Living on the fringe: Inspiring environmentalism through snowboarding

Equipped with snowboards and guitars, a trio of young environmentalists went on an eight-month trip last year to northern British Columbia on a school bus that ran on vegetable oil. One day, they snowboarded their way down the majestic mountains, and the following day they sat around with local First Nations people and school kids, sharing stories, music, concerns and cheers. 

Tamo Campos, 24, was one of them. He is a professional snowboarder from North Vancouver and the co-founder of Beyond Boarding, an environmental and humanitarian activism group aimed at raising awareness about issues impacting places including Peru, Chile and B.C. Last year, he was named the 2014 top environmentalist under 25 by Starfish Canada, an organization that celebrates environmental stories involving youths and positive change of Canada.

“The B.C. coast is impacted by industrial development. What Campos has been doing is heart-warming. He is telling provocative stories. Stories that are not shown in the major media outlets,” says Kyle Empringham, co-founder of the Starfish Canada.

Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

Snowboarding a good fit for environmentalism

Can we live a lifestyle that creates positive change about social environment while still being a snowboarder?” Campos asked himself three years ago when he snowboarded at a volcano crater in Patagonia at the southern end of South America and was heartbroken to see massive floods in these areas.

He saw that fossil fuel development in B.C. was part of the problem, which motivated him and a group of like-minded young friends to take action.

Tamo Campos | Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

Tamo Campos | Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

They found a “perfect fit” between snowboarding and environmentalism. Snowboarders are always out in nature and witness climate change first hand. More importantly, snowboarding is fun and appeals to young people, making it an effective tool to communicate the idea of environmentalism along their way.

“We were not coming as this preachy environmentalist. We are coming as a bunch of snowboarders who live in a school bus. That gives a lot different feel, and kids connect to that. That is quite successful,” explains Campos.

Over the last two years, Campos and his Beyond Boarding members have made several long trips to northern B.C. and presented environmental talks to thousands of high school students through the connection of snowboarding.

“We also helped block the mining camp. We hiked along drilling paths. We have gone plastic free, and cleaned up waste on the beach with the help of local school kids. We harvested our own food,” says Campos.

Campos believes that living life differently is essential.

“From the outside, you look a bit different. That is what we need. The mainstream culture now is not leading us the good direction. As a snowboarder, a fringe community, we want to take a step forward in the right direction. The biggest thing we need right now is to get away from the ways we are doing things,” he says.

Bus run on vegetable oil

Creative, fun, different and socially responsible, Campos’s team travelled over 18,000 kilometers without fossil oil, thanks to their modification of the school bus engine to run on used vegetable oil.

“Vege’ oil is a small solution. A lot of energy solutions are available but they are not advertised,” says Campos.

His team brings environmental awareness to northern B.C | Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

His team brings environmental awareness to northern B.C | Photo courtesy of Tamo Campos

The trip has been made into a documentary called Northern Grease, which has been featured at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and the Tofino Film Festival, and will be online soon.

Campos is the grandson of well-known environmental activist David Suzuki. Although acknowledging his grandfather as a mentor and an inspiration for many, Campos has found his own path.

“We glorify environmentalism. We put these environmentalists up on a pedestal to the point where it is almost impossible for a normal town folk [to relate to]. That is a problem. It creates this feeling that we can’t be this incredible and amazing environmentalist, which is not true. Every single one of us has a part to play in this,” says Campos.

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