SOLANA BEACH — Back in the day, things were made to last. Kristian Rauhala found out just how true that statement is when remodeling his house.
It is also a discovery that led him to create a technology company focused on earth-friendly alternatives for today’s consumer electronics products.
Rauhala and Brennan Cassidy recently launched EcoKable, a Solana Beach company whose first products are USB charging and data cables made of natural cotton insulation rather than polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC.
With a background in electronics — he co-founded companies that provide a sports fitness application and waterproof headphones — Rauhala saw the amount of electronic waste skyrocket in recent years.
“What bothered him was when new a product comes out the cables are worthless inventory,” Cassidy said.
While remodeling his house that was built in the 1950s, Rauhala discovered all the wiring in his home was insulated with paper that had lasted more than five decades.
“So he started tinkering to make a more sustainable product,” Cassidy said.
According to their research, somewhere between 20 million and 50 million tons of electronic products are discarded annually throughout the world, with PVC being one of the largest contributors.
E-waste that doesn’t end up in a landfill for hundreds of years is burned or exported, according to the EcoKable website. Old electronic parts are often scavenged for valuable metals such as copper wires by burning the PVC insulation and releasing bad toxins into the atmosphere.
The natural cotton insulation in EcoKable’s products gives consumers a better option to charge their cell phones and transfer data, Rauhala said.
Cassidy is a 27-year-old Wisconsin native who landed in California with a job working with the PGA Tour.
He switched gears and moved to Solana Beach about two-and-a-half years ago for a position with Insulindependence — Cassidy is diabetic — a Solana Beach-based company with a mission to “unite, expand and support the active diabetes community.”
His wife was hired by Rauhala at Pear Sports, which produces a “mobile training intelligence” system.
Cassidy said he was intrigued when his wife brought home one of the cables.
“Living in Solana Beach makes you more aware of the need for sustainable products,” he said. So does being someone like Cassidy who enjoys outdoor sports such as biking, swimming and triathlons.
“When you’re outside you realize there are a lot of things out there worth taking care of,” he said. “The cables are safer for the environment. Even if they end up in a landfill, which I hope they don’t, they will break down much easier.
“People are trying to make good choices,” he added. “They won’t live in a hut in the woods but they will compost.
If consumers are given two choices they will usually choose the one that’s better for the environment.”
EcoKable’s products cost about the same as traditional cables and are shipped in environmentally friendly packaging.
Right now the company offers mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple 30-pin to USB cables through its website only. For an additional $2.50, EcoKable will include a return shipping label to recycle used PVC cables.
Next up are lightning cables for Apple devices.
Cassidy said he hopes to convince companies as well as individuals to make the switch.
“When you look in any office there are endless amounts of cables behind computers,” he said.
As a resident in the San Diego city that is generally on the forefront of environmental sustainability, Cassidy said he may even make a pitch to Solana Beach City Hall.
Visit ecokable.com for more information.