Recently here at IS.com we’ve talked about some products that we offer that are Eco-friendly and help to reduce the carbon emissions that are devastating our planet. One set of products in particular that we’ve discussed recently are K2′s Eco skates, the Etu and Maia. I personally blogged about the construction of K2′s Eco skates and pointed out what makes them so environmentally friendly, aside from the fact that they’re non-motorized/non-gasoline modes of transportation.
It can go without saying that inline skating is a great activity. After all, it has many benefits. Many of which are probably overlooked, such as: how healthy it is for you, it’s inexpensive cost, and how it’s a “green” mode of transportation that helps the environment. Yet in the past, the manufacturing of such skates has never had a focus on being “Eco-friendly” like K2′s Eco skates do.
Rather than me, or anyone else here at IS.com giving you the lowdown on this, we felt that it would be better if we sought some help from someone who has experience with other “Green” products. We enlisted the help of Aaron Dalton, Editor of 1GreenProduct.com, and asked him to compare inline skating to other modes of “Green” transportation and also to discuss the design of K2′s Eco inline skates. Below you can read in full what Aaron had to say about the topics.
But there’s another option for those with good balance and an interest in getting shapely, toned legs. I’m talking about in-line skating (a.k.a. blading or rollerblading).
This was a big craze back in the early 1990’s (remember Prayer of the Rollerboys?). In 1996, one study estimated that 27 million Americans had become in-line skaters.
The sport has faded a bit since then. By 2007, the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association was estimating the total U.S. in-line skating population at 10.8 million, with the number of ‘core’ skaters (defined rather leniently as those who skated at least once a month), dropping to just 4.7 million people.
I do think that most people consider in-line skating a sport or recreational activity rather than a bona-fide commuting/transportation option, but the fact is that experienced in-line skaters can probably expect to achieve average speeds of 10-12 miles per hour.
While quite a bit slower than an e-bike (top speed usually governed to 20 mph) and even slower than most regular bikes (13-15 mph average commuting speed according to some very unscientified London data), in-line skating does have its advantages over either biking option.
E-bikes require an electricity input to charge their batteries. In-line skates require no external inputs (other than human muscle power).
E-bikes and regular bikes are both weighty and bulky. Commuters who are unable to bring the bikes into their offices have to worry about where to park the bike and how to lock it. Theft is a concern. By contrast, in-line skates can be unlaced, brought into an office and left beneath a desk or in a drawer.
And of course it’s much easier to skate from a home to a train station and then carry the skates onto the train versus trying to carry a bike onto a train.
That said, in-line skates are not without their drawbacks. I’m a real novice skater, but in my opinion, it’s much easier to maintain balance on a bicycle than on skates. Stopping on a bike is much easier too (for me) — and since stopping is a big part of accident avoidance, that makes me nervous about recommending in-line skating to non-experts seeking to commute in high-traffic areas.
On the other hand, there’s something incredibly liberating about inline skating. Bicycling has a certain rush that comes from propelling yourself faster than any unassisted human could run, but there’s always the machine with its gears and pedals between you and the road. With blading, it’s amazing how just some sturdy boots and a couple sets of little wheels can give you instant speed.
Whether you’re considering in-line skating as a commuting or recreational activity, in either case you’d want to choose the most eco-friendly in-line skates.
While most skates are made of plastics and other synthetic materials, the new K2 Eco Skates – the Etu for men and the Maia for women – give you a great Green alternative.
Both skates have excellent eco credentials. Instead of using metal or plastic for the frames that hold the wheels, K2 has chosen to use renewable and biodegradable bamboo. These bamboo frames give the skates a beautiful, natural look. I almost felt like I was skating on a piece of art.
From a design standpoint, I also liked the way that K2 used a bamboo leaf motif on the strap, boot and frame.
(And in case you’re worried about the strength of a bamboo skate, numerous sources point out that bamboo has a tensile strength greater than that of some types of steel.)
K2 has also taken steps to incorporate recycled materials into its Eco line, keeping trash out of landfills and supporting recycling efforts by using 100% recycled PET for the liners and laces of the Etu and Maia skates. The mesh on the skates is made from 50% recycled PET.
Thankfully, K2 says all its Eco skates are PVC-free.
I had a chance to test the Etu skate in person. I was happy to find that K2 had used minimal packaging – just a bit of tissue paper around the skates and some recyclable cardboard and paper inside the skates themselves to help them keep their shape. The box itself was labeled as being made of 70% recycled material and printed with eco-friendly soy-based inks.
Fit and finish on the K2 boots is quite good. I was a little disappointed to see that the boots were made in China — although I suppose that’s a good place to find bamboo. But it would have been nice from an eco standpoint if the skate had not been shipped half-way around the world.
The boots feel stable and well-made. I was able to skate comfortably and smoothly on the 84 mm wheels with ILQ-7 bearings (highly regarded on at least one forum).
I’m impressed that K2 says it is working toward a recycling/take-back program for its eco skates. Meanwhile, the company has developed a short DIY tutorial on how consumers can recycle or re-use components from their skates.
Incidentally, the DIY tutorial is part of a very nice section of K2’s website that offers lots of information on steps the company is taking to reduce its ‘carbon skateprint‘. Lots of companies could learn from K2 in communicating the steps they are taking to go green.
Bottom line – An average human walking speed is just under 3 miles per hour (4.8 km per hour). In-line skating provides a zero-emission, relatively low-cost, eco-friendly way of tripling or quadrupling unassisted travel speed. The bamboo and recycled components of the K2 Etu and Maia skates seem to make them the best eco-friendly options in the category. Even better, the Eco stakes also seem appealing from a style and quality standpoint.
Where to buy:
You can purchase both the women’s Maia skates and men’s Etu skates at InlineSkates.com for $189.95 with free shipping.
Remember that most inline skaters fall from time to time — especially if you’re just getting started learning the sport. Skating and bicycling have many eco-advantages over driving a car, but unlike in a car, you won’t have any seatbelt or airbags to protect you in the event of a crash. Therefore, it makes sense to use caution and wear the right safety gear. That’s why I strongly recommend that all inline skates protect themselves as much as possible by wearing a helmet plus appropriate pads and wrist guards.
K2 has introduced matching sets of eco-friendly Etu pads and Maia pads ($33.74 each via InlineSkates.com) that incorporate recycled PET materials.