Here at TreeHugger we love to write about bamboo and wooden bikes. Not only are they beautiful and made from a renewable resource, but they hold out hope that the bike industry can be a budding economy for the U.S.
Yet as we've discussed previously, using wood or bamboo bike does not necessarily a 'sustainable' bike make.
The manufacture and shipping of bicycles creates about a 530 pound carbon dioxide lifecycle load (that would take approximately three months of five-mile-per-day pedaling to work off) according to estimates by MIT graduate student Shreya Dave. Making that bike from wood instead of steel or aluminum does shave a bit of the CO2 burden away, but there is still the coatings, components, energy use in manufacturing and shipping load to worry about.
Two-toned hickory wood bike.
Renovo, which makes high-end wooden and bamboo bikes in Portland, Oregon, has thought about the issue, and over time come to the conclusion that locally sourcing hardwoods does make a difference in the 'sustainability' quotient of the company's bikes.
The new Appalachian series of Renovo bikes use walnut, ash, hickory and maple woods as the basis for the frames, sourced from the U.S. Appalachian region. As Renovo puts it:
"No transoceanic shipping, no sweatshops, no iron or aluminum strip mines or smelters, no titanium chloride, no carbon fiber involved. Breathe a small sigh of relief, earth."
Using a more local source of wood allowed Renovo to drop the price of its Appalachian series by approximately $600 compared to its other hardwood models, which generally cost over $3,000.
Hickory and maple bike.
At this time, Renovo isn't planning to phase out the use of tropical hardwoods.
Renovo's Ken Wheeler feels the carbon footprint equation doesn't take into account the various raw materials used to make bikes – carbon fiber, for example, which is used in high-end performance bikes, has been found to have a much higher footprint.
Wheeler hasn't done any direct calculations on the exact footprint of the Appalachian series. Instead, he says it is the ability to use a sustainably-sourced wood that makes the bikes both 'greener' and very pretty.