Ecologic Designs’ story starts like this: “There is always talk about a killer set of waves and dolphins playing in the surf, an epic afternoon rolling across warm red rocks on your bike, or a hike in fresh powder on a full moon snowshoe trek. There is also talk about a beach polluted by sludge or surfing next to trash, trails that all of a sudden become strip malls, or the snow trip sans snow because of global warming.” It’s this kind of understanding that guides Ecologic Design, through their two brands Green Guru Gear and Green Goddess, to craft products and fashions in Boulder, Colorado, that have a positive environmental and social impact, while raising ecological awareness.
Take Green Guru’s Blow Out series bi-fold wallet, for example. The company uses reclaimed bike inner tubes to create a stylish and waterproof exterior. Every item in their Blow Out series is made from 98% reclaimed and recycled content by weight. Each wallet features a six card and two bill compartments. The ultimate in a locally-based enterprise, drawing from a readily available waste stream, Green Guru’s butyl rubber comes from Reclamation Stations within about eighteen miles from there they’re manufactured. Green Guru Pouches, Chalk Bags and Messenger Bags are also made from the upcycled inner tubes.
Since spring of 2007, Ecologic Designs has been an ecopreneurial trailblazer, creating viable and sustainable enterprises by harvesting the waste stream, often referred to as “upcycling”: the practice of recycling or repurposing items destined for the landfill and transforming them into something of further use and value. Upcycling was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The butyl rubber, also called vulcanized rubber, is not cost-effective and very difficult to recycle; therefore these inner tubes usually end up in local landfills where they won’t degrade for many years. Unfortunately, tires and inner tubes account for over 50% of the rubber produced each year.
By harvesting waste locally, manufacturing locally, and selling locally (and nationally, too), Ecologic Designs takes one form of the emerging green business enterprise devoted to creating American opportunities with products Made in America and improving our communities. “How many people have a wallet made in America,” asks Davidson Lewis, President of Green Guru, with a smile. He’s the kind of person you might expect crossing paths with on top of a mountain, on a mountain bike trail, or plying the waters on a surf board — not on a trade show floor. “We’re constantly searching for ways to continue to green our operations,” adds Lewis, recognizing that nature, too, is always changing and evolving.
I met Lewis at the Go Green Expo in Los Angeles after giving a presentation on “Greening your Business” based on my book, ECOpreneuring. Green Guru could have been one of our examples of a triple bottom line business since so much of their operations sing out to care for people and planet while generating the profits to make the world a better place. Even Ecologic Design’s vehicles express their commitment; the company has modified current vehicles, like their Eco Ambulance, into waste vegetable oil (WVO) powered machines.
This is not Green Guru Gear’s only reuse product, also echoing nature’s diversity mantra. To reuse old billboard advertisements, usually discarded in landfills because of their PVC vinyl content, the company upcycles the old advertisements, turning the printed signs into stylish wallets. Highway billboards and vinyl banners are made from PVC vinyl, with a Nylon scrim, which cannot be recycled. Because these materials are designed for outdoor use, they’re protected with color guards and, of course, they’re waterproof. While the Blow Out inner tube wallets can last for as many as ten years, the PVC-based wallets typically last about three to five years. Ecologic Designs also manufactures numerous other practical products, including repurposing climbing ropes into fashionable, clean and colorful dog collars or leases, bracelets and key chains.
Ecologic Design’s Reclamation Station is a national recycling program for individuals, communities and organizations. The company helps identify the value in your waste stream and work with you to reclaim those valuable materials. Communities or organizations can even tap Ecologic Design’s private label manufacturing service and take part in a true cradle-to-cradle, closed-loop production process to be a part of the reclamation revolution.
Consistent with ecopreneurial enterprises is Ecologic Design’s commitment to transparency and social or environmental causes. Ecologic Design is approved by Co-op America and received an A+ rating from the Global Reporting Initiative, the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework which sets out the principles and indicators that organizations can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance.