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Sustainable By Design

Many know the feeling – unwrapping a new board, screwing in your already worn down trucks, carefully applying the grip tape to the top of the deck so that there aren’t any air bubbles, and then taking the first push on your newly assembled skateboard. You glide around feeling out the contours of the board, bend up and down to get the feeling of the deck, and shuffle your feet around to get your body acquainted with your new ride. But then it happens. You hesitate to pop a trick in fear that you’re going to deface the beautiful design that attracted your eyes to the deck in the first place. Over time, everyone gets over that first feeling of caution and skates. They skate until the tail and nose are worn down to the point you can visibly see all three layers of wood worn to a pulp, and the graphics etched into an amorphous blob of wax, ink, and exposed wood.

And then you either throw away your old board or put it behind a broken refrigerator in the garage out of sight, and out of mind.

Seems like a waste doesn’t it? That’s what Rich Moorhead, co-founder of Art of Board, realized in 2004 when he stumbled upon a pile of old skateboard decks that belonged to his nephew. Feeling the same sense of astonishment at the beauftifully designed decks, Rich felt that rather than have the decks go to a landfill why not put his carpentry skills to good use and create something out of the boards?

He created a picture frame.

10, 367 boards later Rich and co-founder Bruce Boul have turned a pile of old skateboards into a full-service lifestyle and design brand. Now the company makes everything from skate tiling, textiles, skate letters, iPhone cases and decorative sculptures of wooden states all made out of recycled skateboards. But that’s not all the pair have undertaken with their creative endeavor. In 2010, Boul and Moorhead created the first international grass-roots skateboarding recycling movement: I Ride, I Recycle. Their movement aims to keep broken skateboards out of landfills and into both the hands of community kids who cannot afford new skateboards and into the design of Art of Board’s products.

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“The biggest struggle is getting the message out there that this is more than just just a good thing for our environment – IRIR is also about supporting shops, parks, communities, and skate charities,” says co-founder Bruce Boul. “Challenges we face are growing the movement and being able to fund it, the response is huge, but we must continue to grow it and get support from riders, shops and the industry.”

For all the corporate talk nowadays about business operations fueling their philanthropic endeavors, it’s refreshing to see a team that seems to be truly dedicated to creating a “Movement” that is aimed at helping the community that gave their endeavor life. 

So how does all of this work?

The Brand, or as many know it as Art of Board, turns skateboards into functionable and fashionable products that are sold to people like you and me around the world. This generates the profit that keeps the organization going and the staff compensated for dedicating their time to pushing the business forward. These profits are then siphoned off to power “The Movement,” or I Ride, I Recycle. Funds are allocated to covering the operating costs of I Ride, I Recycle, which ultimately help setup the recycling bins and transportation costs associated with moving the boards from local shops. Once a shop decides to buy-in to the vision of I Ride, I Recycle, the company buys a “complete” deck from the store and hosts events throughout the year that encourages kids to come recycle their broken boards as well as drives business to the local shops. The IRIR team also features all of the stores on their website and features a local shop every month through a video that is produced for the sole purpose of promoting the store. The boards collected from skate shops are sent off either to kids in communities who can’t afford new boards or back into the Brand to create more products.

And then the cycle continues.

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While it would be easy to get carried away with the “staying true to your roots” cliche that penetrates  every stand of identity involved with Art of Board and I Ride, I Recycle, it’s pretty impressive how Boul and Moorhead have created a sustainable cycle to power their business, their movement and the skate community. While the question of scalability comes into play, the pair seems well adept at creating more momentum for their vision – many corporate sponsors have signed on to contribute as well as skate legend Mike Vallely who is now the official spokesman for the company.

Both heavily rooted in the skate community Boul and Moorhead have created business model that not only takes into account their bottom line, but also the well-being of the community that it sources its business. That’s something that many businesses outside of the skateboarding industry could take note of.

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