Constructed from CO2-offsetting pine beetle killwood, this bike rack was funded on Kickstarter in July 2016. Pine trees affected by beetles release CO2 and methane equal to 3.7 million cars on the road per year. Buying Bika mitigates pollution, reduces the risk of wildfires, generates jobs and helps revitalise forests.
Bike Rack, Bika (Pine beetle killwood, cork Vancouver, Canada, 2016)
Interview with Gleb Vaguine, founder of Killwood
Could you tell us a little bit about your professional background(s) and how you got interested in the process of upcycling and the circular economy?
Gleb Vaguine: Myself and Pierre come from very different backgrounds. While I was finishing my Arts degree at the University of British Columbia, Pierre finished at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and was searching to create products from some sort of sustainable material. During my studies I learned about utilising the sustainable mindset. You cannot force eco-mindedness, however you can create products that benefit one’s life and does not involve compromise. From this we realised we can use the highly sustainable pine beetle killwood to create products that both benefit the lives of our uses while making being sustainable a seamless task!
How did you get involved in the issue of killwood and could you tell me a little more about the environmental impact of the pine?
Gleb Vaguine: We are passionate about sustainability and maintaining the environment. To date, 18 million hectares of British Columbian forests have been devastated by the pine beetle. That is the equivalent of 1.3 million football fields. As a result of these devastated trees, 30 million pounds of CO2 have been released into the environment. This amount of CO2 is equal to 3.7 million cars on the road. We came from very different backgrounds. Pierre went to Rhode Island School of Design where he learned about the mastery of design, I went to UBC where I learned about sustainability and discovered a passion for eco-design. At UBC I learned that simply reducing, reusing and recycling are not enough. One must develop a product that benefits one's life, with minimal compromise. In essence, a product that will allow the user to excel in life, without losing out or making sacrifice, and being sustainable at the same time. Pierre finished school with a desire to design eco-friendly products, but he was missing the material. Then I pitched the idea of using pine beetle killwood to design products from this highly sustainable material, and the rest, as they say, is history.
(The devastion of the pine beetle courtesy Bika)
How did you arrive at the idea of the bike rack?
Gleb Vaguine: Vancouver is a city where environmental issues, and especially sustainability, have become prominent. Vancouverites are biking to work and living in smaller homes, so Bika was the perfect solution. Bika is the first bike rack crafted from killwood, and the perfect mixture of elegance, sustainability, and practicality. The Bika allows the user to display their ride with pride, all while saving space, as well as the environment.
Have you done any market research?
Gleb Vaguine: Absolutely! However, our market is harder to analyse as we are creating something absolutely new. Pine beetle killwood has never been used to create modern products and therefore it was harder for us to position ourselves in the market. Nonetheless, we knew other companies were making bike racks, mostly low cost metal ones that could only be seen in the garage, or extremely expensive ones made from wood that had little function. So, we created Bika, a bike rack that is affordable, sustainable, and elegant!
How did you settle on the design and the manufacturing process?
Gleb Vaguine: Luckily Pierre attended a prestigious design school and has immense design experience. As a result, the design process was easy. Create innovative products that inspire sustainability. On the manufacturing side of things, we wanted to ensure our production was local. We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint as a company and benefit our local economy. Our local woodworker has had years of experience and helped us through our journey. This was fundamental through our rigorous prototyping process as we wanted to create the perfect product for our user.
When did you decide that crowdfunding was the best route, and how did it go?
Gleb Vaguine: From the beginning we knew crowdfunding was going to be our strategy. We knew that the epidemic had never been addressed on a global scale, so a platform that provides access to storytelling and innovation was essential for us. Kickstarter allowed us to get our story across and develop a following. Our story is so powerful and the only way to get people to join the Killwood movement was through conversation!
What has been the most challenging part of the process?
Gleb Vaguine: Truly making others believe in our vision. This challenge has two parts to it. Firstly, it is difficult to convince people to change their lives and be more eco-oriented. That is why we are trying to create products that are both beautiful and functional. Our products seek to improve your life, compromise sold separately. Secondly, getting people to understand that pine beetle killwood is valuable. Many have preconceptions about the wood, and believe it is no good. However, pine beetle killwood is just as strong as conventional wood, as long as it is used within 8-10 years of devastation.
Gleb Vaguine: We are looking at creating a catalogue of products because we want to make killwood accessible to everyone. We want everyone to have the opportunity to be sustainable and to have an opportunity to save our forests. Also, we are looking at distributing our products globally, so looking for retailers is another step we want to take.
For anyone interested in this field, what books or articles would you recommend to read?
Gleb Vaguine: There are fantastic resources on the BC forestry industry website as well awesome articles found in journals published by the University of British Columbia forestry department. You can also find snippets of information on our website