I repainted these babies this week and I gotta say — I still think these upcycled bike chain bracelets, which I call Urban Links, are one of my better ideas. Here is a little video I made about them a few years ago:
Below are the barriers that I have yet to overcome before any possibility of rolling them out in any bigger way (as written on another blog of mine a few years ago):
I’m meeting a lot of men who are homeless along the Atlanta Streetcar route (where I’m shooting a photo essay named A Streetcar Named Aspire) and one guy in particular told me folks need to do more for veterans. I find myself thinking about him a lot, and imagining an operation where homeless vets make the bracelets, which are then sold to raise money for bikes for those in need. Bikes change lives.
In lieu of a formal nonprofit or a for-profit social enterprise, what I’d actually prefer is more of a drop-in place where folks could just clean, break, paint, and assemble for awhile and earn some petty cash, no forms and commitments required so it fits in with a life that’s perhaps not quite stable yet. I’m not sure that’s even legally possible.
Other barriers? Well, there are two:
1. I don’t want to run this operation, although I’d be open to consulting for it;
2. I still haven’t discovered a way to clean these chains that would be effective, affordable and environmentally-sound. (Don’t mention Dawn–been there, done that. See How Long Does It Take to Degrease a Duck?) I like the idea of working with an engineer or scientist at GA Tech or Emory to solve this problem. In fact, that was probably where the whole wad of money from a contest I was considering entering would have gone. Imagine if we found a solution! Couldn’t figuring out how to degrease in an environmentally-sound way sort of change the world? (Yes, I’ve already tried everything–see the quick overview* below.)
So, why am I even telling you any of this? Well, I still wear my bracelet every day, continue to love it, and can’t help thinking that this is actually a very good idea. So I guess I’m just putting it out there. Maybe you’re someone who wants to help me figure out how to finally degrease these chains. At the very least, we could then write up the directions for how to make these so any organization around the world could use it as a fundraiser. And maybe, just maybe, we could one day even help vets like this man.
* The quick overview is this–everything works about equally as well to clean the chains (and I’ve used them all), from Ivory soap to the chemicals at Home Depot that have warning labels so long they’re scary, but the different products have different environmental considerations. Use the nontoxic stuff, you need a ton of water. Use the toxic stuff (those industrial degreasers that the bike shops themselves use, for instance), you use less water but you have, well, toxic stuff to breathe and then dispose of. Use any method, and you still have the grease from the chain with which to deal. If you purchase brand new chains wholesale before they are lightly greased, then you’re not recycling.
(Note: Other ideas with which I’m not yet done are Wine and Dine Bottle Gardens, Mint for Good, #GroundForAPeel, Sunday Paper dresses, and, of course, #BikeNoodle. I’ll give you updates and next steps on all of them soon.)