Etnies’ DIY Rainforest

Words by Kevin Duffel. Good photos courtesy etnies. Bad photos by Kevin Duffel.

If there’s anything inherent to the spirit of skateboarding, it’s an unyielding DIY ethos. From the modest beginnings of street skating, when young surf rats bolted their sisters’ roller-skate trucks onto waterlogged, splintery 2x4s, to modern-day skatestopper removing and crack Bondo-ing, the drive to have a 100-percent hands-on relationship with the world has been as integral a component to the culture of skateboarding as the damn skateboard itself.

So, when etnies decided to move full-throttle into the heart of the Green Movement, who would have thought their environmentally conscious efforts would be any less hands-on? Nope, no outsourcing the labor to obnoxious grocery-store canvassers to shovel barrages of flyers down the throats of all within a one-mile radius. No excessive PR greenwashing ad campaigns designed to siphon every last dime out of the suckers clamoring to “do the right thing.”

For etnies’ 25th anniversary, Pierre-Andre Senizergues, ex-pro skater and owner and CEO of etnies, simply set his sights on planting a rainforest in Costa Rica and saw it through with his own two hands. Pretty impressive considering most head honchos of major American brands typically write a check and call it a day, leaving their fingers free of the grimy dirty work. But that’s not skateboarding, is it?

Along with Ryan Sheckler, Kyle Leeper, Pierre-Andre, and some others, I recently had the chance to attend the initial tree-planting ceremony deep within the dwells of the Costa Rican rainforest. And true to skateboarding’s do-it-yourself ethos, shovels were intact and hands were indeed dirtied as the etnies crew planted the first trees. Over the next few years, with the help of the indigenous Maleku tribe as well as La Reserva Forest Foundation, the vast plot of land will become home to 35,000 etnies-planted trees. Not too bad, eh?

But why go through the hassle, especially at a time when genuine environmental efforts can just as easily be perceived as inauthentic marketing ploys? Well, for Pierre-Andre, the answer is simple. He’s been a consistent supporter of environmental rights and eco-sustainability for the last decade or so, quietly lending himself to causes as diverse as building sustainable homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with Brad and Angelina to recycling skateboards into furniture. And along with that DIY spirit so central to skateboarding comes an undisputed disregard for what the critics might think. Whether it’s received by the public as authentic or not doesn’t matter, as long as the result is worthwhile; as Pierre-Andre says, “The people who are authentic are doing it, and the people on the bandwagon are trying to follow them, but I think that whether you’re authentic or not authentic, it’s still the right thing to do.”

For etnies and Pierre-Andre, this is really just the beginning when it comes to being green. The company has solid plans to become carbon-neutral by 2020. Surely those 35,000 trees are no small step in helping them reach that goal.

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More info at etnies.com