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July 22, 08

NEWS / Comet Skates to Success on Environmental Platform

Small company makes eco-friendly skateboards, connects with urban youth

Senator Hillary Clinton visited a Comet plant in Ithaca, New York, where the firm works in partnership with e2e Materials LLC.

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
IIP Staff Writer

This article is the fifth in a series on sustainable manufacturing.

Skateboarding is easy on their consciences too, because of Comet’s eco-friendly manufacturing policies, according to Jason Salfi, the company’s co-founder and chief executive.

“Skateboarding is filled with iconoclastic free thinkers,” he told Phoresia.org, a Web site for surfing enthusiasts. “Going green fits right in. … More and more people are finding us based on that ideal.”

Salfi and his partner, Don Shaffer, believe the fast-growing sales of Comet high-performance skateboards are driven to a large degree by their company’s commitment to sustainability -- making products without harming the environment or using up scarce resources.

The process used by the seven-employee company based in Oakland, California, is an extension of Salfi’s tinkering with his own skateboard and thinking about the welfare of the planet.

The decks are made from ecologically harvested woods, such as maple, poplar and bamboo; held together by biologically based composites, such as a soy protein polymer; and covered with a nontoxic coating. They are produced by a solar-powered snowboard factory in nearby San Francisco and a plant in Ithaca, New York, run as a joint venture with e2e Materials LLC, a maker of biodegradable composites.
The underside of a Comet skateboard (Comet Skateboards)
The painted underside of a Comet skateboard

Since Salfi started the company in 1998, he has “woken up to a lot of things,” he told America.gov.

For example, the company has tried to make everything locally to shorten the supply chain and reduce transportation costs and carbon dioxide emissions in the process. (That has been more difficult than Salfi initially thought it would be.)

Comet Skateboards, which takes responsibility for its products from cradle to grave, offers to buy back defunct boards and shred and compost them because all materials are biodegradable.

Salfi realizes that a single business doing good work is not enough to make major environmental improvements. So Comet has joined a group that tries to unite the surf, skate and snow sport industries around sustainability objectives.

The company, in an effort to maintain ties to the community, sponsors the Hood Games, a local skateboarding event featuring music and games, in economically depressed parts of Oakland and Los Angeles.

Salfi said inner-city youth -- against all odds -- show interest in sustainability. “They have the most to gain from a more holistic approach, and they take nothing for granted,” he said.

Comet also raised money for a large ecologically friendly skate park in downtown Oakland. But that project stalled when a major supporter withdrew, so Comet and other partners are reconsidering their options.

Salfi said Comet still is working to become fully sustainable; it is trying to find more materials locally and ensure that its supply chain is eco-safe.

But those challenges don’t faze Salfi or his colleagues. The business and its environmental goals always will be a “work in progress,” he said.

More information about Comet’s sustainable practices and initiatives is available on the company’s Web site.

Source: http://www.america.gov/st/econ-english/2008/July/20080721154823saikceinawz0.2760584.html?CP.rss=true



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