When I found Ryan during our EVOLVE Summit last weekend in Los Angeles, he was staring at a row of surfboards chatting with someone, cocktail in hand. “I shaped that one, glassed that one, glassed that one, oh, and that one too.” Of the several boards on display as part of Sustainable Surf’s ECOBOARD installation, Ryan Harris had put his hands on virtually every one. Those in the industry that know Ryan know that his humble operation in the South Bay of Los Angeles, Earth Technologies, has been pumping out some of the most sustainably-built surfboards in the industry for years. His shop also went zero waste back in January, the first glass shop in the world to do so. I tapped him on the shoulder, “We’re up in five, bud.”
A few hours before I bumped into Chris Grow, who runs communications for Firewire and also hosts the company’s podcast, The Wire. Chris was literally told that morning that he’d be filling in for CEO Mark Price due to an unforeseen illness. “This is gonna be fun,” he said, no worse for wear.
What transpired when Chris Grow of Firewire and Ryan Harris of Earth Technologies met on stage was nothing short of inspiring. As Mark Price explained to us in the weeks before our inaugural EVOLVE Summit, finding solutions to making surfboards while doing the least harm as humanly possible has been baked into the DNA of the company from day one. It’s led environmental advocates like Kelly Slater and Rob Machado to come on board with their respective brands. And now, Firewire is balancing that goal at scale. Compare that to Ryan Harris who is much more nimble in his approach and able to incorporate cutting-edge materials into his production schedule in real time. The result is Earth Technologies is able to share information with companies like Firewire on what tech works so that Firewire can scale it. And, as Ryan mentioned, Firewire’s commitment to sustainability on a large scale gives Earth Technologies the motivation to continue innovating. Firewire, explained Ryan, was partially the catalyst for him to go zero waste in the first place.
“I think we’re gonna hug after this,” said Chris Grow.
If there was one clear message from the Innovation and Sustainability in Business Panel it was this: in an industry that’s grappling with a desire to minimize impact, cooperation is the most powerful tool at our disposal.