Everyone wants to have green status these days. Few companies, however, qualify further than recycling paper or aluminum. But there is one company that puts its recycling where your feet are.
Enter Fountain Valley-based Rubbersidewalks with a new solution to an old dilemma: creating modular walkways for homes, businesses and city blocks. Rubbersidewalks offers an alternative to concrete—heavy-duty, sidewalk-worthy rubber paving tiles made of 100 percent recycled California tire rubber. It’s primarily used to replace concrete where sidewalks are adjacent to trees.
Lindsay Smith, president, CEO and founder of Rubbersidewalks, started the company as a result of seeing maintenance workers in her neighborhood cutting down a large group of trees to make room for concrete sidewalks that were being pushed up by root growth. She was so disturbed that she went to her city management and asked if they had ever thought of using a product that would allow for tree growth without removal, and that would be safer to walk on. When they couldn't deliver, she came up with the idea of a rubber sidewalk herself, and presented it with success.
“City management uses concrete as an option,” Smith said. “When I asked if they had ever considered using recycled rubber materials, they didn't say why; they said why not.”
Rubbersidewalks’ namesake product is made entirely from recycled car tires. The product is designed to provide a safe, tree-friendly alternative to cement that never breaks and is clean. The company also manufactures TerreWalks, a next-generation paver with an interlocking design that's made out of recycled waste plastic. Then there are Rubber Bricks, a rubber alternative to clay bricks with all of the advantages shared by its sister products.
In the beginning, the company’s target market was cities because they continually face a problem with trees that break up sidewalks. The original goal was to keep the trees from being taken down, and Smith found a diverse array of clients upon starting her business.
“When we developed TerreWalk we had a lot of commercial developers, malls, corporate campuses, and universities as clients,” she said. “We also found architects liked rubber sidewalks and then the health industry as well because our sidewalk is an overlay on top of regular sidewalks as a safety service for seniors and health facilities.”
Unfortunately, as with so many businesses, the economy has had a negative effect on their particular market sector with frozen municipal budgets, lack of new business construction, and projects on hold waiting for the economy to rebound. But optimism remains.
“We're still in our beginning stages,” Smith said. “With several hundred thousand feet across the country, our goal is to have 10 to 15 percent of every city's budget for sidewalks. We know that 15 (percent of sidewalks) are chronically breaking because of trees.”
In a business climate where green practices have become as much a marketing tool as they are an environmental pursuit, Green firmly believes that her company’s eco-friendly benefits speak for themselves.
“We are exceedingly green,” she said. "We use recycled materials, save trees, our products provide storm water management, also reduce heat island effect—credits you get for having products that generate less heat into the atmosphere, TerraWalks in particular. Concrete is a thermal sink and retains heat all night long; our products get cold when the sun goes down.”
The company intends to use its proprietary technology to become the first choice in alternative sidewalks in addition to serving the environment. Its products are used in 140 installations in more than 70 cities in North America, and the product has saved more than 1,000 trees, as well as millions of dollars for cities.
Smith believes her market share will grow. “We need to change people's definition of safe for sidewalks,” she said. “Concrete is expensive, not safe, hard to walk on. There is no place in the world where people aren’t walking.”