By Jaime G. – Volcom Sustainability Intern
Intern - Jaime G. - Switch Frontside Big Spin Pic by Michael Joseph Perry
Hey Everyone! My name is Jaime Gutierrez and I attend San Diego State University where I am soon to be one of the first graduating classes to hold a degree in Sustainability. I have been working with Axel Eaton this summer as a Sustainability Intern and we’ve been working on everything from helping out with our recycling program here at Volcom HQ, to participating in beach clean ups with the dedicated Surfrider Seal Beach/HB Chapter, as well as having a blast learning how to surf with the enthusiastic kids of Costa Mesa through the “Save Our Youth” program. Working at Volcom HQ with Derek Sabori has really been an epic learning experience. It is great to be surrounded by people who share the same passion as you – whether it is surfing, skateboarding, or snowboarding, we are all shaped by our surrounding environments. For that reason, Volcom’s New Future is true to keeping these board sports alive and well by fighting to keep our oceans healthy, protecting the air we breathe, and mitigating the consequences of climate change that can adversely affect board sports. Being able to apply my knowledge from school to real life scenarios alongside with my passion for skateboarding has been unreal and I couldn’t be more stoked!
Word on the Street
Although I have spent my fair share working at Volcom HQ, I also had the privilege to work off-site and get a sense of how our sustainability initiatives are affecting the action sports industry as well as our local community. That said, I visited local shops such as Frog House in Newport Beach as well as Surfside Sports in our very own Costa Mesa and also participated in a very successful beach cleanup with Surfrider. Let’s just say I got more out of it than I expected. Not only did I receive some valuable insight, I was also lucky enough to meet some awesome people who are doing their part in making a difference in this world.
The overarching goal of this project was to see how the public views Sustainability and what they would like to see done. We also wanted to see if Sustainability attributes in our products at Volcom influence the customer in their purchasing decisions. We will use this data to help improve our Sustainability Department and respond to the needs and interests of our customers.
Duke at Surfside
One of the first people I was lucky enough to interview was Duke Edukas, the co-owner of Surfside Sports whose shop has been true to this industry since 1975. Not only is Duke helping out our surfers, skateboarders, and snowboarders with some of the finest products, but he also shares a passion for creating a better, healthier future. Another person who took time out of their busy workday to answer some of our questions is Sales Associate Tyler at Jack’s Surf Shop in busy Huntington Beach. Thanks Tyler! As an avid surfer, Tyler has a direct connection with the marine environment and is fighting for cleaner, healthier beaches. We also interviewed Keith a Sales Associate/Surfer at legendary Frog House at Newport Beach. With Keith’s superb knowledge of the local surf scene, these interviews were far from dull.
A few questions were geared towards finding out what Sustainability means to the individual, what can Volcom do to improve Sustainability as a company, and if there hope for the new future.
In the Shops: Some of the opening questions we asked:
JG: What does Sustainability mean to you? What’s your connection with the environment?
“Sustainability means, to me, our caring about not just the “now” but about the future… the future of the world, our children, our grandchildren, etc. Unless we are responsible with what we do now the future won’t be as good as it could be. I live in this world… isn’t that connection enough? The air we breathe, the water we drink. California is going through a dramatic drought right now so we have to be careful and make sure we don’t destroy the environment for the future. We have to act responsibly.” – Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
“Sustainability means to me something that is durable and will last for a long time. If you break the word down, the ability to sustain gives it a deeper meaning when you look at the environment surrounding us. My connection with the environment is that I surfed this morning… its beautiful weather, especially when you’re out in the water. Seeing a plastic bag floating around is not something you hope to see… a lot of people need to do their part.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
“A way to produce new products from old products. The ability to not run out of a resource. As a surfer, there is a direct connection with the environment.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
JG: Did you know Volcom has a Sustainability Department? If you did, any ideas of what goes on in that department?
“Yes I did, led by Derek “The Man” Sabori. I know you guys do “Giveback Series” that goes towards environmental efforts.” -Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
“Yes, because of the stone recycle logo. I’d imagine trying to improve and find different materials and different ways to be more efficient.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
“No idea. I could imagine probably clean ups.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
The second realm of questions was to see how our efforts are affecting the public and how we can improve our Sustainability Department.
JG: We’re really excited about the work we’re doing and the progress we’re making – What can we do to let the public know more about our Sustainability efforts?
“I feel like it’s a delicate subject not to shove in someone’s face without sounding pretentious. I think subtlety is the best approach along with small things as the logo change… it’s something small but makes such a big impact.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
“Recycled bags are a good way to start and spread awareness. I do feel like you guys need to hype it a bit more, market it a little better, post photos on Instagram, etc. Throw some posters up in our shop we get a lot of foot traffic in here!” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
“More programs such as the donation of jeans that went to helping the homeless. It was a great deal.” – Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
What would you like to see us do as a company in regards to Sustainability?
