Alex Neville, surfer and writer, talks surfing and waste, the value of pre-loved boards and the power of researching on the net.
How effective do you think consumers can be in creating positive change through better purchasing decisions?
I think that consumers as a collective can have an immense influence on what is and isn’t produced. It just depends how people decide to use that influence.
The issue is that the consumer needs to be able to make an informed decision, and that has to be done amidst advertising pressures, PR talk and marketing all making noise in the background. It’s a challenge. We’re in a sort of information overload situation at the moment. What we need are better resources that provide reliable and accurate product information, and ideally we need that information at our fingertips.
What issues do you think about when choosing products and services?
I mainly think about sustainability and ethics. Usually, I like to do a lot of research before I buy anything, even if it’s a bit time-consuming.
I like to know if a product was made ethically or not, if it’s of good quality and if it’s reasonable priced.
If it’s a product that I can get second-hand, that’s even better. ‘Pre-loved’ goods are hugely underrated these days. If I’m looking to buy a new surfboard, I’ll always check out the second-hand market first. There are just too many quality used boards out there, many of which were probably sitting in someone’s garage. Quite a few surf stores are now holding ‘board swap’ events in order to take advantage of all those unused second hand boards floating around.
The Byron Bay Surf Festival in October hosts a surfboard swap, Sydneysiders can keep their ears out for what has been an annual ‘surfswap’ run by DEUS Ex Machina, and Port Fairy had its inaugural swap in January this year, organised by a local surf school. Surfboard exchange and other sites like Gumtree are really useful too. I sold my second hand board through a free ad placed on Gumtree, for example.
Where do you look for information?
I definitely think that the best products are rarely the ones in front of you on the shelves at the store. The best come through recommendations from friends or other sources whose opinion you trust.
Some of the sites that I have found interesting are 1000 Surfboard Graveyard which looks at surfboards and waste- what do dead surfboards mean for the environment, and how can we avoid contributing surfboard waste to landfill- and ‘buy nothing new in a year’, which has made me think a lot about what I consume and why.
Do you talk to your friends and networks about these consumption choices?
I didn’t used to, but now I’ll post reviews to Facebook or write about them on my blog. I try to only talk about positive experiences; give a good product a bit of extra spruiking if I thought it deserved it. But sometimes you have to review the negative ones as well, otherwise, where’s the company’s incentive to change?
Tell us about a product you can’t live without?
My surfboards (of course) and my laptop. Increasingly, I’ve realised just how indebted I am to having access to the internet. Ninety percent of the things I routinely consume came off recommendations or knowledge I found on the net.
Where would our readers be most likely to find you at 10 am on Saturday morning?
Probably walking up the beach to the carpark, surfed-out and keen for some home-brewed filter coffee which I make at home after every session!