Tuesday, 12 August 2014 20:00

Cause Trends at Agenda 2014 - A Rise in Upcycling and the Cycle of Giving Back

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Indosole http://www.indosole.com
Bali is a prized surf destination for many. And once arriving on the tiny island the primary mode of ground transportation is motorbike and scooter. The result is a massive amount of used and discarded tires that collect in landfills or worse yet, that locals burn for fuel - neither of which is a good, safe or healthy solution.

On a surf trip to Bali in 2004, Indosole co-founder Kyle Parsons discovered locally made sandals with unique tire tread soles. Fast forward 10 years, and he's grown that simple idea into a thriving brand that's expanded into shoes, bags and clothes following the same upcycling and social good principles.

Rather than melting down the rubber to use again, Indosole is able to create footwear soles out of the tires themselves, which equals less waste in production, no toxic emissions, less "tire derived fuel" being used in Indonesia, and less tires ending up in the local landfills. And all of Indosoles' shoes, sandals and bags are handmade in Bali, using locally sourced materials and providing jobs for the community.


Indosole co-founder Ryan King


Indosole upcycling motorbike tires


Rareform http://www.rareform.com
Billboard advertising is one of the oldest forms of marketing. While production has evolved from the hand painted signs of the early 20th century to digitally produced vinyl banners that can be changed on a whim and cover the entire face of a building, the result has produced a massive amount of used vinyl. And much of it has ended up in landfills.

Vinyl is a strong and weather resistant material, perfectly suited for making bags and packs for water sports gear like surfboards and stand-up paddle boards.

Rareform works with one of the world's largest outdoor advertising firms to "intercept" their used billboard vinyl before it reaches the landfill, and repurpose the material into their line of bags and packs. And each bag features it's own distinctive colors, patterns and style.


Rareform upcycled bags and packs


Rareform upcycled bags and packs

Mafia http://www.mafiabags.com
Strap a board to your feet, a harness to your waist and let the combined powers of wind and water take you on an amazing journey - this is Kiteboarding. While certainly a niche sport in the US - you do need a large body of water and a good amount wind - Kiteboarding has a very passionate and loyal crowd of participants, fans and followers, and the direct connection of their sport to nature is not lost on any of them

Two of those are former pro-Kiteboarders Marcos and Maria De La Paz Mafia from Argentina. And they're turning used kiteboarding and sailboarding material into gear bags. The kites and sails are often extremely colorful an durable, so the material translates really well into all sorts of bags and packs, each of which is totally unique. Mafia is a certified B Corps which shows their commitment goes much deeper than simply re-using old materials, as they hold themselves to high environmental and social standards through the entire fabric of their business.


Mafia Bags founders Marcos and Maria


Mafia bags upcycled kiteboarding kites and sails

Be Packs http://www.bepacks.org
Taking a slight turn from the Upcycling trend, I also came across bag/pack brand Be Packs that has taken the essence of the "buy one give one" model and focused their efforts on education. Recognizing the impact of education in changing the dynamics of poverty, health and gender equality in developing nations, Be Packs donates $10 from the sale of every pack to sponsoring childhood education in Zambia. "For every 20 bags sold we are able to provide 1 child with an additional year of education, one meal a day for an entire year, and their required school uniform for the year." Simple math, big impact.

What also makes the Be Packs super unique is the handwritten "hope patch" sewed inside each pack, containing a message written by a child in Zambia - an awesome way to deliver a true personal connection to the impact each purchase makes.


Be Packs supporting education in Zambia


Be Packs supporting education in Zambia


Be Packs handwritten Hope Patch

While it seems a logical fit to tie environmental causes to sports that rely so much on the outdoors, there needs to be an authentic commitment from the people behind it. The leaders of these brands have all done a great job of walking their talk, helping to reduce trash & emissions, and finding unique ways to lift up communities through jobs & education. Rather than capitalizing on a trend just to sell more stuff, I see a genuine thread here with brands that realize the things we buy can and do have an impact, on people, planet and profit.

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