As regular users of the oceans and lakes, we see first hand the negative impact that humans are having on the environment. At Fanatic we are extremely motivated to make a positive contribution towards addressing this worldwide problem. It is something we have been working on for many years. Most of the actions we take the end-customer never gets to see. Initiatives such as adopting more sustainable packaging, efficient shipping methods and eco friendly materials all happen behind the scenes.
Last years launch of the Gecko Eco Edition was different. This was a full-scale project aimed directly at the end-customer. It represented a significant step in the right direction and was achieved by looking at things in an entirely different way. Rather than taking a performance construction and trying to make it more eco-friendly, we went the whole distance and started with an eco-friendly construction and then developed its performance. We’ve been really encouraged by the results and so too have our customers, which is why for 2019 the range has been extended to cover three sizes, 110, 120 and 133.
We caught up with Fanatic´s Product Manager Daniel Aeberli to find out more.
Dani, the Gecko Eco is a great looking board! Is that actually a commercial product or more of a marketing gag?
The Gecko Eco is another step at the forefront of many, many steps happening behind the scenes at Fanatic for many years. We haven’t just recently started a sustainability program for marketing reasons in times of global warming. Every person at Fanatic spends his life in the ocean and nature as much as possible and it’s part of our mindset to protect our beautiful planet! Our ‘Ocean-Minded’ logo on every Fanatic board has already been transferring this mindset for quite a few years. At Boards & More we have task forces for more sustainable packaging, for eco friendly production processes and materials, for optimized shipping in both sourcing and the final product, etc. etc. There is even an employee bonus program for riding a bike to work instead of using a car. Communication about all of these things is kept low, as we think this shouldn’t be worth a mention, for us it’s a matter of course in order to reduce the footprint we’re leaving while bringing the highest quality product to our customer. The product materials are just a small and single part of the whole chain we’re looking at – but the Gecko Eco is the product showing this aspect the most. To get back to your question – yes it’s a great product delivering great fun. So far it has been a real success, which is why we have extended the range for 2019.
Interesting that you bring up looking at the whole picture. Shipping is a major factor in terms of pollution. Wouldn’t it make sense to produce closer to your customer base – most Windsurf boards are sold in Europe…?
It’s correct that shipping is one of the fields we’re looking at optimizing. As we’re a group of leading watersports brands within Boards & More, we’re able to achieve great steps reducing shipping pollution with combined shipments from Asia to Europe and from the suppliers to our production facilities using similar materials throughout our group. In most markets, Boards and More uses a central warehouse system, meaning direct shipments to customers and shops, again improving efficiency and lowering CO2 levels. This central warehouse also reduces overstock/closeouts by making planning more efficient, further eliminating wastage and extra transport costs.
Right now there is no option for us coming close to our high-end production facilities in Asia for the final production. All our prototyping is happening in Europe with very limited shipping to our R&D teams. Sustainability also means that qualitywise and economically the setup has to work out to sustain jobs at the one side and keep our customer happy on the other end. As we’re a premium brand delivering the best products, we produce at the world’s best facilities with best standards in terms of production techniques, but also in terms of being at the forefront of recycling cut-offs, waste management, the use of non-toxic materials etc. Last but not least, delivering a quality product is key to being sustainable.
Can you explain that? How exactly does quality reduce the CO2 balance of a product?
If you have to replace products for quality reasons or your products simply have a short life-span, then that’s not very sustainable even if you include some 10% sustainable materials to make a good impression at first glance. Our warranty rates are minimal, as we’re focusing on every detail – not just including natural materials or some with a better CO2 balance. We only implement materials and concepts into production after looking at the entire process and after testing them 100% to maintain being at the forefront of both – delivering eco-friendly products and making sure these products actually work and don’t have to be replaced and ultimately create more waste and pollution.
Why did you choose the Gecko for being the ECO-Flagship of the Fanatic-Range? How is it built?
It had to be a model that was diverse, versatile, user-friendly and suited to a wide range of skills without being focused too much on high-end performance like our wave or slalom models. The obvious choice was the top-selling Gecko. Its wide and thin Freeride concept makes it super stable, comfortable, easy to gybe and above all a whole lot of fun. The internal component of the Gecko Eco is still made of closed cell ozone free EPS Blanks. We then add a layer of cork instead of PVC onto the deck. Whilst researching alternatives to carbon fibre for use in our bamboo and composite constructions, we came across Flax, a product that was not only environmentally friendly but had all performance and processing properties we were looking for. The Flax fibres are woven together to create a mesh material which is then laid over the cork – a fine finish that can be seen on the deck of the board. The last piece of the puzzle is to use Sicomin’s GreenPoxy® Bio Resin to coat and laminate, a product we’re using throughout the entire Fanatic range. Bio Resin has great amounts of sustainable and renewable components of vegetable oils as well as having a clean and efficient production process without hazardous emissions. Finally for the base we’ve replaced PVC with an FSC certified wood veneer, sourced from responsible forestry. This veneer is what gives the Gecko Eco its visually striking natural matt finish. By using optimised colour components and resin systems based on their solvent concentration we’ve managed to produce striking graphics that have minimized environmental consequences.
More info about our Gecko Eco: https://bit.ly/2Mi4Vx9