My Green Life

By Rima Suqi / October 5, 2011

The “About” page of Arbor Collective’s website doesn’t mention the owners names until the very end of the page. “I didn’t name the company after myself because I wanted it to be about the family, the collective,” explained Bob Carlson, co-founder, of the Venice, California-based snowboard, skateboard, and clothing company. The “family” he’s talking about includes all the artists who create work featured on boards, the athletes and musicians the company works with, and of course the employees. In truth, Carlson started Arbor 16 years ago (with his highschool buddy Chris Jensen), “before there was FSC certified anything.”

At first, they made environmentally friendly wood products (furniture, architectural moldings, and veneers) from diseased Koa trees they sourced from Maui. “Then, Chris said, ‘We gotta make snowboards.’ He found this teeny company in the Valley that was pressing snowboards. They made one at a time, with a beautiful, sustainably sourced Koa top sheet.” Within two years, the duo had left the furniture world behind and was in the snowboard business. Skateboards followed several years later, and apparel was introduced four years ago.

Carlson is a California boy who discovered snowboarding while living in Boulder (someone stole his skis and he bought a used board for $40). He grew up in Santa Monica Canyon, the son of a real-estate agent mother and a father who was a stunt man. “There was a really cool early surf community in the ‘60s and people had been skating in my neighborhood since the 1950s. It was also an art community— a really cool getaway from the city.” Now 42, he credits television shows of his youth, along with surf and skate culture, for his early appreciation of the environment. “I watched Wild Kingdom and Jacques Cousteau, and you gotta realize that kids who grew up watching those
shows, who got in the ocean to surf or skated around town or snowboarded in the mountains, were turned onto the environment and the need to protect it, because they were in it every day.” Arbor’s tag line summarizes the philosophy that belies that experience: “We all need clean air to skate, clean water to surf, and snow to ride.”

The company tries to keep it as clean as possible on the business and manufacturing sides, as well. They print only on recycled paper, use soy-based inks, recycle all office waste, and use recycled and/or sustainable materials to build retail and office spaces. All woods come from sustainable sources, many components are made from recycled glass or plastic, finishes are water-based, and their clothing line is made from bamboo. The best part? They do it without sacrificing performance or style. “We’re not as tied to a hippie past as some other green brands. We’re much more contemporary and driven in today’s world and lifestyle,” he explained. “The environmentally friendly alternative has to be as relevant to today’s consumer as possible. If you’re only selling to that small niche of identity environmentalists you won’t have any impact.”

Rima Suqi
Rima Suqi

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