Boulder, Colo.-based Green Guru Gear is the brainchild of best friends Davidson Lewis and Justin Daugherty, two outdoor enthusiasts who were sick of tossing their old athletic gear in the trash. Entering its sixth year, the brand now includes outdoor sports equipment and accessories made from old bike tires, climbing rope and wet suits. Earth911 sat down with Daugherty to learn more about how the two friends turned a passion for reducing waste into their dream green jobs.
An inside look at Green Guru Gear
While pursuing an industrial design degree at Virginia Tech, Green Guru Gear founder Davidson Lewis wrote his senior thesis on creative ways to upcycle common waste materials. The outdoor-lover and sustainability enthusiast continued working with reused materials after graduation, creating wallets, backpacks and other accessories from old truck and tractor tires.
In 2005, Lewis launched his company as Ecologic Designs, and his best friend Justin Daugherty quickly jumped on board. At first, the design duo focused on sourcing materials from partner companies, such as Patagonia, Nike and AT&T, and turning them into customized designs.
After they started making products, the pair decided to create their own brand and identity that reflected the outdoor sports they loved, while upcycling waste materials that are common to their active lifestyles.
Since launching Green Guru Gear in 2007, Lewis and Daugherty have expanded the line to include bike accessories, bags, dog collars, wallets and other products made from old athletic gear, such as bicycle inner tubes, climbing rope and wet suits.
“Davidson and myself are both backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts, so all our gear is ripping and tearing, and it only lasts a few years,” says Daugherty, who now serves as VP of sales and operations for Green Guru Gear. “We were just wondering where all this waste was going over the years.”
Most of the materials used in the Green Guru Gear line are sent in by corporate partners or collected through drop-off recycling bins at bike shops, climbing gyms and outdoor retailers around the friends’ hometown of Boulder, Colo.
The line also incorporates other waste materials, such as plastic water bottles, manufacturing waste from camper shells and reflective Mylar used in compostable cup packaging.
“We’re not just looking at one or two or three particular materials,” Daugherty says. “We’re constantly looking at everything that’s out there.”
To make sure they’re walking the walk, the backpackers-turned-entrepreneurs fine-tuned their manufacturing processes to leave the smallest footprint possible.
Dirty bike tires and other materials are washed with Simple Green and shined up with an all-natural mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. From there, the products are sewn by hand at Green Guru’s manufacturing facility in Boulder.
“We don’t want to go to the extent where we’re using too much energy to produce [our products] and it offsets any benefits,” Daugherty says. “That’s something that’s really important to us, is being smart about our manufacturing and how we use our materials. We’re trying to leave the least carbon footprint possible.”
In addition to creating some seriously cool upcycled products, the guys at Green Guru Gear are quickly emerging at the forefront of the sustainability scene in Boulder. Staff members are often spotted around town in the company’s “Eco Ambulance,” a biodiesel-powered van used to pick up recycled materials from drop-off bins, and the Green Guru crew organizes community bike rides every Thursday.
Expanding on their all-local feel, Lewis and Daugherty hope to set up collection, manufacturing, distribution and sales headquarters across the U.S. and abroad, so customers can purchase an item that was made from local waste materials and manufactured locally.
The company hopes to expand collection and production to Los Angeles within the next two years. A women’s line, called Green Goddess Gear, is also in the works and is set to launch in early 2014.
Building a brand from the ground up may require a lot of labor, but Daugherty says it never feels like work.
“I can’t ask for anything more in life,” he says. “The lifestyle that we love is bikes and the outdoors, and that’s our business… I come into work every day loving it.”
For more information on Green Guru Gear, check out the brand’s website, or pick up one of their cool upcycled products from the company’s web store or one of our favorite online sellers, Ethical Ocean. If you have some old athletic gear around the house, Green Guru Gear will gladly recycle it for you through drop-off bins across the U.S. and its mail-back recycling program.
Want to score free Green Guru Gear? Ethical Ocean is giving away a bunch of awesome upcycled products right now, including an upcycled bike inner-tube belt from the company. Click here to enter!
Homepage Image: Green Guru Gear