How Do We Avoid This? - Stab Mag
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This image will never not grab our attention. Photo: Zak Noyle

How Do We Avoid This?

A solution to pollution.

hardware // May 6, 2022
Words by Jake Howard
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s one thing to say you’re against plastic in the ocean. It’s another thing entirely to bet the family business on it. 

This is a surf story about packaging materials— a dry subject, like a bowl of granola without açaí. But mix in some organic blueberries, or in this case, a room full of surf industry dick-swingers eagerly trying to wrap Pat O’Connell in recycled cardboard, and maybe it’s not that boring after all. Maybe it’s the future of how surf shit is shipped around the world.

It’s a Wednesday night in Laguna Beach, and A New Earth Project is officially unveiling itself to a small consortium of VIPs, friends, family, and influencers. 

“I knew that these guys had been working on something, but this is pretty incredible,” describes longtime surf industry player and legendary Laguna Beach goofy-footer Jeff Booth. 

If Kai Lenny is involved, you know it will at least be innovative. Photo: Peter King

For those that lurk around the fringes of the surfing social media space, perhaps you’ve gotten wind of A New Earth Project through backyard video clips with folks like Kai Lenny, Koa Smith and Carlos Munoz, but you’re forgiven if it all seemed a bit cryptic and you just kept scrolling. Up until this point, the clear-eyed vision hadn’t fully been laid out for public consumption. 

“Our goal is to rid the ocean of plastic pollution,” says founder Wes Carter in front of the packed house.

For the last 75 years, Carter’s family has owned and operated Atlantic Packaging in North Carolina. In 2020, Carter, who’s a surfer himself, launched A New Earth Project to transform surfing’s nightmarish packaging footprint. 

Spawned by conversations on the North Shore, Carter, along with documentarian Peter King (of Tournotes fame) and a handful of others, have diligently been working on solutions to all that bubble wrap used to ship boards and those poly bags that every single piece of clothing comes in. Hell, they’ve even partnered with a company that makes packaging for fins out of hemp and mushrooms — what a trip.

The future is fungus.

This is a movement unlike any other we’ve seen in surfing’s decades-long environmental slog. Today, there are boardshorts made from plastic bottles. Surfboards proudly advertise the Ecoboard seal of approval. Reef-safe sunscreen is required by law in Hawaii. More and more wetsuits are being made with limestone based rubber. But nobody in surfing, or action sports at large, has ever sought to find sustainable solutions for serious supply chain issues. This doesn’t touch one or two of the bigger brands, it has the potential to impact every company out there willing to adopt this more planet-friendly tech.

For starters, everything that A New Earth Project produces is made with the idea that it must biodegrade within about six months. All packaging materials must also be as easy to recycle as tossing it in curbside recycling bins. 

“Recycling beats composting: materials should be kept in circulation at their highest and best use. If an item is both recyclable and compostable, it is preferred for it be recycled, since recycling preserves the material at a higher quality and with higher functionality,” reads a description on the company site. 

“For example, paper can often be both recycled and composted. It is better for paper to get to turned into paper again, rather than be ‘downcycled’ into soil where it can’t fulfill its original purpose as paper again.”

Seeing is believing, and once folks like Boothy, Pat O, and friends got their hands on the New Earth products and were able to conceptualize their real-world business uses, it all made a lot more sense. There’s reason to be excited.

One of the more eye-catching products in the New Earth line is the S3 Pro System for shipping surfboards. If you’ve ever shipped a board, you know there’s not enough bubble wrap, foam and tape to quench the anxiety that your precious cargo will come out the other end in tatters. 

But with a materials cost of $30 per board, the New Earth Project system cuts down on the amount of packaging required, but more importantly, it eliminates foam and plastic entirely while limiting the usage of tape to the exterior box. Seeing this in action, it’s a remarkable leap forward in how boards can be shipped around the world. Pzyel Surfboards was an early believer and has helped in the R&D process — which could be interpreted as: it’s piqued John Florence’s interest.

Structurally sound, sure, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing.

Part of the perk of being affiliated with Atlantic Packaging is that A New Earth Project has the use of the North Caroline-based, $10 million Packaging Solution Center, which is a facility dedicated to the research and development of sustainable packaging technology and solutions. This isn’t just a few dudes in a garage in San Clemente, this is real big-business taking steps to solve the ocean’s plastic problems. 

New Earth also partners with other companies with the same common goal. Case in point, the company Evocative, which makes the mushroom packaging. Made with “hemp hurd agricultural matter and mycelium, the roots of mushrooms,” it’s actually grown rather than created in a factory. And the mushroom packaging material is touted to be home-compostable in 45 days. 

Think about that for a second: you run down to your local shop, grab a new pair of the FCS bamboo fins, and when you get home you toss all your trash in the garden. A couple months later, bam! Your petunias are beaming.

In 2020, the global surf industry was estimated to be a $2.7 billion business. In large part, all of those boardshorts, tees, and yes, even some surfboards, have to be shipped around the world from factories in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to surf shops and homes in Australia, the U.S., Europe and locales further afield. A New Earth Project has the potential to factor in mightily when it comes to supply chain solutions. At the end of the day, every board packed in cardboard and not bubble wrap is a win. 

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