Alexander Tsao, an avid rock climber, noticed that the ropes in his local gym were frequently being replaced with new ones. So he asked the gym owners and found out they were discarded regularly for safety reasons – with most of them being sent to landfills.
Climbing ropes are designed with built-in stretch to cushion falls, but only for a limited number. Once they get too stretched out for safety, they can no longer be used and need to be replaced.
“This discovery made me want to devise a solution to the environmental issue of climbing rope waste,” Tsao, 16, told Treehugger.
He then brainstormed different ways to repurpose the old ropes and finally came up with the idea to turn them into dog leashes. After months of designing and testing his products, he launched an online store to sell them. His own rescue dog Jinger took the role of product tester.
Tsao sources old ropes from climbing gyms, saving them from landfills while reducing the cost of raw materials. The ropes are washed, dried, and then cut into various lengths. The ends are burned to prevent them from fraying, and a clip and handle are added to each end, then finally covered with shrink tape.
“After realising that I could transform the retired ropes into dog leashes, I decided to direct my proceeds towards no-kill shelters, combining my passions for the environment and animals,” Tsao told Treehugger. “Both causes have always been important to me as my parents taught me about sustainability from a young age, and we own a rescue ourselves.”
More than 1000 leashes have been sold since the organisation’s launch, saving around 10,000 feet of rope from the landfill and raising thousands of dollars for animal shelters. Tsao also donates the profits and leashes to other local animal rescue groups.