BILLABONG Pro J-Bay is setting a benchmark for international surfing contests with a comprehensive programme to protect the local environment and combat global climate change. Billabong is this year teamed up with Port Elizabeth carbon solutions’ consultancy Cleaner Climate and Coke’s Live for a Difference campaign. Their programme takes into account the full spectrum of how and in what way the event is impacting on the environment, Cleaner Climate director Kerry Wright explained yesterday (July 20 2011).
“The estimated total carbon footprint of the event is 385 tons of CO2. This includes emissions arising from officials and competitors flying into J Bay (which account for approximately 76% of the event’s total emissions). It also includes their transport and accommodation while they are here. There is also their electricity usage to consider and the waste and paper consumption at the event.”
While carbon occurs naturally in the atmosphere, excess volumes of gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), generated by human activity, are causing an artificial greenhouse effect, trapping the sun’s radiation and reflecting it back to Earth, resulting in climate change. One of the worst generators of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels like oil.
The Billabong J-Bay initiatives include organic food catering from J’Bay’s In Foods with local sourcing of ingredients (meaning less travelling therefore less petrol consumption and exhaust emissions) and no pesticides or fertilisers (which are also made with oil).
Another initiative is the installation of solar water heaters for the on-site showers for the surfers, supplied by Genergy, Wright said.
“It’s something the guys really appreciate it when they come out of the cold water, and it’s also valuable because it is so visible to everyone walking past. It sends out a positive message about what’s important and what we are trying to do.”
There are also beach litter clean-ups by St Francis College pupils, re-usable coffee mugs and meal tokens, biodiesel used in event vehicles, T-shirts printed with organic ink and a detailed daily check-list to ensure un-used lights, air conditions and computers are turned off.
What makes the programme especially progressive, however, is its up-front commitment to pay for any surplus carbon generated.
Guided by last year’s event and the surplus carbon volumes they were left with then, the Billabong green team started off with the estimated carbon footprint of 385 tons of CO2 that would be generated at this year’s event. Working from that, Billabong then purchased 193 carbon credits from the international carbon market.
The market allows for industries or events that cannot reasonably reduce all their carbon emissions to purchase credits from successful carbon reduction projects in the global renewable energy sector, for example, or re-foresting.
At the end of J-Bay 2011, Wright and her team will balance this initial purchase against the carbon generated through the event. Billabong will then be making a further purchase of carbon credits to cover the difference, she explained.
“To do this we find out all the specifics pertaining to this year – where exactly did each surfer and official fly in from, what exactly was the waste volume and, according to our on-site electricity metre, how much power did we use.
“Then we know how many more credits we must buy.
“The whole programme really establishes this event as setting a benchmark for events of this kind around the world.”
Another aspect of the green theme at the Billabong is strong lobbying by the local surfers’ Supertubes’ Foundation and the broad-based Thyspunt Alliance who are both opposing the establishment of a nuclear reactor at nearby Thyspunt.
Event spokesman Paul Botha confirmed yesterday that a petition was being circulated among the visiting pro surfers most of whom are known to oppose the project. At the launch of the event last week, Parks and Tourism Agency acting CEO Sybert Liebenberg raised a cheer from the audience when he said the reactor was not good for tourism prospects in the area.