Cycling is often commended for being an activity with a low environmental impact. But when it comes to reducing impact in the lifespan of cycling products, there is still a lot of ground to cover. 5 QUESTIONS FOR is an interview series with cycling brands that are trying to step up their game.The series does not set out to present perfect examples, nor does the series intend to favour specific brands. What we do hope to offer is an informative and honest account of the possible challenges, gains and pitfalls of their journey. And to inspire more cycling companies to become part of this shared responsibility. #001: Tori Fahey, director Apidura Ltd.
When did your company start addressing its environmental impact, and why?
"We’ve had an acute awareness of our environmental impact from day one. In a world in which people have enough, or even too much, ‘stuff’, we take our responsibility as a producer very seriously. We did not want to become ‘part of the problem’.
We took the view that the most effective way to ensure we would have the lowest possible negative environmental impact was to hardcode it into our DNA. Environmental impact could not be an afterthought or an add-on to our supply chain or some other discrete aspect of our business.
With that in mind, we founded Apidura on three core principles:
1. We design products that add value – they must be unique, better or different than what is currently available. Society needs fewer, better-made things, not newer things.
2. We don’t push impulse consumption through discounts and sales. Our gear is designed to be used and purchasing it should be a considered decision.
3. We reject engineered obsolescence. We don’t do ‘seasons’ and we encourage repairs, both by consumers at home/on tour and by ourselves." What particular impact within the lifespan of your product are you focusing on?
"We concentrate on the lifespan of our products themselves. Ultimately, every aspect of a product’s impact on our environment is dramatically reduced if we can keep that product in use for a longer time. This means investing heavily in higher quality materials that are more durable and investing in design. By identifying potential weak points in design and testing, alongside customer feedback, we can employ an evergreen design approach; continuously tweaking and updating products based on real-world experience to enhance their lifespan and utility.
Much like a bike, the lifespan of our gear can also be significantly increased through proper care and repair in the hands of the consumer. We have invested in helping our customers help themselves through a detailed repair and care page and repair guides, alongside working with partner stores to arrange broken gear collections, which facilitates larger scale repairs and reduces the number of parcels being sent back and forth for the same number of repairs. Longer-term, we are continuously working to design products that are easier to repair and keep on the road for longer."
What are the biggest challenges you face/have faced so far?
"The cycling industry faces similar challenges to other consumer industries, where growth-hungry participants use deceptive practices like discounting to manipulate customers into purchasing poor quality products that don’t perform well and won’t last. While some of the industry is waking up to the harmful fallout of aggressive discounting, it’s unlikely be eliminated any time soon.
Consumers have also been conditioned to expect free shipping and returns – a mindset that ignores the impact of packaging and the hydrocarbons involved in sending our unconsidered purchases needlessly joyriding around the world. Finally, the prevailing mindset of ‘replace’ rather than ‘repair’ needs to be overturned. All these considerations have, perhaps unfairly, been pushed on consumers by an industry-wide race to the bottom, so change is slow while we swim against the tide of ingrained throw-away consumer culture."
What are your ambitions for both short and long term?
"In the near term, we are working toward B Corp certification to play our part in a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Longer term, we aspire to have a deeper cultural impact on the industry – inspiring others to look more closely at the impact we have as an industry, both environmentally and socially. We believe it’s important to look beyond the obvious fixes, such as dropping plastic and reducing single use packaging, and think about structural and cultural behaviours that could and should be reconsidered."
What do you expect of your consumers on this journey?
"We hope that our customers will understand and embrace the journey we are on and join us in demanding better from the cycling industry. The self-support mindset is strong in the bikepacking community and we ask that consumers consider how they might apply that mindset to their lives more broadly."