Not only are Sole Tech’s shoes eco-friendly, the company’s headquarters in Lake Forrest is making huge strides to become completely carbon neutral by the year 2020. What does that mean for skateboarding? Pierre Andre Senizergues, owner and CEO of Sole Technology, won’t hesitate in his response to that question.
“One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how much better I felt when I was skating in an area where the air was pure, so it was the initiative of my company to do something about it here at our headquarters,” Senizergues said Monday April 21, from his bright office, which boasts floor to ceiling windows, recycled wooden particle board walls and recycled limestone flooring. “It’s surprising to me as a skateboarder that not more companies are doing this.”
Sole Technology officially unveiled its first-ever Ecological Footprint Audit – a program designed to monitor the company’s amount of environmental waste and consumption. The company also introduced the first full-time Environmental Affairs Manager, Roain Atwood, and couldn’t have picked a better time to make the announcements, with Earth Day festivities in full swing.
“It’s not just the product itself, it’s the whole process, A to Z,” Senizergues said of his company’s newest facility, which was built in 2003 with the environment in mind. The bathrooms are all equipped with advanced technology that allows for waterless urinals, while each toilet has a dual-flush feature that the company hopes will help conserve water by 40 percent.
Even more impressive are the 616 solar panels Sole Tech has on its roof, which generate energy for the building and the company’s two additional facilities across the street. Although using solar energy was an investment – $1.4 million – it will eventually pay for itself, according to Senizergues. The company received a 50 percent rebate from the government for taking the eco-friendly route and oil budgets will be reduced significantly.
But when it comes right down to the numbers, the company’s audit showed an overwhelming culprit for its carbon emissions: footwear production.
“We really did want to take responsibility for the manufacturing end of things,” Atwood said. “We were concerned with the quality of the energy being used at our plants in China; if we were using coal fire-powered energy versus natural fire gas, then that is less efficient. Ultimately, as a whole, we want to integrate as many sustainable compounds into the process without compromising the product and still keeping the price reasonable for consumers.”
Several strategies the company will implement include updating outdated power mains at its facilities, which will help conserve up to 20 percent of energy used, as well as reducing the amount of wood pulp used for shoe boxes by 30-35 percent and reusing boxes when possible, according to Atwood and Senizergues.
Shoes now have recycled rubber soles and recycled plastic shoelaces, and boxes will list products' “transparency facts,” or carbon footprint.
“It’s always been the goal of Etnies and Sole Tech to make shoes that last,” Senizergues said. “Consumption is a big problem. When you make something that lasts longer you don’t need to replace it as much.”