I have been an avid bike rider for years now, and I have used my bike to commute to work for the last several years. Last week I got several flat tires and realized that it was time for me to invest in some new tires that would be flat resistant. In trying to determine my options for what product to buy as well as what to do with my old tires, I couldn’t help thinking that this shouldn’t be any different than any other purchase I make or how I dispose of typical items.
Biking is considered a sustainable transportation option, but I wanted to know if there was a way to make the bicycle industry more sustainable as well. Typically bike frames and major components are made of metal and rubber, both of which aren’t sustainable materials because they incorporate non renewable natural resources and are very energy intensive to mold into bicycle parts.
I was pleased to find that there are other people out there that are thinking of this same issue, and one company that is leading the way is Calfee Design out of Europe. They produce bike frames out of bamboo, that’s right bamboo! They are each hand crafted and offer hemp joints as an alternative to the traditional carbon fiber. The first bamboo bikes were built in the 1890’s but the technology has advanced so much that the newer bamboo bikes have even won awards for best road bike and are used by some professional triathletes. Calfee Design has teamed up with Columbia University to create the Bamboo Bike Project which aims to create sustainable transportation for people in Africa. Carry Freedom is another company that is using bamboo for bicycle products, and has a website that shows you how to build your own bamboo bicycle trailer.
As for maintenance of bicycles, most greases, lubricants, and cleaners that are used are not very environmentally friendly. If we can come up with eco-friendly cleaners for our house, why not for our bikes? Well sure enough, there are several companies that offer alternative greases, lubricants, and cleaners that are derived from natural materials. Two such companies are Soy Clean, which offers a soy-based multipurpose lubricant, and Pedros, which offers a biodegradeable degreaser made form citrus extracts.
As anybody who frequently rides a bike knows, you tend to pile up a large quantity of bike parts and accessories that are no longer usable. So what should we do with all of our old bike tubes, tires, helmets, non compatible parts, old models, etc? Although it is still difficult to find a place to recycle many of these bike parts, the options continue to grow every day. Some of the unique and creative uses that people are finding for old bike parts now include:
- using chains to make bottle openers and picture frames (Resource Revival)
The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has good information and resources if you are wondering what your options are for recycling your old bicycle helmets. Repurposing items we buy is a great way to be more sustainable, so why not find some Maybe other uses for our bicycles than just for transportation purposes. Well, someone has even come up with a bicycle powered washing machine. Now that’s what I would call getting the most out of your bicycle.
Of course there are also many programs in the country for recycling bicycles that either take unwanted bikes and give them to others who want bicycles, or disassemble the bikes and reuse the parts to create new bikes. When purchasing a bicycle, consider buying a used bike instead of a new one. I myself bought a used bike and was able to get a cheaper price, a good quality bike, and a good feeling about keeping an older bike out of the landfill.