Chronicle 5: Did You Know That Carbon Is the Backbone of Your Wetsuit?

June 29, 2022


Rubber Chronicles

Male walking through nature with a surf board

All wetsuits whether synthetic rubber like neoprene or geoprene or natural rubber  - start with a source of carbon.

It all starts with an element we learned about in school - carbon. Life on Earth would not even be possible without carbon. For real! Carbon is Queen. You are made from carbon - your uniqueness is a large part due to the genes you inherited, and the genes you inherited are made of DNA, and the DNA backbone is made of carbon. See carbon is life!

But choosing good carbon sources is critical. One source of carbon from our atmosphere is carbon dioxide or CO2. Consider that plants and trees grow by a process called photosynthesis, which means they breathe in CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into glucose (sugar). That's right plants and trees capture or use the CO2 you and I expel (or exhale). Remember too that CO2 is a type of greenhouse gas that soaks up infrared energy and releases it back into the Earth's atmosphere as heat, and that this trapped heat contributes to warming and climate change. In brief, capture and use CO2 is good, releasing and generating CO2 is not good.  

Production of neoprene is harmful in at least 2 ways: (1) it utilizes large amounts of energy; and (2) it releases and generates CO2 into the atmosphere. Not Good. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber and made from chlorinated butadiene that is made from drilling and processing of petroleum. So, the carbon source and raw material for neoprene and (most) plastic-based products is petroleum.

Production of geoprene is also harmful for the same 2 reasons as neoprene: (1) it utilizes large amounts of energy; and (2) it releases and generates CO2 into the atmosphere. Not Good. Geoprene uses limestone (calcium carbonate) as its raw material or source of carbon, which needs to be mined. Further, the limestone needs to be reacted with acetylene, a petroleum derived material. Not Good. Are you seeing a pattern here? Ok so mining limestone doesn't cause oil spills, but geesh that's a low bar.  

Read why we continue to work on high-performance plant-based solutions below.  

See Jeff's response to geoprene

What does sustainability mean to you?

sustainability /suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee/

Simply put, our sustainability goal, not that we always achieve it, is: meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. And no we didn't say this, someone else did, but we like it.

This is why we're working hard developing high-performance plant-based materials and have been for over a decade. Our raw material and carbon source of choice is natural rubber.  Harvesting sustainably sourced natural rubber is carbon neutral (no net release of CO2 to the atmosphere).

Read our white paper on why sustainable natural rubber is the best option, here.

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