Waste

This gets somewhat off topic but not entirely, and I think it's important. This is also one of those things that no sane sales or marketing organization would discuss because you never want to turn your customers' thoughts to stuff like this, except that I'm enough of an idealistic hippie to think that you do want to discuss this.

One of the things that lockdown has made me think a lot about is waste. 

I know that the world is "saving" like billions of tons of CO2 and other waste by the day with empty streets and shuttered industrial production, which is certainly a silver lining at the moment. I've often wondered what, if any, long term benefit this moment of taking our collective boot off the neck of the world's ecosystems might have. Hopefully it's some. 

In my household, we're trying to be conservative with finances, because who knows what tomorrow brings with all that's happening. But Newport also has some pretty great restaurant options and we're trying to support them to some semblance of the level we'd normally enjoy. Everything is a balance, right? But the amount of plastic that the world must be going through right now is insane. A reasonably simple meal from Perro Salado the other night came with like three "should we save this" sized plastic bins and three little sauce cup thingies. I'm not shaming them, they're typical in this regard and their food is tremendous so it's more of a shout out. There's also the element of "are you going to give them guff about this with all the rest that everyone is going through?" But even getting take out as relatively infrequently as we do, the number of "should we save this" sized plastic bins we've collected is outta hand. I don't know if this translates to more overall plastic use or less in the acute "right now as compared to average normal" sense, but it's sure brought it home (so to speak) for me.

The paradox of the harm we do to nature in our quest to enjoy it better, or more often, sucks. We drive all of these places to go be in nature, to go to races, to go ride hills, to go find real gravel roads, to go ski, to go ponder the meaning of it all... I do it all the time so there are absolutely no high horses here. I go sailing on boats made out of plastic and that use sails that have a short useful life and limited reusability or recyclability, although they have some (and I do have a jones to make seat bags and whatever else with these guys, it's just... time). We think nothing of using nice tires because life's too short to ride crappy tires but at what cost? And good tires are SO much nicer, but directly and inevitable conflict with durability. You get the occasional self righteous squawk on an Internet forum about the recyclability of metal frames, while carbon goes right in the trash heap. But a) do metal frames actually get recycled and at what rate and b) if you've ever seen a proper industrial smelting operation (which I have) it's nothing that you'd ever think of as resembling "green." It's straight up frightening to see and smell. 

At what cost these views?

Every set of wheels that goes in a box confronts me with this, in absolute seriousness. We try very hard to use as few new packaging materials as possible. The outer boxes, almost 100% of the time, are new corrugated. There might be some recycled content in them but honestly I need to look further into that. We're also limited enough in consumption that we can't exert much leverage on that. If Amazon wants to change packaging, packaging changes. This isn't righteous laziness, it's realism, but we can do better at the margins for sure. 

Yes, this was a "d--k in a box" joke. It was pretty good, too. 

Inside the box, the reinforcements are made from cut up rim delivery boxes. The little air pads and kraft paper padding in there are also hand me downs. We're conscious that this takes away some of the "ooh ahh" factor that Apple keeps 100 designers employed to create when you get your wheels, but it feels sane. There's also significant overlap between "cheap" and "green," and doing what feels sane also helps us save noticeable cost. 

Reduce, re-snooze, recycle.

Many rims come in little foam sleeves, while others come in plastic bags. We reuse those. The foam sleeves generally look pretty new when we reuse them (though Finn might have enjoyed a moment with them), but the plastic sleeves are generally a little torn up. For those and for the rims that get shipped to us with no sleeve, we use new plastic sleeves. Which it kills me a little bit to do. I HATE being part of the problem. 

As I said earlier, though, everything is a tradeoff. If your wheels get damaged in transit, then the footprint gets way bigger because there's additional shipping and trashed stuff and that's just an open tab for waste. So we have to do enough to avoid that outcome. 

On a bright note, I think we are going to do 5 rebuilds (either individual wheels or complete sets) this week, on top of a few last week, where the original hubs will go into new rims to replace the worn out rims. When you see just the amount of machining oil that goes into a set of hubs, this makes some difference, in addition to just being smart and the right thing to do. 

There is so much waste in our world, and it takes a bigger mind than mine and bigger reach than November's to make a change, but I think November can improve. Incidentally, I think those "Save the Planet" bumper stickers that you see have got it totally wrong. I'd prefer the messaging to be "do what you can" - none of us can save the planet (unless Bezos or someone like that happens to read our blog) but we can all make changes and improve how we do things. 

 


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  • Dave on

    Catherine and Howard – Thanks! We’ll keep trying.

  • howard moore on

    My daughter, who has worked for the past few years reducing waste at a concert venue has spent a lot of time thinking about the limitations of her efforts within a system that seems to depend on creating a demand for increased consumption and generating waste. I got this quote from her:
    “The more we align our individual choices with the world we want — it doesn’t change the world, but it changes us. We become more convincing to ourselves. Sometimes, it makes us more convincing to other people, too." Frances Moore Lappé
    Hang in there.

  • Catherine on

    FWIW, I greatly appreciated the minimal packaging my wheels came with (and the wheels of course too). I also plan, in my usual way, to use the wheels for the next twenty years or so. Durability & reliability matter to me – the less I change or update equipment the less is wasted.

  • Dave on

    I enjoyed your post on ‘Waste’! Finn Is cute nestled in those wheel packing sleeves :) I only recently began riding a (Matt lent me his Kurt Kinetic) trainer .. been nearly a year since riding but ‘sort of’ back in the saddle again .. argh! What a ‘waste’ of a year!

  • Salvatore on

    Excellent post, Dave. I should probably have you build me some wheels while I am reasonably close and could theoretically ride up there to pick them up. Oh wait, there’s that bridge thing…


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