BY ANNA PULLEY
Despite the fact that much of our gear is made from wood, there isn’t a lot of talk about the environmental impact of harvesting those trees to make drums, sticks, and other percussion instruments. This is starting to change, however, with more and more drum companies committing to sustainability, reducing their carbon footprints, and ensuring that mother nature has a chance to replenish itself. To celebrate Earth Day (April 22 this year), we present some of the companies leading the charge on sustainability and the environmental stewardship.
Starting in 2013, Promark Drumsticks (owned by D’Addario) created a reforestation program called Play Plant Preserve with the help of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. For every purchase of Promark drumsticks, the company provides seedlings to family-owned forests in Tennessee, so drummers are helping to restore old forests in addition to growing new ones.
“The goal is to replant every tree used by the year 2043,” says D’Addario’s Matt Budd. “So far, D’Addario, Promark, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry have replaced over 250,000 trees, and counting.”
So while the drumstick industry uses 1,500 trees a day, Promark has helped replant a quarter of a million of them.
CEO Jim D’Addario adds, “In many ways, this program speaks to D’Addario’s commitment, not only to our loyal players and social responsibility, but also to our mission of building an ongoing, self-perpetuating cycle of music.”
D’Addario has been committed to reducing its carbon footprint in other ways, as well. Other efforts include using 100-percent eco-friendly packaging, recycling instrument strings, and using their own sawmill to reduce waste and ensure that every tree is used for something good.
The Green Drum Co.
Green Drum Co. is a custom drum shop in the UK founded by Mick Pauline. The “green” aspect of the Green Drum Co. came about, Pauline says, “through a realization in my 20s that many of the lovely exotic timbers I was using to build drums were in fact becoming endangered, and others were rapidly reducing in availability due to worldwide demand.
“I decided to stop being part of that problem.”
To that end, all of the Green Drum Co.’s timber comes from sustainably managed temperate forests, or from reclaimed and recycled woods. In this way, entire drum kits can be made from a single tree, which can be a real boon for drummers as it assures complete tonal and visual consistency, Pauline says.
Though it’s not possible to make an entirely “chemical free” kit, Pauline notes that the Green Drum Co. is “constantly looking for new ways to be more eco-friendly with every drum we build, be it reducing waste by maximizing the yield from every piece of timber, or making the switch to water-based glues and lacquers.”
Green Drum Co. doesn’t import exotic timber, either, in order to reduce emissions and transportation costs when possible. The company has recently partnered with UK charity Tree Aid, ensuring that for every drum they sell, a new tree is planted in the drylands of Africa.
Pauline adds, “We know that as an independent drum company, our impact on global deforestation might be tiny, but we hope that by spreading the word and doing things our own way, we can be right at the tip of the spear when it comes to environmental awareness.”
Along with ensuring that its drums sound and look good, DW has been doing its part to protect the environment since 2002. That was when the company began donating a percentage of each drum set sold to the American Forest Foundation to help replace the timber it uses in its manufacturing.
“Every tree planted serves as an acknowledgement of the environmental impact that wood-related industries have on the planet,” said Elizabeth Lang, DW promotions and publicity manager. “It’s our responsibility to contribute to organizations that are committed to protecting our natural resources. We are proud that in the aggregate, we actually replace more timber than is used in the production of our drums.”
In addition, DW has developed its Eco-X series, which features sustainable woods and kits that are created using low-timbre timber.
“The Eco-X line originated because DW’s executive vice president and drum designer, John Good, wanted to be environmentally conscious and have at least one series of drums that was derived from highly renewable sources,” says Lang.
Eco-X drums are made from bamboo and birch, which Good says results in a rich, resonant, low tone. The bamboo, he notes, is “an incredibly fast-growing plant and it can grow up to three feet a day in some cases. It’s an incredibly renewable source.”
He adds, “Our birch comes from sources in Michigan and Wisconsin and it’s also grows very quickly. In addition, some of the Eco-X series also have an outer layer of banana.”
The finishes on Eco-X drums are also natural and water-based hard satin.
Vic Firth is another company that has been committed to helping the planet for years. In 1992, Vic Firth was the first company to package paired sticks together in paper sleeves (as opposed to plastic bags that contribute to landfill waste). Paper sleeves are now industry standard for drumstick packaging.
Plus, since 90 percent of its sticks are made from hickory, Vic Firth makes sure that its hickory and other Appalachian hardwoods are sustainably sourced. They have partnered with the Wood Products Manufacturers Association, Maine Wood Products Association, and the University of Maine Wood Science Department to help maintain the most efficient, environmentally friendly practices.
The company also strives to use every scrap of wood it harvests, using a dust collection system that increases its supply of wood-based fuel. And, when shaping its sticks, Vic Firth’s centerless grinding process uses 96 percent-reclaimed water.
“Vic Firth has been committed to the environment for decades, long before anyone was talking about it,” says Andy Tamulynas, category manager, drumsticks and mallets. “For us, it’s not about a marketing campaign, some new initiative, or trying to look good in the public eye. It’s common sense.”
There are undoubtedly countless other companies doing good work for the earth, but these are just a few of the ways drum manufacturers, makers, and drummers themselves are helping to ensure that our planet sticks around to keep giving us materials to make music.