Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree with Etnies

Being sustainable wasn’t always the default position for brands…

Trees are fun! They can make food, have sex with themselves somehow (I’m no biologist, but that seems pretty fun!), be converted into forts to provide endless hours of entertainment, and do a lot of other cool things for the earth that I’m no expert in. I am, however, an expert in my own opinion, and my opinion is that I like trees and want more of them around, especially at a time when the earth is losing trees at the rate of 50 soccer fields per minute from deforestation.

Etnies launched their flagship Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree (BASPAT) program for their 25th anniversary back in 2011 as the first skater-owned footwear brand of its kind to do so. In its first year, BASPAT planted a modest 35,000 trees. Since then, the footwear brand has planted over 2 million trees in various locations like Costa Rica, Brazil, and Africa in partnership with Trees for the Future.

While it’s commonplace for corporations to launch similar environmental initiatives these days, being sustainable and celebrating Earth Day wasn’t always a default position for brands and marketing campaigns. Etnies’ commitment to sustainability felt impactful and daring at a time when Greta Thunberg was a mere eight-years-old and the only stores and customers who sought out eco-friendly items smelled (strongly) of patchouli.

Now, etnies is announcing a new goal of planting a total of 3 million trees. For the rest of the year, the brand will continue to plant a tree for every Jameson 2 Eco model sold and will be planting a tree for each style in their Earth Day Pack. Etnies will also plant a tree for every pair of shoes purchased on from now ’til May 22, 2022. Additionally, customers can more easily plant trees by purchasing BASPAT stickers for a dollar each on their web store.

But why even try to make a difference these days when the world is so inundated with disingenuous green-washing campaigns and a move like this can just as easily be perceived as yet another inauthentic marketing ploy? Well, for ex-pro skater and etnies CEO Pierre-Andre Senizergues, the answer is simple. He’s been a consistent supporter of environmental rights and eco-sustainability for the past 25 years 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, to executive producing Leo Dicaprio’s The 11th Hour film.

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 told me in Costa Rica back in 2011, ‘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.’

I know there are a ton of varying opinions on climate science depending on which lobbyists are funding the research and who’s reporting the news, but it seems pretty common sensical to me that trees are—at the very least—pretty important to our whole planetary ecosystem thing. Cutting down trees, not so good. Planting trees, good. Who knows, maybe that’s a controversial statement in today’s polarized world. Whatever, I’ll still go on believing that planting trees is a rad thing to do and real trees look a whole lot better than those weird fake cell phone tower trees (you know the ones). A world without trees is a world without tree forts, and that’s not a world I wanna pass onto my kids.

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