How can we as skydivers burn fossil fuels for fun whilst helping to protect the future of our planet?
In Part 1 we looked at what jumpers are doing. Now, let’s take a look at what skydiving businesses are doing…
Nearly every sport has manufacturing challenges to overcome from an environmental perspective.
What can be done in the skydiving industry?…
Get rid of boogie bags that promote waste. Generally, the bags are made from a petroleum-based product and are full of small “goodies” that are mass-produced, shipped from other countries and end up in trash bins. In 2019 and this year, Performance Designs, UPT, and various event organizers (Zion, Fly 4 Life, ToraTora) have focused on investing in goodies that people can use long term, in responsible packaging and that reduce waste. Event organisers have given out reusable bamboo cutlery in recycled boogie bags, with refillable water bottles and multiple water filling stations (free to use), massively reducing waste and plastic consumption. Some like ToraTora have gone a step further, committing to separating trash and ensuring it goes to local recycling centers.
Consider if some of your ‘waste’ products could be reused, within or outside your organisation. For example, Levity Nylon is a small company founded by Leah Levity on the principle of recycycling. Levity manufactures swings, hammocks, bags and other products from old parachutes that otherwise would go to landfill. PD provide materials to Levity Nylon. They also give left over materials to rigging lofts.
Eliminate single-use items in manufacturer break rooms, and DZ restaurants. Eco-friendly to-go cups and boxes are an insignificant cost difference compared to styrofoam when considering the future of our planet. A great example is UPT, who provided a branded, reusable set of mugs for all their employees when assessing what they could do to reduce waste. This has saved literally hundreds of styro cups a day; single-use items are no longer provided.
Consider if you can reduce your consumption. Small energy savings mount up – time-switch lights/appliances, reminders to staff to ‘switch-off’, turning on fewer lights, adjusting the thermostat by 2 degrees.
Invest in renewables; solar panels, LED lights and more efficient machines. Performance Designs added 206 Solar Panels to their factory roof way back in 2012, as part of a strategy to be more energy efficient.
Cool roofs – paint the roof of your business or hangar white. White roofs reflect sunlight, helping to keep the interior cool, thus reducing the energy needed to cool these spaces.
Buy green energy – some companies, such as Windoor (wind tunnels in Barcelona and Empuriabrava) are using only ‘Green Energy’ – from a company that only uses renewable energy sources (wind, sun, waves, etc) – which also do not contribute to greenhouse gases. It’s more expensive but as Windoor stated…
‘As environmentally-conscious consumers we have the power to decide what we do and don’t consume. If the consumer demands clean energy, producers will have no choice but to research, build and generate energy using renewable-energy power plants.’Jordi Meseguer, CTO, Windoor
Carbon offset – invest in responsible projects that return CO2 to the environment. For example, Skydive Empuriabrava have become certified ‘climate neutral’ by investing in projects such as Klima’s Forest Conservation in Baia de Gujara, Brazil, which protects forests, provides wildlife habitat and teaches sustainable eco-management to the local population. Skydive Empuriabrava’s 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year are balanced by funding certified projects that have the equivalent opposite climate impact (in theory and it’s better than doing nothing).
Aircraft choices matter
Single engine aircraft produce around half the CO2 emissions of twin-engine aircraft. Yay for Caravans! Visit My Skydiving Footprint for aircraft comparisons.
Reduce transport impact
Incentivize employees to bike or carpool to work. For example, Patagonia pays all US and Canadian employees who bike, walk, carpool, or use public transportation $2 per trip, up to two trips per day.
Encourage working at home for some employees, for some days a week. Many organisations discovered during lockdown that working from home and using online meetings is easier and more efficient than they thought possible.
Travel less. Boogies, camps, events, testing are critical activities for a company, but many are reducing miles flown and choosing events more carefully.
Manufacturers can move to ‘summer hours’ – production shifts move to early morning or late evening to avoid the hot hours of the day, therefore reducing energy use having to run air conditioners so high.
