You could argue that skateboarding is inherently cruel to the environment. If trees don’t get chopped down, there won’t be boards to ride, boxes to ship them in, or magazines like this one to tell everyone how terrible it is that we all chop down trees.
But just because skateboards happen to be made out of trees doesn’t mean that a skateboarder is condemned to live a life of “ecocide,” or environmental destruction.
Recycling at any small business is surprisingly easy, and skate shops are a great place to start setting a good eco-friendly example in your community. By following the three simple steps of reducing, reusing, and recycling, any shop can pull its own weight.
Reducing the amount of waste that’s produced is a key element and possibly the simplest step in a three-part recycling program. The task is to be conscious of what’s consumed and always seek ways to consume less. Natural light from display windows can illuminate some shops and decrease the amount of electricity consumed. Shops can even install solar panels and rely on energy from the sun. In addition to helping the environment by consuming less, it brings the electricity bill down, too. Many shop owners live within skating distance of their shops. Skating to work instead of driving cuts down on gas consumed and reduces the amount of pollution in the air. vOther ways to reduce include endorsing products offered with as little packaging as possible. Buying the largest size available or buying products that offer refillable containers can also cut down on waste.
The next step is to reuse-a great way to reduce the amount of waste produced. Skate shops can make a big impact by doubling or tripling the usage of an item or product. Whether it’s reusing packing paper to ship out orders, shipping or gift-wrapping with leftover cardboard boxes, or using old flyers as scratch paper, reusing is a simple concept. It’s just a matter of finding other uses for things rather than throwing them in the trash.
Skate shops can significantly reduce the amount of paper used by simply turning it over. Stephen Fontenot, owner of Humidity skate shop in New Orleans, has cut down by reusing his fax paper. “When companies want to fax our shop with availability lists, we just print them out on both sides of the paper.”
The amount of cardboard that goes in and out of a skate shop can be staggering. Cardboard is one of the most commonly used and most easily reused materials in the skateboard industry. “We can reuse that stuff (cardboard) because we do a lot of shipping for people,” says Fontenot. “If they’re from out of town, they might want us to ship it home for them. So we end up reusing a lot of cardboard boxes in that way.”
Most of the reusing that’s done at skate shops is probably quite unintentional. Woody Donahue, owner of Project Orange skate shop in San Diego, realizes he ends up reusing many things in his shop entirely by accident. “Even though it’s not really a statement that we’re trying to make, we actually just do a lot of that stuff. It just makes sense.”
Surely most recycling can be chalked up to simple common sense.
Many shops have a box of some sort that’s devoted to old boards, slow bearings, and other stuff that is replaced and discarded by customers. These old items can get reused, too. Donahue explains: “If they’re (old boards) broken in half, we toss ‘em. But if they’re still in good shape, we always keep ‘em, and if a kid comes in with the Target special that he’s really been milkin’, I tell him, ‘Buy me a soda and this board’s yours.’”
Many shops agree with this approach to dealing with old product. “I’m not going to just throw it (a still-skateable board) away,” explains Fontenot. “It seems so wasteful when it can help out a kid.”
Reusing is even preferable to recycling. Typically, to recycle an item, it must first be collected, brought to a facility, reprocessed, and eventually made into a usable product again. Whereas reusing an item is simpler. It’s just a matter of finding another use for it. Not only is reusing easy, but it’s cheaper, too.
Ideally, recycling comes last in the list. If it can’t be reduced and it can’t be reused, it can still be put to good use. Anything that doesn’t get recycled most likely ends up in a landfill. In fact, one of the biggest things a skate shop can do to help the environment is to simply begin a recycling program. By simply recycling glass, paper, and plastics, shops are helping to preserve the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the boards we skate. Often, it comes down to a simple phone call. Many cities offer free municipal recycling programs, where they provide a receptacle and then empty it every week. If your city doesn’t offer a program, then call your mayor’s office and demand one. If that doesn’t work, most municipalities offer several companies that can be found in the Yellow Pages. Most will provide the very same receptacle, and all that’s left for you to do is to fill it.
Plastic is another item found in most skate shops. And whereas only certain plastics are actually recyclable, it’s easy enough to figure out what is and what isn’t. Most plastics will have a “chasing arrows” logo embossed upon it somewhere, and each logo should have a number inside of it. Each local program should list the numbers they can recycle.
Another way to help keep shops environmentally sound is to buy recycled products. This keeps the use cycle moving, and oftentimes it’s more economical than buying the regular stuff. Donahue notes: “I try to buy recycled paper for the printer, and my ink cartridges are the remanufactured ones. I don’t really do it on purpose; I buy them because they’re cheaper.”
Just by virtue of choosing to ride a wooden skateboard, skateboarders have a greater responsibility to take care of the environment. This is true for everyone who drives to a skate spot or throws their empty beverage cans or bottles into the trash. Reducing, reusing, and recycling may seem like minor steps, but with everyone’s participation, forests are spared, habitats are preserved, and there’s lots of room for more skateboards to be around.