Surf conservation conference earns sustainable event certification

April 17, 2018 | Environment
Global Wave Conference: a STOKE Certified event | Photo: Nikki Brooks

The 5th Global Wave Conference held in Santa Cruz was the largest ever meeting of the global surfer activist community and the international conservation community with over 300 attendees from 14 countries.

In a remarkable testament to the spirit of the event, the conference achieved STOKE Certification at the second highest level on its first attempt to meet the STOKE Events standard.

Over the four days of the Global Wave Conference in March, a local independent evaluator, Aubrey Lair, evaluated the conference against 92 criteria and 303 compliance indicators.

The event achieved a compliance score of 83 percent across all four categories of sustainability performance making it the first STOKE Event to earn certification at the Sustainable level.

"Since its inception, the Global Wave Conference has brought conservation, sustainability, and surfing together. This was the first time a genuinely rigorous event standard that spoke to our community was available to help us ensure the event itself truly reflected these values. So we jumped right in," notes Nik Strong-Cvetich, executive director of Save the Waves Coalition that co-hosted the conference with the Surfrider Foundation.

"The STOKE team helped us work through every detail, find solutions, and make the changes we needed to in a low stress and streamlined way. Importantly, our attendees were stoked on the results."

Throughout all of the inspirational keynotes from conservation leaders to surfing icons, tech innovators, and passionate activists, as well as legendary filmmakers at the Save The Waves Film Festival, attendees were galvanized by ocean conservation stories and studies while simultaneously participating in the event's sustainability initiatives.

"Thank you to all our vendors, attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and especially our venues. The sustainable event management tools and expertise provided by STOKE made this process manageable, especially given its scope, added Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation.

"The Global Wave Conference now has a proven sustainability management system that we can replicate and enhance with each conference."

Venue functions and accommodations at the Dream Inn Hotel as well as the event's live stream were powered by 100 percent renewable energy from sources in Northern California through the Monterey Bay Community Power Association, which is a Community Choice Energy model whereby municipalities take ownership over their energy supply.

Thanks to Santa Cruz Community Compost, Klean Kanteen sponsored tumblers, TerraCycle's Clif Bar wrapper recycling, and the Dream Inn's plastic-free catering services and compostable plates, the GWC's zero waste efforts led to an 88 percent diversion ratio thus avoiding 129 pounds of trash to the landfill and saving 16.4 pounds of CO2 emissions.

5th Global Wave Conference: the event gathered over 300 attendees from 14 countries | Photo: Nikki Brooks

The Figures Say It All

In total, attendee and staff travel accounted for 99.9 percent of the GWC's carbon footprint of 74 metric tons.

"Together with STOKE, we searched all over the globe for third-party verified ‘blue carbon' offsets - an exciting frontier highlighted at the conference - but the two we did find had no more credits for 2018 and the rest of the market still has another year to mature," said Nick Mucha, director of programs at Save The Waves.

"Instead, we decided to direct attendees to purchase offsets that support reforestation and restoration work in coastal watersheds close to the event at one of The Conservation Fund's three projects in Northern California."

In addition to sourcing 85 percent of the food (by weight) from farmers within 100 miles of the venue, using recycled guitar scraps in Santa Cruz for the surfboard-shaped name tags, as well as tapping local artists Bill Lewis for the branded sand sculptures and Ethan Estess to craft the stage from upcycled fishing industry waste, the GWC prioritized local suppliers, artists, and cultural heritage throughout the event.

WSL Pure sponsored a happy hour featuring local conservation organizations, and the Santa Cruz Surfing History Museum led a surf history walking tour as well as a memorable paddle out on replica 'Olo' redwood surfboards to close out the conference.

These boards hold special significance as they honor the boards ridden by three Hawaiian Princes in Santa Cruz 133 years ago as the first demonstration of surfing in the Americas.

"We paddled away from the Global Wave Conference feeling inspired, educated, and stoked for the future of ocean conservation and the surf industry," concluded STOKE Certified co-founder, Carl Kish.

"We're honored to have the GWC join the STOKE network and are thoroughly impressed by the event and hotel staff's commitment to the certification process and look forward to seeing how the Gold Coast GWC in 2020 takes it to the next level."