Sometimes the inspiration for a company comes from what’s right in front of you. In the case of Mike Gudgus, what was right in front of him was the town of Boise, Idaho, a major bicycling community, where it’s hard to find a place to recycled tires and inner tubes. Gudgus, who runs Inner Glow, an EL wire, solar lighting and green technologies company, decided he wanted to create an alternate route for them, upcycling the rubber into unexpected secondary uses. Thus, ReRides was born.
This is not new. However, what ReRides is doing in terms of design and how it branches out to the mainstream is something much less common in this category:
It starts with the sourcing: Beyond bicycles, ReRides also uses truck and tractor tires, and inner tubes. With their large size, each one represents a big opportunity to save landfill space and serve as raw material for ReRides products.
A smart combination: Most inner tube based products are fairly spare in their execution, perhaps out of a desire to make their sourcing quite apparent to the consumer. ReRides uses 50-60 fused plastic bags, sewn into a quilted design, as the liner for its messenger bag.
Additionally, ReRides offers the option to create custom designs via airbrush. Though a less then ecologically sound option, the paint used is generally minimal as compared to hand applied techniques, and it allows for them to agilely alter the product’s appearance for, say, corporate clients, without having to retool the production line.
Who they make it for: Rather than just go for the obvious, doing green minded consumer appealing designs, ReRides also makes gear emblazoned with the local Boise State Broncos team graphics, which is a genius move in my view, as it allows people who may not be so comfortable being seen/considered a “treehugger” feel at ease with gear that is more focused on local team pride, while happening to have a positive environmental impact. They even have gear that is aimed at bikers of the mechanical sort!
Also of note is how ReRides makes sure to address the concerns of those not in the green “choir” by emphasizing the bags’ sturdiness, durability, functionality, and US manufacturing/design. Something that green companies would do well to focus on as well, not leaning so heavily on the expectation that people will buy a potentially inferior product simply because it’s “green.”
Will such a venture succeed in these challenging economic times? Yes, given ReRides’ proximity to a university, willingness to branch out to the mainstream, and having a headquarters that’s shared with another, distinctly different business that itself is seeing application of its creations far beyond the Burning Man crowd, it’s likely. Depending on the market for each business at the current moment, it could easily flex in size.
Readers: What other green consumer businesses do you see out there successfully connecting with the broader public?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.