Undoubtedly a pretty environment-friendly way to travel, donning a pair of skates still leaves you with a bit of an eco-headache. With all that plastic and metal wrapped around your ankles, the skates themselves are a bit of an environmental let down - until now. Inline skate innovators at K2 skates have recently added another industry first to the company's catalogue of cutting edge developments. Not only are the boots and laces made from recycled plastic bottles but the wheel frame is made from one of the most sustainable materials on the planet, bamboo.

By far the most unique and interesting part of the Eco skate is its Mao bamboo frame, which K2 sources from a single supplier to ensure consistency. Technically a type of grass - as reported here - bamboo is one of the world's fastest growing and most sustainable plants. It's also relatively inexpensive and very, very strong. According to the Environmental Bamboo Foundation bamboo can have a greater tensile strength than steel. Thanks to its fine fiber structure, it transfers energy as fast as an aluminum frame, is just as durable and light but also absorbs surface vibrations - making for a very smooth ride.

You need lots of bottle

The primary material used for the skate's uppers is polyethylen-terephthalat (PET), which is a recyclable plastic coming from post consumer waste such as plastic bottles. Liners and laces are 100% PET and the mesh used in areas which need additional support is 50% PET. Other used materials are 100% PVC free.

Although a range of cuffs are available from K2, the Stability Cuff was chosen for the Eco skate because, according to the company, it's "the best cuff we have for the widest range of skaters. The Radical and Soul Cuffs are built for certain styles of skating, while the stability cuff is best for all types."

The 84mm wheels (or slightly smaller 76mm for women's skates) and the quality TwinCam ILQ-7 bearings can be swapped out to suit individual requirements but everything else is fixed. K2 chose TwinCam because the ILQ bearings represent "the best choice available for inline skates. They are the first bearings designed specifically for inline skates and the balls can take handle bigger loads then ABEC rated bearings." The brake (not shown in the image gallery) is on the right skate.

The Eco skate comes in two flavors. The Maia skate continues K2's tradition of manufacturing skates to snuggly fit the female foot. The length of the decorative bamboo frame depends on shoe size with 234mm for sizes four to five, 250mm for six to eight and a half and 265mm for nine and above.

The Etu skate is made for those with a more masculine build and frame length again depends on shoe size. For sizes five to seven and a half, the frame is 258mm long, it's 265mm for eight to ten and a half and 288mm for 11 and above.

Carbon skateprint

The skates are manufactured in China and then shipped to a worldwide network of K2 distribution points.

"The Eco skates are for fitness enthusiasts, casual skaters, and everything in between," K2 told Gizmag. And for skaters who wish to cause less of an environmental impact of course. The more demanding skaters may have to look elsewhere in the range to really shine at the skate park though.

The company recognizes that its "inline skates will never be 100% sustainable, but we believe that by using high performing sustainable materials, we can make a difference and help create a cleaner planet for our children."

So it's not just the skates that cause less environmental damage, the company's packaging is all made using recycled cardboard and box logos are printed using soya-based inks. K2 is also trying to set up a take-back scheme so that when a product or material reaches the end of its consumer life, it can be returned and recycled. Until such a scheme is in place, K2 has a few suggestions about what can be done with end of life skates:

  • use the old wheels on luggage
  • remove all metal parts and recycle as you would normally
  • uppers can be taken to a local Nike store for shredding
  • plastic bases and cuffs can be taken to a recycling facility
  • donate your skates to a local boys and girls club or after school program

Getting there

Though not wholly eco-friendly, the K2 skates are currently the closest thing you'll get to a green skate. Roll on over to the
Eco skate page for a closer look.

And the $$ - the K2's are available from Skates.com for USD$189.99.

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