Paragliding – how’s your ecological Footprint?

Open letter: calling all paragliding pilots!

I’ve pondered a long time how to write this letter. The original is in german, please forgive me if the translation is anything but perfect. To avoid possible misunderstandings I’d like to put some preliminary notes: I want to make my point clear without wagging the forefinger, recrimination or grumping about the failures of others . This letter is meant to be an invitation to discuss, share knowledge and motivate us to make a change. I’d be happy to learn from you and get an insight in your opinions.

Dear pilots,

To me, paragliding is a true privilege, a gift. When I fly, I’m often simply happy and grateful, enjoying the moment. As I usually take off in the mountains, while living in northern Germany lowland, it means several hours travelling either by car or low budget airlines. Prior to experience these truly unique moments I had to spent spent several thousand Euros for training courses and equipment.

Over the last years my interest in outdoor sports merged with the interest in socially acceptable and ecological consumption, environment protection as a whole and climate change just added to that. These things are more and more important to me when it comes to paragliding as well. Maybe you have input on some of the following questions?

– How eco-friendly is paragliding equipment? Not really, taking into account that it’s pretty much all made of oil-based plastics. On the other hand we can use it for eight to ten years, that’s not too bad. Is there a chance to improve that? Can we use different coatings, different base materials, different lining? Can we learn and adapt technologies from the other outdoor branches where some of them already did steps in that direction.

– What do we do with our torn equipment and is there a chance to recycle it? Can one use
recycled Kevlar, Dyneema and the various nylon types to build new paragliding equipment? And if so, would that be more environmentally acceptable as building it from scratch? Is there a point in returning worn equipment directly to the producer for reuse or recycling instead of throwing it into the trash can?

-I understand that designers, manufacturers and dealers make a living with creating and selling new equipment. This is also a key to innovation. Just like anyone else I also like new equipment and better performance. But then, do I really need to buy the latest glider, vario, harness whenever it’s possible or available? Even if the old equipment could be safely used another couple of years? Can I reduce waste and consumption of ressources by simply using the equipment until the end of its life time? How about investing money instead into training and my abilities as a pilot, is that maybe supporting my performance better than new equipment?

-How can we compensate for all our travelling? My carbon footprint due to travelling is simply disastrous. More than 1000 km several times a year to get to the flying sites, the transport to the launch pad and on top a journey into the sunny warm places during winter. I decided to start with the most simple form of compensation. Projects like ATMOSFAIR (www.atmosfair.de) or others allow for simple carbon dioxide compensation. For sure, this cannot be the final solution but it’s at least a first step.

– How about the production of our gliders, harnesses, clothing? I guess most of it is developed and designed in Europe. The majority is most likely manufactured somewhere in Asia or in countries with totally different economic and social conditions as we have.
The question is: is my paragliding equipment produced the same way as the 5 € T-shirt being sold in the standard shop in our pedestrian zones? And if so, do I really want it to be like that?

What’s your input regarding these questions ?
Are there already projects caring about these issues? If a „fair“ produced paraglider was more expensive than the current ones: how much more? If a standard paraglider costs roughly 3200 €, how much more would we as pilots and customers be willing to pay for an alternative? How about manufacturers influence on production conditions? Recently I could read on a manufacturer’s website that they established „certification for better product conformity and quality“ in their manufacturing premises. Sounds great – a certification for low health risks, fair salaries and social security would sound even better to me. How about nudging the participants of journeys to exciting paragliding spots to compensate for the carbon dioxide straight with the booking?

In my opinion, these are key questions for our sport just as the discussions about safety,
performance and training.

Paragliding to me remains the inconceivable privilege to move free and easy in the air. Practically all over the world. We need to get involved to keep this dream real, I believe.

I’d love to hear from you either through email to gubi@posteo.at or through articles in this blog and common paragliding magazines. I’m really curious about your input and opinions.

Best regards,
Gunnar Bischof

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Ein Gedanke zu “Paragliding – how’s your ecological Footprint?

  1. Seit meinem Schnupperkurs im Saarland 2005 mache ich mir Gedanken um den Treibstoffverbrauch. Leider misslingen Fahrgemeinschaften allzu oft. D. h. man findet beim Stammtisch oder am Flugberg drei oder vier Leute aus der näheren Umgebung. Das nervt. Deshalb betreibe ich seit neuestem lieber Groundhandling als 100 km durch die Gegend zu gurken. Hinsichtlich der Ressourcen bei der Herstellung gebe ich mit gebrauchtem Gerät zufrieden.

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