Guest blog written by Matt Stockamp who manages impact at Nisolo. Nisolo is a sustainable shoe company that is protecting trees in the Amazon with each pair of shoes sold. Matt wrote this blog after a visit to the Cordillera Azul National Park, the forest conservation project that his company is supporting.
All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God’s eternal beauty and love. So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best. -John Muir
Peru is nature blessed. Home to 84 of 103 existing ecosystems and 28 of the 32 climates on the planet, it’s the most ecologically diverse country in the world. It’s the kind of place where, when you arrive, you have to surrender to your curiosity and see where it takes you.
In the time I’ve worked with Nisolo managing our social and environmental impact initiatives, I’ve spent the bulk of my vacation time exploring Peru’s desert coastline searching for remote surf breaks or high in the Andes backpacking on trails built by the Incas. Every time I return to the factory we own and operate in Trujillo, a coastal city in northern Peru, our producers always press me, “When are you going to go to the Amazon?”
Ecosphere+ made it happen when I asked Gustavo Gamio, Latin America Director of Sales and Marketing, if I could visit the Cordillera Azul National Park project we began supporting through purchasing carbon credits in April 2018. I had seen high res images of the Park’s landscapes – abounding with pristine lagoons, blue mountains, and diverse flora and fauna – but I wanted to see the natural beauty a camera can’t capture. I wanted to meet the people responsible for conserving the Park, and get a first-hand perspective of the work we support through every product we sell.
Gustavo matched my excitement for the trip, and coordinated a one night camping expedition to Checkpoint 16 (the Park’s most distinguished viewpoint) with Marlon Aguila, our videographer, and Pedro Flores, José Elgar and Amado Racho, rangers of Peru’s National Service of Protected Natural Areas. Equipped with machetes and knee-high boots to battle the trail’s vines and shin-deep mud, we backpacked eight miles through the Park’s buffer zone into dense, virgin jungle that’s never been settled or farmed. The wilderness of the place was captivating. We crossed puma tracks, tiptoed around spiders the size of our fists, and saw plants and flowers bursting with color hues I had never seen before.
We woke up at 4:30 the following morning to watch the sunrise illuminate the jungle floor at Checkpoint 16, and if it hadn’t been made obvious already, it became clear why places like these must be conserved. There was beauty in every direction, and the air was sweet from the innumerable trees around us acting together as a carbon filter. The Amazon Rainforest is not only the largest forest in the world, it is often called the “lungs of the world”, as 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced here.
Hiking out of the Park later that day, Pedro explained the conservation work his team is doing with communities living in the buffer zone to combat deforestation through teaching practical, sustainable land management techniques. Contrary to monoculture farming (harvesting a single crop), which degrades the soil and creates dependency on clearing more forest, Pedro’s team encourages planting a diverse crop variety, which restores the soil and guarantees farmers with year-round income.
I had read this prior to visiting the project, but it was an entirely different experience to walk past plots of land that had been deforested, adjacent to others coming back to life as a result of the team’s trainings with community members. Through being there in person, I began to understand the gravity and effectiveness of the work we get to support.
I left the Amazon feeling inspired to share about what I’d seen with our producers in our shoe factory. Peruvians have a special connection to their land, and I was curious to see how this project would resonate with them. I gave a training on climate change and the work we’re supporting through Ecosphere+ to offset our products’ environmental impact, and the time we shared became more of a conversation, as most of our producers were already well aware of the problems facing their environment.
Carmen, one of our producers in leather cutting, said, “For me, my land as a Peruvian has been a part of my life since my childhood. I was raised in a beautiful place in the mountains, and the land always brings me many good things. For me, my land, my Peru, is everything.” Deisy, one of our producers who preps our shoes for packaging, shared, “I was surprised [about Nisolo’s participation in this project] because most companies don’t care about the environment. They only care about their business and themselves. I’m motivated to make more shoes so we can protect more trees and keep the environment clean.”
Recognizing that every product we make has an impact on the environment, our team in the States and Peru is thrilled to be a part of this work with Ecosphere+ that’s protecting a place whose health is critical for the success of our business. All the wild world is beautiful, and we want to do our part to keep it that way.