The iconic lighter brand has teamed up with WOODCHUCK USA to counter the effects of deforestation.

Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA close-up of row of lighters
Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA close-up of row of lighters

Right now, think of how many dispensable lighters you have stashed, in your pocket, drawer, windowsill, bag. Mountains and mountains, no doubt. Yes you. You should feel personally victimised.

Well, iconic globally-recognised lighter brand Zippo has now teamed up with WOODCHUCK USA, the company that has gained widespread admiration for its high-end wood-based products, and dedication to environmental causes by planting a tree every time a sale is made.

The result? Their global Fight Fire with Fire campaign which aims to counter the effects of deforestation caused by fires. A tree will be planted for each sleek windproof lighter sold from the Fight Fire with Fire collection, which will also educate people on the destructive effects of wildfire, starting with Zippo’s first ever planting sites in Madagascar.

Legendary storyteller, National Geographic, has documented the efforts in a video, as well as a photography series in Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, and also a land mass that shockingly has had 90% of its original forests destroyed.

We caught up with WOODCHUCK founder and CEO, Ben VandenWymelenberg and talked about the roots of the company and the campaign…

Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA hands
Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA lighter
Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA hands
Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA lighter

What was the defining moment that prompted you to start WOODCHUCK?
WOODCHUCK started with me making my own wooden phone cases and selling them to family and friends for fun. From day one it was about a bigger mission: bringing nature back to people. Since 2015, Woodchuck has pledged to plant a tree through our global reforestation program for every product sold. We have planted millions of trees on six different continents and if you would’ve told me three years after starting our BUY ONE. PLANT ONE. ® program, that we would be planting tens of thousands of trees per week, I would’ve told you you’re even crazier than I am.

Working with Zippo to create the Fight Fire with Fire collection has been very exciting. As the creator of one of the most famous flames and being an iconic lighter brand recognised globally, this has been an opportunity to use a cool and important product for good. This collection is helping to combat the effects of deforestation by wildfire, but also serves as a gentle reminder to get out, explore and let nature invigorate you.

What inspired the designs and the materials used for the Fight Fire with Fire collection?
The base of each of Zippo’s windproof lighter has been decorated with laser-cut emblem designs, made from 100% real wood in the USA, sourced sustainably. The natural materials that the lighters are made from, and the variations in the woodgrain and colours, make each lighter unique. All wood used to create the lighters is responsibly sourced from FSC Certified sites around the world. The collection consists of seven hero designs: Brushed Chrome Cedar Emblem, Brushed Brass Mahogany Emblem, Herringbone Sweep Walnut Emblem, Clover, Compass, Flame, American flag.

Why is Zippo’s Fight Fire with Fire initiative so important to you?
Wildfires currently destroy 4% of the earth’s forested land each year, with 84% resulting from human hand. California has seen almost 160,000 acres burn in wildfires in 2019, with unprecedented wildfires reported as far north as the Arctic Circle, there is a shared sense of urgency to protect our planet and biodiversity.

Our ‘BUY ONE PLANT ONE’ ® program is the company’s way of making a better world for future generations, pledging “It’s not about us, it’s about our planet and how we can make a difference now”.

It is important that all brands are taking steps to be a part of the change we drastically need to see. Zippo believes every individual has the power to make a positive difference; humans are responsible for the majority of fires, so the solution also rests in our collective hands.

Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA row of lighters
Zippo x WOODCHUCK USA row of lighters

When did you and Zippo first really become alerted to the issues with wildfires around the world?
With our involvement in wood and the global wood market, I was always in tune with it. Obviously the most recent fires have brought it to light more than in the past. It’s always been a natural part of the forestation cycle, when happening naturally. As fire is our oldest tool and although its power is great, it also has the ability to destroy. This campaign with Zippo is taking the power of the flame and making a pledge to replace trees that have been destroyed by fire. This is the first step in the brand mitigating the damage that fire can cause and give back to the planet, focusing on Madagascar, being the fourth largest island and having 90% of its original forests destroyed.

How has it been merging both your brands’ ethos?
WOODCHUCK’s vision is to create a world more connected to nature, inspiring individuals to get out there and experience adventure and the outdoors. The BUY ONE. PLANT ONE. ® program enables us to work towards a goal of leaving the planet in a better state; working with Zippo has allowed our two brands to work in unison to help counter the effects of deforestation by wildfire.

The world is moving away from throw-away products and Zippo is known for Windproof Lighters which come with a lifetime warranty – they are committed to delivering a quality product, so when people purchase a Zippo lighter they know they are getting a reliable product which can be fixed for free instead of thrown away, a tool and talisman for life.

What’s been the best piece of feedback you’ve had about the campaign?
The best piece of feedback I’ve gotten on this is that a company the size of Zippo, was able to generate a truly positive impact because they had a desire to. They didn’t just “talk about it” or “think about what they could do” they found a partner and actually took action. That’s not common for companies of that size. It’s truly been a great fit as our cultures around authenticity, quality products, and premium brand all align amazingly.

What’s your 5-year goal?
My 5-year goal is to be planting at least 10 Million trees per year, and truly be the brand people think about when they think global reforestation, and truly Eco-Friendly brands. (My personal goal is to be married with a few kids if I can ever slow down, I have a huge passion for helping other people start businesses that can have a positive impact and I speak across the U.S. (and hopefully world) to corporations, entrepreneur startups, and annual retreats to help others bring their ideas to the world. The project with Zippo and the plant sites in Madagascar is the first step of a longer-term commitment for Zippo with future sites planned for 2020. Zippo are aiming to release more information about these sites later this year, with one already being scoped in China.

We know your corporate motto, what’s your personal one?
I don’t really have a “motto” but I do live by my “mirror motivation” card goal setting – and the concept of “The One Thing” – which is always taking one step per day, no matter how big or small it is towards your goal. Even if it’s as small as sending one e-mail or making one phone call – taking one small step every day can help propel your idea / business exponentially with just a small step every day.

Ben Woodchuck headshot

WOODCHUCK founder and CEO, Ben VandenWymelenberg

Ben Woodchuck headshot
WOODCHUCK founder and CEO, Ben VandenWymelenberg

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