If you currently eat meat 3 meals a day, and you cut down to 2 a day, that is around a 30% reduction. Every little bit helps!
- Livestock are responsible for 15% of the world’s yearly carbon emissions
- To produce one pound of beef uses 2,500 gallons of water
- Going vegan for a year compensates for the carbon of 176 skydives
- Going vegetarian for a year compensates for 138 skydives
Avoid single use items – plastic/styrofoam cutlery, cups, water bottles, grocery bags. Use reusable bags – not just for carrying your groceries out of the store, but also for your produce and other items you would normally put into bags (or even skip the bag altogether! You wash it when you get home anyway)
- Avoid single use items
- Buy food from bulk bins rather than individual plastic containers
- Buy salad ingredients separately, not in pre-mixed plastic bags
- Buy your bread and meats from the bakery or deli counter, rather than the plastic-wrapped versions on shelves
- Look at second-hand gear options (ask rigger advice of course)
Avoid ‘disposable fashion’
The fashion industry is a major contributor to the global sustainability crisis. Try to avoid major retailers that sell under-priced, overproduced items.
- Shop at thrift stores!
- Buy from companies that guarantee their products for life – for example, Patagonia will repair your items at no cost to increase the life of the product
- Look for items made from recycled materials – check out Picture Clothing
Donate your old skydiving gear
- Give your old canopies to Levity Nylon (you get a small product/discount in return)
- Skydive gear you replace can be donated to a newer/poorer jumper or AFF school instead of gathering dust
What organisations are doing
In Denmark, accuracy jumpers are using the e-winch. It lifts jumpers to altitude so they can practice their approach and target accuracy on the tuffet. This could make a significant reduction in aircraft hours for training purposes:
It’s a game changer inside the accuracy landing environment”Nikolaj Larsen
Carbon Offset jumps
In Sweden, all skydives are subject to a small carbon offset, about 50 cents per jump, the funds are collected by the Swedish Parachute Federation and invested in renewable energy sources such as wind farms. Denmark and the Netherlands skydiving federations have been discussing the implementation of a similar national carbon offsetting standard for each skydive.
Simon Colmer of the APF told us of a few key outcomes the Australian Parachute Federation are achieving:
- stopped printing many publications, moved to digital
- about to stop printing their monthly magazine, moving to digital
- about to stop printing plastic membership cards (currently each member gets 1-6 a year)
- moved some meetings to digital instead of face to face requiring air travel (pre- COVID)
- digitising forms processing to remove the need for print
Their next steps are to encourage dropzones to:
- contribute to recycling all refuse from the bar
- ensuring rubber bands make their way to the bin and not into nature
Interestingly they want to investigate further the repurposing of old canopies into habitats for the homeless but this will take time. They had plans to introduce carbon offsetting but the pandemic has slowed down change as times are commercially sensitive.
ToraTora have been creative in giving back and have made a number of pledges. They ran a raffle where you couldn’t buy tickets but you could earn tickets by doing something positive for the planet (eg, going vegan for a month, donating to a cause, joining Sum of Us). At the Adventure Boogie ToraTora donated the raffle proceeds to a local organisation teaching kids the values of mountain sports. They have planted 56,830 trees in partnership with Trees for the Future, an initiative also supported by Satori Factory.
We are currently searching for more sustainable ways to practice our sports but we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, we’ve pledged to plant trees for each skydive, flight or other impactful activity that we engage in until we find real, sustainable solutions”Jasper Meer, ToraTora
This video from Satori Factory’s Angle Week 2018 in Sweden investigates skydivers’ opinions on the event’s theme of ‘Planet Skydive’.
We have the climate as a standing theme at every Angle Week. Jumps, travel and other emissions are compensated for by the event. Waste reduction, recycling and care for the natural world are front of mind”Tim Douglas
Satori Factory have embraced the sustainability concept, starting a Clean Air project, where you can donate towards positive environmental projects, which are far more than planting trees.
Most of the CO2 compensation programs, tree planting programs or other ecological actions are ignoring the social and human condition layer. I believe we can’t solve such problem without integrating the people trying to get out of poverty within the solution. If not, they are going to choose the easiest/cheapest option, which is generally taking advantage of the natural resource, following the example of the richest countries.
To provide a solution to these people that can take them out of poverty while adopting sustainable practices is the best way to avoid repeating our mistakes and to empower them and their children to create a better future for everyone”Alex Aimard, Satori Factory
We report on what the skydiving industry is doing to reduce the affect of our sport on the planet… here
We’ll leave you with Leak Levy’s #PDTipTuesday about being a responsible skydiver…
Next article: Skydiving and the Planet – 2
- Skydiving & the Planet – Part 2 - 26th August 2020
- Skydiving & the Planet – Part 1 - 26th August 2020
- MARDginal Analysis - 26th August 2020
- Vector Wingsuit Options - 19th August 2020
- Silver Lining – short lead times - 6th August 2020
- Protected: Skydiving and the Planet - 20th April 2020