How can we cycle towards a greener future?
 Yanto Barker, Le Col

Cycling in itself is a very green option, but the industry still causes plenty of carbon footprint, be it from events, packaging or factory running. BikeBiz reached out to the industry to investigate what more we can be doing to protect our planet.

Today, we hear from Yanto Barker, founder, Le Col.

From an ecological perspective, we all know that cycling is the most practical means of transport in our cities. But in terms of the industry, it’s something that has always troubled me. The nature of performance clothing requires technical fabrics that aren’t necessarily very sustainable.

I do believe that broadly, people in cycling want to have a positive impact, but cost and conscience are a difficult combination. The practicality is tough with the industry’s considerable dependence on production in the east. While consumers can pick up a great deal, the impact of sourcing materials and transporting up to 100 million bikes per year is significant, to say the least, and there’s certainly huge scope for improvement.

Easy wins
It’s incredibly tough for an entire industry – separated by varying interests – to see eye-to-eye, but the magnitude of the problem facing us compels us all to take action. And that has to not only be for the perception of the consumers but tangible, measurable improvements. 

Due to hugely positive benefits that cycling provides, it’s very easy for us to point the finger at other industries, but there are certainly touch-points that are easily accessible to all brands to improve the impact of what they produce. Recycling textiles and materials are something I see being a large part of that. It’s a good way to cut the impact at the base of production without impacting the quality of the product. Wins don’t come much easier than that!

Specifically, the easiest win is around demand. There is a real lack of it for recycled materials currently, but this will change if more brands demand greener fabrics and products from their suppliers. There are other notes to be made around transportation and the shipping of products, of course, but ultimately that comes down to the whole structure of the industry, which is harder to reshape due to the way it has been built based on cost.

Increasingly, however, I think as the onus on the subject hits the mainstream, we will see the industry really starting to contemplate whether common practices are really best practices, and I take a lot of hope from that.

A gateway to cycling
IBDs. however, are in a particularly difficult position – as if they weren’t already! Collectively, though, there is power there, and I am increasingly seeing demand for better quality and durability in products. While that will drive higher costs, it also means that people are more prepared to actually invest in those qualities. Buying more selectively and in lower quantities is one way to really drive interest in the actual product, but also to reduce dependability on products that work fantastically once or twice and flag quite quickly thereafter. They also act as a gateway for a lot of people into the world of cycling, so staying at the forefront of giving customers wide options and variation is key – categories such as e-bikes, for example, provide this. 

The Le Col approach
Having observed the lack of steps taken by the wider industry to lessen its own impacted, I decided I wanted to steer what we did towards being more sustainable. Firstly, it’s important to appreciate the impact of having the bulk of our product made in Italy. Lots of brands produce their kit in the East, shipping it across the world to sit in a warehouse before being jetted off once more, perhaps back to the other side of the planet. Our relatively local production and sourcing of materials keep our miles to a minimum.

Seeing that the industry hadn’t really made steps to lessen its own impact, I decided I wanted to steer what we did towards being more sustainable. Firstly, it’s important to appreciate the impact of having the bulk of our product made in Italy. Lots of brands produce their kit in the East, shipping it across the world to sit in a warehouse before being jetted off once more, perhaps back to the other side of the planet. Our relatively local production and sourcing of materials keep our miles to a minimum.

The first part of this was sourcing materials that met our high bars for performance and function that could be made using post-production excess and repurposing of materials otherwise destined for landfill. I’m hugely proud of the Recycled Leaders’ Jerseys that we supplied for the 2018 & 2019 Tour of Britain – it demonstrated what’s possible. We’re currently developing a Recycled Jersey and Recycled Bib Shorts for our core range. They function and perform identically to our standard range, and I can only see us gravitating more in this direction for our kit.

Simultaneously, we’ve been able to partner with foundations like the Blue Marine Foundation, raising awareness of Marine Plastics and raising money for sustainable causes in our oceans. We’re also making the much-needed switch away from plastics in packaging towards widely-recycled cardboards and tissue papers – we really do see it as imperative to creating a chain that helps people on their bikes maximise the good that it does, not just for themselves, but for our collective wellbeing.

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