The change we want to make

The change we want to make: empowering slow travellers on their journey towards sustainability and circularity.

Over the last two months, many doors in the cycling industry opened to us. We got the opportunity to meet many people who are pushing hard for more sustainability and circularity in the industry. After having dived into the whole supply chain - including the trash bins (yes, literally!) - of bicycles, we've come to understand what it takes to make a bicycle and how the industry currently works. Yet, turning linear industrial production processes back into a more local, open and circular alternative is a red ocean story of marginal gains, mainly on a product-technical level.

We've come to realize where we can really make a difference: empowering slow travellers on their journey towards sustainability and circularity. With Welcome To My Garden and its passionate community of +13.000 users, we're well on our way to making slow traveling the new normal.

From the very first day we started exploring the opportunities of Longlife Bike, we openly published our learnings on our wiki. We've been through different steps from conducting 30 interviews with cyclists, frame builders and bike shops owners to comparing frame materials and getting advice from Bas van Abel from Fairphone and De Clique.

After two months of deep diving into the cycling industry and exploring our potential product/market-fit, we've come to the following conclusions:

  • Throughout the whole supply chain, there's still a lot of room for progress in terms of sustainability and circularity in the cycling industry. To give you an idea: a local bike shop owner told us that he's, much to his own frustration, yearly collecting ten to twelve tons of trash per year. Despite a few efforts like Schwalbe's tube recycling program, very few manufacturers or whole-sellers provide incentives to reduce waste to bike shop owners.

  • Although most cyclists don't know where their bicycles are made, a very large majority of the frames are made in Taiwan and Vietnam, and transported by container ships across the Suez Canal (see how that works out!). This video instructively shows how it works to build a traditional bike brand.

  • The handful of Belgian frame builders are almost entirely focusing on the production of tailor-made bicycles, due to higher labour costs.

  • The willingness to pay for a bicycle has tremendously increased with the advent of the electric bicycle. This is a positive development for the cycling industry since long-lasting products, made from more sustainable materials, are simply more expensive. On a side note, it's worth mentioning that bike shop owners struggle to show customers the total cost of ownership. Cheaper bicycles might look tempting at first, but they could cost much more over the product's lifetime. Therefore, it's promising to see many new bicycle offerings coming up including maintenance and repair services.

  • The increasing prices and profit margins in the cycling industry brought in new investor groups, which weren't used to investing in bicycle brands before. This means both electrical and non-electrical market segments are getting more competitive and leaning towards a red ocean.

  • Overall, to be competitive in a red ocean, bicycle brands strongly adhere to classical economic theory and practices in which economies of scale play a decisive role. Profitability depends on a brand's production and sales volumes. As there are limited options to differentiate one brand from another, it's a story of marginal gains on a product-technical level and it's hard to create a significant impact.

Therefore, we decided to take a step back and reflect upon this question: since we want to empower slow travellers on their journey towards sustainability and circularity, why don't we simply start creating more value for our incredible Welcome To My Garden community? Why do something with marginal positive impact when there's something you can do with tremendous positive impact?

Making slow traveling the new normal

When the first covid-19 travel restrictions were announced in March 2020, we were forced to think of responsible yet meaningful ways of traveling in our country. As it's fantastic to get the opportunity to meet locals who can tell you more about their region and interests, we came up with the idea to set up a platform that allows slow travellers to pitch their tent in someone's garden for the night. Enter Welcome To My Garden. What started out as a spare time project at the beginning turned into a great platform with a very engaged and passionate community.

Over the last ten months, 125.383 people visited the website and 18.342 slow travel requests were sent via the platform. Today, the community counts 13.401 users with 2.255 gardens. To summarise our achieved impact so far, we've made the following impact report:

Impact report Welcome To My Garden June 2020 - April 2021

And this is only the beginning. As the slow traveling movement is growing, we want to take Welcome To My Garden further and make slow traveling the new normal.

Welcome To My Garden is made for and by slow travellers. As from the first day, we've put our community first and will also be a guiding principle for our next steps. Based on the feedback received from users, we've come to a roadmap consisting of three phases:

1. Consolidate and stabilise the platform

  • First of all, we need to maintain our platform so that it keeps on working like it does today.

  • Moreover, we'd like to implement some new features (such as a search function, filters on the map and a report button) which were developed last year, but still require more testing.

  • Last year we already welcomed Natuurpunt, Open Knowledge Belgium and Staycation BXL (VGC) as partners for Welcome To My Garden. We'd love to get more partners on board who want to support us on our mission and spread the word about Welcome To My Garden.

2. Develop and create more value for the community

  • The slow travel season is coming up! Therefore, we're going to organize a few inspirational and practical workshops that make enthusiasts get started with slow traveling and empower slow travellers on their journey.

  • We're in the early days of making Welcome To My Garden signs which hosts can hang on their fence or front doors to indicate that they're part of the community. Besides that, we are looking into meaningful ways that slow travellers can thank their host. How cool would it be if travellers could give organic Welcome To My Garden seeds to their hosts?

  • Over the long term, we also want to explore how we can encourage cities and municipalities to get involved with Welcome To My Garden. Ideally, we’d like to add an extra data layer with shelters for slow travellers in public spaces.

3. Structure behind the platform

  • The future of Welcome To My Garden isn't just community-driven, but also community-owned. Our platform creates value for and thanks to the community. Therefore, it should also be in the hands of our community. The idea of making it a platform cooperative sounds promising and we're currently learning what this would exactly imply.

As you can read, there's exciting work to be done. Time to get started!

Lastly, here are several ways you can get involved:

  • Our WTMG Slack is open to everyone. Each month we're organising a monthly community call to get new volunteers on board and discuss updates. Join our Slack via this link.

  • We're looking for more partners who want to join us on our mission to make slow traveling the new normal. All suggestions, ideas and requests are welcome at support[@]welcometomygarden.org.

  • Everyone can see where money for Welcome To My Garden comes from and where it goes. We accept donations and sponsorships, celebrate our supporters, pay expenses, and keep everyone up to date — all in one place: https://opencollective.com/welcometomygarden.

  • Our community also loves to interact on our Facebook page - join the discussions: https://www.facebook.com/Welcome2mygarden.