Rock Steady: Sustainable Stories for 6-Strings

TreeHugger thinks it’s pretty darn cool that some of our favorite rockers are working to green their tours and be better environmental stewards, but, in some ways, it can be hard to contextualize this information and these events into something meaningful in your life. In other words, sure, it’s great that Pearl Jam cares a lot about reducing its carbon footprint, and by supporting the band, you’re certainly supporting that idea, but what difference does it make to you, really? If you’re a music fan (or better yet, a musician yourself), one way to take it down a level and move from a more conceptual level to something that you can see, touch and really “feel” green music is to pick up a sustainable guitar, play a few notes, and listen to what responsibly-harvested wood can sound like.

One of the early adopters of using sustainable wood in their six-strings was Gibson, whose Les Paul SmartWood Exotics [] series are made from six of the world’s most prized and rare tropical woods. The trees are harvested from managed, renewable forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance []. Modeled on the original The Paul of the late 1970s, the Les Paul SmartWood Exotics have all the essential features, playability, and sound of a carved-top Les Paul, but are a bit lighter and, considering the materials and craftsmanship, quite affordable. To complement these truly exotic woods, the carved top is left to its natural texture and color with a durable, UV-cured matte finish to bring out every nuance and detail. Each guitar comes with a certificate of authenticity, and a portion of all sales will be donated to benefit the Rainforest Alliance. They originally launched in 2001 [] and have continued to crank up their dedication [] to the sustainable wood since.

Not to be left out, Martin Guitar [] has created three models of SmartWood acoustic guitars (well, two guitars and one acoustic bass) to date (and continues to work toward a goal of purchasing all sustainable wood []), including one in collaboration with Sting, which is actually quite a collector’s item: each Sting Signature Edition instrument bears an interior label personally signed by Sting and Martin CEO and Chairman C. F. Martin IV. The labels will be numbered in sequence and will include FSC Endorsed/SmartWood certification.

The unique SoundWood [] program will insure that artful, sustainable pieces like both of these will continue to increase in production and popularity. Marching to the tune of a greener drummer, the organization collaborates with educators, scientists, the music and timber industries and local communities to develop practical solutions for tree and forest habitat conservation. The program seeks to improve the management of a range of heavily exploited timber species and increase the availability of independently certified wood used to manufacture musical instruments and other wood products. They hold a monthly “SoundWood Jam”, where musicians play only instruments of certified timber, to help show off how good sustainable guitars can sound. Now that’s music to everybody’s ears.