One surf product that I am really excited about is the Body Glove Bio-Stretch wetsuits, one layer jackets and Life Jackets/PFDs. After many years of struggle, testing, roadblocks and dead-ends, Body Glove has come up with a product that is as environmental as any wetsuit can be, and that's saying a lot.
Two years ago Body Glove debuted the [eco- lifejacket] made from a material they dub "Bio-Stretch." Biostretch has the same feel and texture as neoprene, the material typically found in wetsuits, but biostretch has no rubber thus no petroleum products. With the promising sales of Life Jackets/PFDs, the team dove into trying to incorporate the same technology into wetsuits. What resulted is a great suit but it didn't come easy. Treehugger reported on the eco wetsuit here but this last weekend I sat down with Matt Walls of Body Glove at the ASR to chat a bit more in depth about the greening of Body Glove.They used the company that made the outer layers for the life jackets but needed someone to provide the neoprene middle-layer which is typically made of petroleum or PVC products. Body Glove tried to create a suit that was petroleum free, and initial designs were PVC-free but still included petroleum. The guys (and gals) at Body Glove weren't quite happy with that so they went back to the drawing board. They looked at natural rubber but scrapped it because of concerns over durability and weight.
Finally, they found a company to provide a "neoprene" layer made from calcium carbonate (limestone) and thus no nasty petroleum or PVC. But, initial tests did not hold up and the gang was told that what they were asking for could not be done. Eventually the engineers at the prestigious Yamamoto Corporation were able to come up with a middle layer that held up, and when combined with the outer layer from the first company, this blend creates a suit that is at least 70% environmentally-friendly; quite a feat for a suit that was initially dubbed as impossible.
Here is where it gets even better: the energy used to produce the calcium carbonate middle is 1/10 as taxing as the energy needed to produce a normal neoprene interior. The energy used to make the limestone suits comes from hydropower and excess heat produced is used in an eel nursery for food production. The exterior layer of the wetsuit is made from a polylactic acid blend made from corn starch, which also requires 20-50% less fossil fuels than plastic production. The exterior layer is also essential to ensure that the suit does not crack or prematurely wear out due to exposure to the elements. The smaller YKK zippers on the arm pockets are made from recycled metals, but the large zippers are not available in recycled models at this time. The logos and any writing on the suit are made from water based inks and include a neon-green decal noting the style of the suit.
The only non-environmental pieces on the wetsuits are the large zippers and the liquid tape, which seals all seams. At this time, there is no alternative product for this liquid tape. Also the stretch material incorporated in the interior of the suit is not environmental.
Currently the wetsuits are retailing for $325 and will be in stores next month, but they are only available in mens sizing. The design is the same as a standard Body Glove wetsuit, only with environmentally friendly material upgrades. They can be found in both 3/2 and 4/3 thickness, perfect for wimps like me who will need the extra "blubber" this fall. The one layer jackets will debut in February and are even more environmentally clean because they don't include the liquid tape and have fewer zippers.
The suits look and feel great. Way to stick it out and fight for a product that you really believe in — you've ended up with something that holds up to the rigors of action sports but also doesn't wreck the environment in the process. Can't wait for that women's line of wetsuits.
For more information, check them out online.