It’s evident that climate change is happening – but what can we do to mitigate it? Rou Chater got the chance to catch up with Clinton Filen to ask him the main question on everyone’s mind… Is this sustainable?

What are you working to as a brand to reduce your impact on the planet?

We are looking at everything we can do, to be honest. From our products to our business and manufacture locations, logistics, operations and even the lifestyle we are living and promoting. On top of that, our key focus in product innovation and durability, we think of this third pillar as environmental innovation.

Why is it so difficult for us as an industry to move away from plastics and chemicals in the production process?

Without even looking at the industry, it is clear that we are a plastic and processed chemical reliant society. Plastics are widely used because of their low costs and versatility. Within the industry, pretty much everything we build is a composite, so generally a combination of plastics or plastics combined with other materials; that is the secret to the durability. The counterpoint of this is that none of those materials used are going anywhere, anytime soon.

I know as a brand you have explored specific options only to find them unworkable, vacuum-packed kites for instances taking up less space in a container and therefore using less fossil fuel to ship, than kites that are not wrapped in plastic.

Yes, that is a good example. If you ship a kite vacuumed packed, it takes up half the space than an individually boxed, non-vacuum packed kite. So if you are airfreighting at any point in the supply chain, it’s essential, but if using road and sea, it is not as important. You can also use compostable plastic, but it has its challenges as well. The bag might start to break down before the product is sold, and the item becomes damaged. These issues are all solvable; it just takes time and continued focus.

Is the whole sustainability issue something we can ever get on top of or are we doomed to failure?

We should be able to solve the problems, hopefully. It’s a matter of how much destruction we need to see before every person understands that it obviously, makes sense to change. I believe that technology will help us create a more sustainable society, but it’s also about co-existing with the planet and its other species.

What can we improve upon as kitesurfers to make less of an impact?

On a philosophical level, understand that what makes us happy are experiences and not possessions. Buy products that last and spend more time using them, less time replacing them. Look beyond the hype of a new product and work out what the real benefits to you as a rider will be, beyond your sense of self-worth. When you do buy something, buy something mind-blowing and enjoy it for as long as possible!

When you travel offset your carbon through a legitimate offset scheme and when you arrive at your destination, try to leave it better than you found it. Support organisations that are trying to do less harm and hold people accountable. Connect as many people as you can to kiteboarding, water and the outdoors. All it takes is the sight of a used nappy floating past, to understand the importance of urgent change!

What steps do you take personally in your own life or when at the beach?

There are a lot of people that do a lot more than I do within the sustainability sphere. However, I do enjoy the challenge of living a good life, and while doing less harm and embracing minimalism. I have been trying to half my carbon footprint for a while, and you can have a lot of fun doing it; driving a super-economical car or riding a motorcycle. I am interested in alternative foods (I am not vegan or even close), but I am intrigued by all the new developments in the food world. We have an office the runs off-grid in the summer and want to do that to my house next.

Living in Africa, you quickly notice how little people have, and you reprioritise your needs. I don’t think we need to become martyrs, consider if we all leave the planet 1% better then when we arrived, we would change everything.

Are there any charities or foundations we should be aware of?

It is very inspiring to see the number of people pushing the environmental, social and sustainability agenda. There are organisations such as Sea Shepherd that are an icon of driving change outside of the standard systems and have been doing it way before it was fashionable.

Within our industry, I would say Parley and Sustainable Surf are a bit more corporate-minded but are doing an incredible job of connecting brands and consumers to a cause.

We work with the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park for our carbon offset program, but they are a small player in the big scheme. They are environmental startups that are pushing things forward. Our group CEO, Svein Rasmussen, is one of the most inspiring and driven individuals I have got to work with, in the sustainability space we work together where possible to see what we can change and create environmental innovation.

Brands such as Patagonia are a great example of a more future-oriented organisation that bridge the gap between purpose and profit and deserve massive support. Many companies are increasing focus on sustainability; you just need to choose who to support.

Mon 14th Oct, 2019 @ 5:07 pm

By Jen Tyler
Italian/Egyptian Jen Tyler grew up on the sandy beaches of the Red Sea and has been on the IKSURFMAG & Tonic Mag team since 2017.

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