The SD 3 Piece Arch Traction Pad by Kelly Slater Designs produced in collaboration with Bloom Foam is an attempt to reduce the surf industry's heavy reliance on petrochemicals. The stomp pad is made partially out of blue green algae which is an increasing environmental hazard that is harmful to both human and ecosystem health. As global temperatures rise, algal blooms have become more and more common causing vast oxygen depleted sections of freshwater habitats and devastating local economies. By purchasing this traction pad, you can help remove some of this harmful algae and reduce your reliance on fossil fuel based materials. With a price point similar to other options on the market, this product is a great more sustainable alternative. To earn a higher score, I hope Bloom and Firewire work on increasing their transparency throughout the supply chain and look for ways to completely eliminate petroleum from their products.
To create the 3 Piece Arch Traction pad, Slater Designs partnered with a company called Bloom. Bloom produced the foam used for the traction pads from blue green algae harvested from freshwater sources. For each traction pad made, 113 liters of water are cleaned and filtered, the equivalent to 31 scuba tanks of air is cleaned, and 412 hours of emissions from charging your smartphone are offset. Bloom states that depending on the characteristics of the foam, the algae can make up anywhere from 15-60 percent of the final product. The specific level of algae in the stomp pad is not stated anywhere and this is a large range of uncertainty. Especially when the other 40-85 percent is made from conventional petrochemical ingredients. More transparency is needed regarding the actual makeup of the foam but any substitute for the conventional fossil fuel based ingredients makes it more sustainable than the industry standard. As for the packaging this product comes in, the cardboard backing is fully post-consumer recycled and the labels are printed with soy ink. Soy ink may sound “green” but industrial soy production is especially unsustainable and has led to massive deforestation and land degradation of the Amazon basin. Since The sourcing of the soy is not provided, I assume it is produced like the majority of soy in this unsustainable way. Another thing to mention is Bloom commissioned a third party clinical study to the hypoallergenic qualities of their product. The foam “did not demonstrate a potential for eliciting dermal irritation or sensitization.” Conventional rubber can cause allergic rashes and the reviews of this product were full of surfers who used to get knee rashes from duck diving but did not after switching to this product.
The algae for the Bloom foam is harvested from lakes and rivers in the areas surrounding the production factory in Meridian Mississippi. To harvest the blue green algae, water burdened with algae is pumped into a mobile harvesting unit which is a ten foot tall machine the size of a small trailer. The pump is equipped with a mesh screen to prevent any wildlife from entering the system. Inside, a water industry standard coagulant is added to clump the algae together in large patches called flocs. Air bubbles force the flocs upwards where they are skimmed off the surface. The water is then filtered and pumped back into the lake or stream, algae free. The algae is then transported back to the factory and solar dried until it becomes flakey. Then it is pulverized into a powder and polymerized into small pellets. These pellets expanded into flexible foam using additional petrochemical based foaming compounds and injected into a mold to create the final product. Other than the collection, the entire process is done in the factory in Mississippi which minimizes transportation costs and emissions. I would like to know if Bloom is taking any steps to reduce the emissions of their factories as I could find no information or initiatives regarding this. Overall the process does not raise any massive red flags but Bloom still has a ways to go regarding transparency.
This product is produced by Bloom under the Slater Designs brand which is part of a larger surf company called Firewire. Confusing right. Slater Designs was created by eleven-time world champion surf legend Kelly Slater who also happens to own 70% of Firewire. Slater is a longtime advocate for sustainability as can be seen by his other surf brand called Outerknown which is completely sustainably focused. I think most surfers will agree with Kelly when he says “When a surfer becomes a surfer, it's almost like an obligation to become an environmentalist at the same time.” For me I trust that anything that Kelly Slater is this deeply involved in has sustainability above profit in their list of priorities. Regarding the workers who actually produce the traction pad, all of the resource gathering and production is done inside of the United States so fair treatment of workers is much less of a concern. However, even after extensive digging I could not find any information on the working conditions or the employees at the Bloom factory. More transparency is needed in this sector as well to earn a higher rating. 1.5/3