Adopt a four-day work week – One less day of employees driving to and from work, and one less day of energy use in your buildings (and happier employees – hell yeah!). The skydiving industry in Deland has been using this practice very successfully for more than a decade.
DZ food & drink
Dropzones could provide or sell only canned beer – see previous article. Or even better: KEGS! Kegs can last between 15 and 20 years – just keep refilling those bad boys.
Provide quality vegetarian and vegan options at DZ restaurants and events. One of the most difficult parts of being a vegetarian and also a skydiver is the lack of GOOD veggie options at dropzones. Non-vegetarians can and often do choose to eat vegetarian or vegan food – if it is appealing.
Adopt lean practices
DZs – minimize aircraft idling time. Skydive Hibaldstow offers a case of beer (canned of course!) to the fastest-loading team over their Nationals – it’s amazing how that speeds up the cycle!
Manufacturers – minimize rework and reduce errors. Identify the root causes of common errors and establish methods to mitigate them. Reduce scrap and waste by properly nesting materials when cutting them in production. There are software programs that will automatically nest all of the items being laser cut in the most mathematically efficient way.
Avoid printing emails, invoices, or anything that could be handled digitally. For example, many manufacturers print out stacks of paper that travel through production with the order. For a minimal cost in the big picture, these could be replaced with ipads at work stations that carry the same information and can be updated in real time without the need to reprint.
Ship by sea rather than air where possible. Air shipping is fast, convenient, affordable, but it sucks for the environment. Squirrel did a companywide audit in 2019 to try and understand the carbon impact of company activities…
“What was most surprising to us was how important and how impactful air travel and air shipping is compared to everything else… Where possible, we now plan ahead and ship incoming raw materials and components by sea. ”Matt Gerdes, Squirrel CEO
Reconsider your product packaging. In 2018 Vigil America changed its product packaging, reducing it to half the original size. It now uses cardboard manufactured with recycled content, and is 100% recyclable and compostable. The packaging foam is biodegradable and water-soluble, the protector sleeve for the Vigil is US-grown virgin cotton, and they have reduced the packaging size.
“Vigil’s goal was to make a positive change in the way they operate in a small way. We felt that this was the right thing to do at this moment, at least until we all have electric solar-powered aircraft to take us to altitude… and we believe that day will come.”Candace Procus, Director of Vigil America
(Note, just two years after Candy’s prediction saw the world’s first skydive from a solar powered plane, from 5,000 feet in Payerne, Switzerland. The climb used only power from the solar cells of the aircraft.)
Source shipping cartons that are SFI or FSC certified. It adds no cost, and guarantees the cardboard is at least 40% post-consumer recycled fibers, and came from responsibly-managed forests. These forests prohibit clear cutting, respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and maintain biodiversity, productivity and regeneration capacity. The SFI also plant 2 million trees daily. UPT have taken the packaging one step further and only use kraft paper tape, to make sure their shipping boxes can be recycled in their turn. (Often boxes cannot be recycled if they have plastic tape on.)
The skydiving industry can in no way label itself ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’. But thinking consciously as a community of skydivers is the first positive step to reduce our overall impact
“It’s definitely a paradox that we are trying to be more mindful of the environment when we are burning gas for the sheer pleasure of jumping out of aeroplanes… but I think that’s exactly why a lot of us have had those thoughts.”Domi Kiger
Avoiding meat or single-use plastics does not allow us to claim that we are good for the planet. However, what we can focus on is consciousness. The more we educate ourselves on what we can do to help the planet, the more we will think and speak about it, and the easier it will be to implement these changes in our everyday lives.
We can’t affect others but we can choose to act ourselves. We are a small community so we can effect change. We’ll still burn obscene amounts of fossil fuel to skydive for fun, and we‘ll still jump products made from materials that may never biodegrade, but we can choose to focus on what we can do on the ground to make our overall impact hurt a little less.
“I guess it’s about doing the small things and trying to be more creative. Hopefully the solution is to do more instead of doing nothing at all.”Petter Mazetta
- 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