The irony is hard to ignore. A lot of today’s paddlecraft are made from plastic and / or resins which are not really good for the planet. Every time they touch the water, so do the chemicals associated with them. Packaging and shipping these behemoths to retailers and customers also requires a significant carbon footprint. More companies in the category have embraced Mother Earth and are incorporating sustainability initiatives into their products, from the use of environmentally friendly materials to better manufacturing and shipping practices.
Pelican International / Confluence Away
Confluence Outdoors, recently purchased by Laval, the Quebec company Pelican International and whose brands include Dagger, Perception, Wilderness Systems, Wave Sport, Mad River Canoe, Harmony Gear and Boardworks, is arguably the leader in the paddlecraft market and, by volume , pollutants. But it is doing what it can to reduce its environmental footprint.
âSustainability is a priority for both sites, both in Quebec and here in South Carolina,â said Don Meredith, brand and product manager. âThere is still work to be done, but I’m pretty proud of what both entities are doing. “
He said all Confluence boats are made from recyclable PE, with zero resin waste at its facilities in Greenville, South Carolina and Montreal. âIn both locations, all cutouts, trim and other leftovers are recycled, which we use for the parts,â he said, adding that the shipping corrugated cardboard is also collected and recycled.
He added that the Montreal team uses a lot of rivets in their products, the majority of which are recreational kayaks. So he recycles all the pop pins that are left behind. It also uses a technique to remove foam waste from its internally cut foam. âWe reuse as much as possible with different parts, but the final waste is collected and donated to an organization that redirects it to things like insulating and filling dog beds,â Meredith said.
North West River Supply (NRS)
NRS has seen several recent developments in its sustainability journey, said Mike Barker, Head of Sustainability. âOver the past 18 months, we have removed all single use polythene bags from our layering garments, dry garments, PFDs, gloves and shoes. In doing so, we have made drastic changes to the supply chain to ensure that products are protected and treated with care to mitigate the risk of product damage. And we work with and educate our suppliers, vendors and partners regarding the proper packaging, care and ways to eliminate or further reduce waste, âsaid Barker.
By 2022, 80% of its clothing textiles will be made into post-consumer recycled materials, from its high-volume silk sunscreen clothing to the recycled Gore-Tex Pro dry clothing line.
âOverall, we are making serious progress in reducing our impact on the planet and our waterways,â Barker continued. âWhile we are in the early stages of our sustainability journey, we are making rapid progress. Our team is committed to leading with our values, and we have embraced our ability and responsibility to manufacture our products with minimal impact. We are committed to sustainable design and practices.
Folding branches / AquaBound
Paddle maker Bending Branches and its sister company AquaBound are also making strides towards sustainability. âThe biggest thing we do is reuse the plastics in our kayak paddle blades and the wood scraps from canoe paddles,â said Andrew Stern, Marketing Director. âWe are also investing heavily in sustainable and environmentally friendly fibers and other natural materials grown on land to build our paddles, although we have yet to find the ideal solution. “
When it comes to resin residue, most of the resin plastics the company uses in its pallets are recyclable, with the waste being reused in parts such as end caps, snaps, and connector parts. âSome of these recycled plastics can also be reused in new plastic paddle blades, such as those with a blend of carbon fiber and nylon,â he said.
As for the wood, which it purchases from a supplier certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, canoe paddle manufacturing uses several pieces of wood glued and sanded together, resulting in pieces of junk that it would otherwise throw away. âWe started to reuse them to build our Catalyst Canoe Paddle, pictured above, which is almost entirely made from recycled pieces of wood, âhe said, adding that leftover wood particles are given to local farmers for cow bedding. As part of another effort to save wood, the company is going paperless with its internal work order flow and has stopped printing binders and catalogs. The company also reuses all of the fillings and packaging from the incoming voids to pack its paddles and has moved from plastic bags to a more environmentally friendly option, reducing its waste by 40%.
Canadian manufacturer of paddle sports and SUP clothing Level6 also flies the flag of sustainability. This year, said Kevin Cook, chief operating officer, the company has reduced 20,000 plastic bags by using unique bag liners on all of its shipping boxes.
âAnd we replaced almost all of the packaging with recycled cardboard, and we started rolling and tying our casual clothes with extra cuts of fabric,â he said. âFor 2022, we are also introducing fabric with recycled content in our technical and non-technical products. He added that the company also donates one percent of all online sales to watershed conservation organizations. The company also âcarbon neutralizesâ the transport emissions of its direct sales by protecting forests through the carbon monitoring company Pacama, contributing to projects that comply with carbon offset protocols and standards.
At Astral Designs, it’s about saving the planet with its PFDs. Taking 12 years to develop, his new Ceiba life jacket, shown right, is âthe most environmentally friendly PFD ever madeâ, with its naturally floating Kapok flotation from the Ceiba tree, native to Central and South America. In addition to being all natural, the buoyant material can be handled and moved better than other flotation materials, allowing for a more three-dimensional fit with recyclable PE foam that provides protection.
Combine that with a recyclable PE foam back panel for impact protection and a 100% recycled fabric outer shell approved by UL and Bluesign, and this is a PFD that the company is proud to have in their line.
âThe first step in preventing damage to water and soil is to understand how chemicals affect them,â said Founder and CEO Philip Curry. Bluesign, with its in-depth knowledge of textile chemistry, is the partner we need to constantly assess our supply chain and prevent harmful chemistry from entering our products.
Helping the load remove PVC foam from the PFD industry, Astral also uses recycled polyester in 43 percent of its shoe uppers, uses hemp in many designs that require no pesticides, and uses 75 percent less water than cotton, and goes from synthetic to natural wherever it can.
âWe choose our ingredients based on the lightest weight using the least amount of oil,â Curry continued. âWe are committed to traveling for the long term. “
Photos courtesy of NRS, Bending Branches / AquaBound, Astral Designs