“Having Sustainability in all aspects of the brand.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
“I think you guys are on the right track listening to people like Derek who are on the fore-front of the movement within your company and if people like Derek are the fore-fronts within all the companies it will translate into a movement through our industry.” -Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
“There’s a lot that can be done. Clean ups and product lines are a good start. They have influence on the everyday person. Going out and speaking to the community is another effective way since word-of-mouth is so powerful. Kind of what you’re doing right now.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
JG: Are you willing to pay more for an organic, responsibly grown cotton tee? Or an item made with Recycled Polyester rather than virgin poly? If so, what’s your limit?
“Yeah for sure. A few bucks here and there wouldn’t hurt for a good cause.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
“I’d be willing to pay more if the fit was better or if there was some added benefit such as the fit, style, etc…but for the pure fact that it was recycled probably not.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
“I am willing to pay more… limit? There’s no limit… with the stipulation that customers buy it. It’s all about that. If customers buy it, I’ll buy as much as they can shove down my throat.” -Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
Lastly, we wanted to see what our fellow shops thought about the new future.
JG: Do you believe Sustainability initiatives in the action sports industry are influencing youth in any way?
“Absolutely. Every time we do something like that as an industry, it translates into a trickle-down effect to our younger clientele, our younger sports enthusiasts that we set the example and they’ll also live by.” -Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
Tyler's Hanging Loose
“I wouldn’t say so. From what I’ve seen, kids think the Earth’s going to be the same forever and ever. They’re just living in it, not really taking action. They just want to get out and surf… but if they see the beach really polluted they’ll think twice.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
JG: With collective Sustainability efforts in the action sports industry, do you think we can make a difference?
“I think so… simply by setting an example for the youth. It has to start somewhere.” -Duke, Co-Owner of Surfside Sports
“Absolutely. It comes down to a lot of factories in China pumping out a lot of clothes and its whether or not those factories are willing to adapt to a larger picture.” –Keith, Sales Associate at Frog House
“Yes. Especially Volcom. Volcom has a huge “say so” in the action sports industry and pull in society. Volcom is a good company to make this change.” –Tyler, Sales Associate at Jack’s HB
At the Beach: Along with interviewing the local shops, we also found out how those passionate about keeping our beaches clean feel about our initiatives in Sustainability. Thanks to Surfrider for letting us help out on this productive day. I was fortunate enough to hear from those participating at the beach clean-up and met some folks such as Mike, Jessica, and Kylee. Each of these folks has their own unique background and perspective.
Mike, a long time surfer and Huntington Beach local had quite a few things to say.
JG and Mike Cleanin' it Up
JG: What do you think about our zero waste program where we are trying to aim for as little waste as possible after our events? It’s a great effort to have in mind. Especially in a place like Hawaii. I bet the locals were really happy about that.
JG: Do you feel Volcom’s efforts in Sustainability are a good way to get our youth involved? Oh yeah… That’s a great way to teach them… because they probably do not get that in many other places… I doubt they get that much in school or society in general. Really good to focus on that especially if they are kids who are surfing and skating.
After having spent a few hours at the beach cleanup, there was a hard worker that caught our attention that was there from the start of the event. Her name is Kylee and she was taking charge of the sorting of trash to help make this beach cleanup more efficient. Volcom recognizes hard work and we made sure to hook Kylee up with some Volcom gear as well as an interview.
Kylee is 16 years old and attends Edison High School in Huntington Beach.
JG: We’ve been seeing you working hard all day sorting out trash from the beach cleanup. What drives you to be so passionate about cleaning up here? I originally started because I needed community service hours. But when I finished, I realized I really liked working here, helping out, and helping out with the environment so I kept coming back. I really like it.
JG: Did you draw this inspiration from your high school, friends, or just being a local here? Yeah just being a local here. Just seeing everyone littering… it’s your own beach… you just see it and want to help.
JG: What do you feel about companies such as Volcom making efforts in Sustainability? I think it’s awesome. What you guys are doing here is so awesome. I really support it. Thank you guys so much for doing this.
After having interviewed Kylee, we met Jessica who is with Surfrider. Just like the rest of the crew at Surfrider, Jessica was extremely passionate about making changes in this world to produce a better tomorrow. Here are a couple of things Jessica had to say…
JG: What do you feel about companies such as Volcom making efforts in Sustainability? It’s great but I feel you guys should improve on reaching out. Think about how many people like Volcom, but would like Volcom more if people knew they were trying to be environmentally responsible and spread awareness. That’s where I believe a lot of these companies are lacking. They have these entire departments dedicated to Sustainability but no one knows…
JG: Are you willing to pay more for an organic, responsibly grown cotton tee? Absolutely. They’re marked up a little more but people are still buying. I wish more companies would be doing this.
JG: What would you like to see us do as a company in regards to Sustainability? I wish none of the processes with clothes went overseas… think about all the fuel that is being used shipping clothes back and forth.
Outro: After interviewing some of these charismatic, awesome folks, we found out how people felt about Sustainability and our efforts in trying to create a better new future. We also found out some areas we can improve on. Ultimately, receiving this input from “the word on the street” is truly valuable. Learning how we can shape our future from one-another, face-to-face, human-to-human is truly the best way to get on board in making a positive difference in this world. That said, I’m convinced that Volcom is committed to help create a better, healthier, new future that our next generation (and many more) can enjoy. There’s still a lot more work ahead, though…