Jake Schwaner Discuses Hobie's Green Initiatives
By Rory Aaberg
Worried that caring about the environment will suddenly cause you to over indulge in acai bowls and Thoreau paperbacks? It’s a problem we all have to face when we consider going green. Fortunately, Hobie's Jake Schwaner has made the transition a little easier…hipper. Hobie's Laguna Beach store's Green Room is devoted to organic products that are actually cool, from companies like Quik, Billabong, Element and Volcom. Since our Green Issue is out now, we thought we'd continue to introduce you to more people that are taking the small, yet essential, steps to a greener world. Like Jake here.
So how did the Green Room come about, and what is it exactly? The Green Room is something that we've envisioned for years. For five or six years, we've carried organic products by Patagonia, as well as our own. When Frank Scura from ASEC (Action Sports Environmental Coalition) brought his idea to carry organic products in surf shops to ASR three years ago, I became really interested. And when manufacturers like Volcom, Quiksilver, Billabong, and Element started taking eco-friendly products seriously, I knew it was time for us to do something like this. We started off by dedicating 600 square feet in our Laguna Beach store for a Green Room. Every product is organic. Our next step is to go down to San Clemente and turn our smaller store entirely into a Green Room.
How big of an impact do these small initiatives have on the environment? I think everything counts. Promoting organic products makes a lot of sense to me personally. It’s the right thing to do, even if it’s more expensive. But it's worth it because in addition to supporting the environment, you're getting better quality stuff; if you've ever worn shirts made of organic cotton, you can tell a difference. That’s something we have to educate our customers on.
What other environmentally friendly practices do you maintain besides selling organic and recyclable products? We do beach clean-ups and help sponsor recycle clubs. We are converting our stores and warehouses so they conserve more energy. We already have solar tubes installed in the Laguna Beach store, which allow us to use natural light and we're going to install them in our San Clemente store as well.
What kinds of products are carried in the Green Room? Any clothing that’s made out of 100 percent organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo. We also have Frisbees made out of recycled plastic and boardshorts from recycled polyester. Organic boardshort and t-shirt sales is pretty surprising.
Do you see a lot of other companies becoming more aware of their affect on the environment? There are a few smaller companies, like Hippie Tree, who are doing it whole-heartedly. There are other companies that take it seriously as well. Eighty percent of Element's product is organic now. Quiksilver is about 27 percent, and Volcom is also committed to expanding their line.
How do you select which organic products are put in the Green Room? There are some companies that believe in it like we do. We see who they are and go after the companies who want to do it for the right reasons — companies who aren't just being trendy. It's refreshing that a handful of companies are taking it serious and are not just sharks circling in the water. We consider more than just the products. We look at how the companies are run, and what they are doing to be green. For example, Sole Technology is working their building top-to-bottom and making it totally sustainable. The whole building is complete with solar panels. That's the kind of company we admire and love to work with.