Bicycles are a great alternative to automobiles and occasionally public transport for short trips around town. Urban cities are popularizing which offer convenient, cheap transportation as well as exercise. The air quality improvement and reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to bicycling in Wisconsin is worth $90 million every year, proving that bikes are not only good for the environment, but good for human health.
Despite the positive environmental benefits of riding a bike, most people overlook one major flaw: most bike lubricants are made with petroleum distillates and Teflon (also labeled polytetrafluoroethylene). Teflon is a plastic-like substance made of complex PFCs, or perfluorinated chemicals, which do not biodegrade, accumulate in people, animals, and the environment, and have proven to be toxic to mammals. Additionally, one of Teflon’s breakdown products, PFOA, was classified by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2005 as a ‘likely human carcinogen.’
Every year, bicycle riders use 6.3 million gallons of petroleum-based bike lubricant on chains and gears, which wash into groundwater and to the oceans – something EcoSheep founder Sam Hopkins seeks to change.
Hopkins purchased a new bike in 2015. During regular bike maintenance, he happened to look at the back of one of the lubricants and found the words “long-lasting effects to animals and aquatic life.” Thinking of his family and the neighborhood he lived in, he realized that the toxic, excess oil pooling in his driveway would wash into the community pond where his kids fish and neighbors paddle. Seeking an alternative, he applied lanolin oil instead.
“It was one of those moments where everything kind of aligned,” says Hopkins.
Lanolin oil is derived from sheep wool. When sheep are sheared for their wool to make fabric, the lanolin oil is separated and sent to cosmetic companies to create lotions and other beauty products. Since it is renewable and non-toxic, lanolin oil is a safe replacement for conventional chemicals.
With this simple swap, Hopkins found an alternative to petroleum’s monopoly on the bike lubricant industry.
“I thought, this is a great product, sheep aren’t a great environmental concern and [lanolin oil] is biodegradable,” says Hopkins. “Throughout the year, people are putting petroleum lubricants on their bikes, and it’s not recoverable. It’s not like getting the oil changed in your car, where they repurpose it; it goes straight into the ground.”
Eco Sheep is unique in that it targets a niche that is oftentimes overlooked. “I started Eco Sheep with the idea of creating safe, high-performing chain lubes to replace harmful petroleum. It’s not the 1970’s anymore; it’s 2017, and we have plenty of options that are better for the environment and our families.”
You can purchase Eco Sheep products on their website or at conventional retailers like Amazon.