Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Whose idea was fibreglass?

I met Dave at the pub through a friend of mine. Dave makes beautiful surfboards out of sustainable materials. And with the Australian Government dolling out $900 willy nilly to stimulate the economy – I've just decided how I'm going to spend mine. I asked Dave some things.

Q.I'm blind and just snapped my old board on a badly timed road-crossing adventure, so I need a new board . And I would also like this board to attract members of the opposite sex, why should I ride your board and not the one the Quicksilver rep is trying to spruik me?

A. Ours are stronger and more durable. Lower overall environmental impact and less hazardous to construct. Light weight. Snappier flex characteristics = smoother faster ride. Beautiful Australian aesthetic due to local timber with unique grain patterns.

Q. Timber hey? So you DO cut down trees, why is that any better than using fibre glass?
A. Timber is all sourced from Australian managed plantations certified by the Australian Forestry Standard and Good Environmental Choice Australia. Species used are fast growing species that can be sustainably managed.

Q. So it weighs a bloody tonne hey, I ain't no Hawaiian Duke or animated penguin, will it sink?
A. We still use a foam core. This is necessary to keep the boards at a modern weight. We use a type of foam called Extruded Polystyrene which is waterproof, recyclable, has superior strength properties and does not contain isocyanates like traditional polyurethane foam. It was the use of isocyanates that led to the closure of Clark Foam (the worlds largest surfboard blank manufacturer) in the United States a couple of years ago. Most boards made in Australia still use this type of foam. This traditional foam is not recyclable.

Q. How do they ride? Are they heavier, flimsier, quicker, last longer etc.?
A. The ride is smooth and fast. Our boards are a comparable weight to a standard sanded finish polyester board and lighter than a gloss finished polyester board. Due to the composite glass/timber construction we use the boards are extremely strong and don't get pressure dents on the deck like standard boards. It is our goal to design boards that can be passed on to the next generation rather than ending up as landfill.

Q. Why didn't you just go and shape boards with all of the traditional materials and get rich quick like the rest of them?
A. I used to shape boards out of traditional materials but a chain of events led to me being obsessed with doing something better. I studied Environmental Science at University so always had an increased awareness about the need to lower our consumption and the impact of our products.

Often returning from surf trips with snapped boards always left this feeling of guilt and after years of shaping standard boards I was concerned about the impact this was having on my own health. When I first started Treehouse I had been living overseas and reconnecting with Australia made me really want to create boards that also had a connection to the Australian environment...that had a real Australian character about them. I put over three times the amount of labour into each of these boards than I was putting into making traditional it definitely makes things harder financially but its a passion. I have no interest in shaping boards out of traditional materials now.

Q. What has the response been?
A. The response has been really positive so far. The boards always attract a lot of attention on the beach and all of my customers are loving riding them. I often get emails from customers telling me about a great surf they just had and how much fun they had on the board. On the other hand there are still the sceptics out there who think that a modern surfboard needs to be white and have three fins but you can't please everyone. Quite a few of those skeptics now own one of our boards after trying them.

Q. What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing the surfing industry?
A. I believe the biggest initial challenge is to change the culture of surfing. Many surfers and surfing based organisations are very environmentally aware but for a lifestyle that is so closely linked with nature I think as a group and as individuals we can do a lot better. Lets face it...we drive to the beach...we fly overseas and jump on boats looking for waves...we go though a surfboard every few seasons on average...we go through a wetsuit every few seasons...we buy surf brand clothes and boards mass produced in countries that may not have adequate environmental or working condition standards. I don't mean to paint that all in a negative light but we can be more conscious of our impact and make decisions to reduce that impact where possible. Surf culture has been very performance focused for a long time. I hope that we recognise what a special connection we have with nature and that this will infiltrate surf culture more in the future.

Q.Do any of the Pros/notables ride your boards?
A. No pros ride our boards and to be honest I can't see us approaching any pros to get them on our boards, it's not where Treehouse is at. The most notable person we could ever have on our boards is just the average surfer who loves surfing for what it is...a thrill, an escape, a connection with nature, an adventure. At the moment, our customers are exactly this and we build boards for them that suit their skill level and surfing style so that they can enjoy the ocean as much as possible.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christian Dior toilet conservation

I don't have a lot of expensive things, but I do like good skin care.When it comes to putting things on my face, Christian Dior is my personal preference. Its well made, lasts a long time and to my knowledge is one of the better nasties. So when I accidentally dropped my Christian Dior foundation down the toilet, I was faced with a dilemma which goes to the root of what it really means to be a conservationist.

