Mark Dwight, former CEO of Timbuk2, has taken his vision of sustainability and experience in messenger bag industry and spun it into San Francisco’s newest bag company- Rickshaw Bagworks. Rickshaw is a relatively new company, and operates out of a two year old factory situated in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. Rickshaw comes after a long line of San Francisco messenger bag companies- most notably Timbuk2 and Chrome. Although not the first bag company in the city by the bay, Rickshaw is the first to embed sustainability into the culture of the company.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with its offerings, here are five ways Rickshaw distinguishes themselves from the proverbial messenger bag pack:
1. The Zero Bag: This is the poster child of Rickshaw’s commitment to sustainability. This design is typical of the messenger bag design- simple, functional, and low profile. Made from a single piece of US-made fabric, the Zero bag literally uses every scrap in its construction. That’s one advantage of incorporating sustainability into a company’s mission statement–inefficiencies can be eliminated from the outset in the design process.
2. More sustainable materials. Although a new bag is still, well, new, Rickshaw incorporates sustainable materials into its products to make “new” a little less wasteful. It offers weatherproof packs without using the industry standard vinyl lining–arguably the worst human-made material aside from nuclear waste. The Bottles To Bags collection features exteriors that are made of 100% post-consumer recycled beverage containers, and the company recently released a notebook folio using faux suede made of 100% recycled post-consumer beverage containers. Word.
3. Customization. All Rickshaw products can be customized to your heart’s desire. And when Rickshaw says customizable, it don’t just mean fabrics and colors stocked at the warehouse. You can bring in any fabric or pattern that you would like your bag to be made out of, so long as it will properly hold a stitch. Go ahead, give a second life to grandma’s old curtains or the your favorite couch cushions your roommates never liked.
3. Made in San Francisco. All of Rickshaw’s products are made in the city with the exception of certain sub-assemblies of the commuter line, which are made in China. This means higher wages for sewers, job creation in a city from which industry and manufacturing has all but fled, lower carbon footprint for the goods, and greater integration into the cycling and local business communities. Rickshaw is partnering with other local businesses to develop the SF Made label in an attempt to invite the craft of making things back into the city.
4. Made to order. Rickshaw makes all of its products to order. You can order online, or literally walk into the warehouse on 22nd street and have your bag made (I’ve heard even on the same day if the timing is right). This is both strategic in terms of business and sustainability. Having little inventory means you don’t have to maintain a huge storage facility, lowering overhead. But it also means the company isn’t wasting space, running lighting and/or HVAC, or having employees commute out to a warehouse.
5. Sponsorship and support of community events. Yes, sponsoring events is good advertising and a smart strategic move, but not all companies align their marketing campaign with a cause driven company mission. Rickshaw sponsors community, cycling, and sustainability related events– such as TED Conferences, Winterfest SF bicycle celebration, Ride 350, Climate Ride, Tour de OG (Opportunity Green).