To loo dive, or not to loo dive?

Exacerbating the situation, the 'drop' occurred a day before bathroom cleaning day, and the waters were murky. Being a lady of eco-persuasion - I don't own rubber gloves - but Christian was sinking, and fast.

A lesser lady, a throw-away madam would cry, attempt to flush, or bin Christian and be back at the DJs make-up counter the next day. Tempting. But at only a week old, Christian had hardly even been used and I couldn't bare the thought of loosing him so young, and so embodied with emissions, it wasn't right by planet or pocket to send him to landfill so soon.

So, I went to the top drawer - the ender of all problems. My chopstick skills are dodgy at best so the sausage tongs would have to do.

Dilemma 2)
Is is okay to use a food preparation utensil as toilet rescue device? Was I prepared for splash back in the case of a fall?

Best not to think about.

The rescue was a huge success - I had faith in the strength of Christian's seals and that no poo water had gotten in.

Christian was rubbed down with a fluffy towel, and seemed sealed and in good condition. The next day, he again, was on my face.

This is a story about conservation.

To loo dive, is characteristic of not just an eco-leaning lady, but more importantly a quiet rejection of throw-away culture. 'Throw-away' that doubts common sense. Things like cleanliness and gingivitis are invented to make you buy more stuff and default to 'a new one' at the drop of a cosmetic product into a receptacle.

This week, I hope that toilet drops are picked up towelled of and reinstated; and that anything broken gets mended - not chucked, and that the bits of mould on bread get cut-away and become toast. It's Christian Dior Toilet Conservation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ever been guilted into liking something because its the 'right' thing to do?

Like when a little kid draws you a picture and its crap, and the last thing you want to do is jeopardise legitimate bill-reminding space on th fridge with stick figures? Yeah well some goes with enviro stuff, and I'm sure in any 'cause space' where people are pouring their guts into stuff which is beautiful in theory but in practice is well...shall we say, a little disappointing.

I just went to an eco fashion thing. And I LOVE what this North Shore middle-class warrior is trying to achieve, but after the show I was left wondering 'is this all there is?'.

Kezza-Anne Kennerly was there, as was that financial Ross guy, and a swagger of desperate housewifesque ladies whose children undoubtedly included the little boy modeling the clothes - far from being sexy, the poor year twelver looked like he was in desperate need of a hug, a sense of humour and a half-wedgie.

The clothes were ok, apparently the shoes were amazing. Not that I would know, as the cat walk wasn't raised and one of the models decidedly distracted from the shoes by drawing attention to her knees which were drawn higher and higher each step as though she was avoiding an exploding magnum-sized bottle of bubs skittling across the ground and threatening to bite her calves.

There was one dress I loved - recycled mohair, plain black above the knee, high waisted and finished with a voluptuous collar and set by large houndstooth patterning in bold purple, yellow and electric blue. You could see how much love had gone into the detail, beautiful lines, immaculate seams - I'm desperate to try on that dress, but shudder at the thought I could not do justice to something so wonderfully made, and fear feeling shitter a person for the my inadequacies in not doing it justice.

But there was only one. Unfortunately, which seems often the case in Sydney; sustainable, vintage and recycled fashion is treated almost like a charity case. As if by wearing it you sacrifice style for the feeling of doing the right thing - guilt trip, particularly on the North Shore.

But this is only a half truth. Had the show have been better produced, taken place in Surry Hills/Darlinghurst/Paddington and not been filled by 40 somethings and modeled by kids on the brink of puberty, I reckon it would have been judged not by it's honourable intentions, but instead on merit.

After a couple of bubblies, I raved the show to a St Leonards blond, extolling the usual pro-green diatribe, but somehow feel cheated and a fake. It took Kezza's husband to set things straight. She was admiring the 'greenness' of the clothes and the designer's vision when he piped-up "Kerry-Anne, your wardrobe alone probably contributes to half of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions and supports the majority of sweatshops in Asia" - oh and how we all laughed.

Kerry-Anne, you were the star of the green fashion show, and I still feel guilty that I didn't quite like it.