Saved by Zero

Sometimes I think I lead a charmed life.

Recently I’d been thinking about adding a messenger bag to my ever expanding and contracting collection of bike-oriented bags. I was envisioning something simple with just a couple of pockets that would be ideal for carrying a book or two, some papers, and a phone and wallet. I’d use it for quick trips to the library, restaurant, or grocery store when I don’t feel like moving panniers from one bike to the other and I don’t need to carry much.

By chance, and without initially knowing what was up for grabs, I submitted a photo to Wend Magazine’s “Friday Photo” contest last month. The contest theme for January was “Alternative Transportation”, and even though I didn’t expect to win, I thought my photos might be a good fit so I took a chance and entered a couple just for kicks. Much to my surprise, one of my photos ended up taking first prize. [If you’re interested, see the Wend announcement here, and a better copy of the photo here. —ed.] I’ll give you one guess what the prize was. Yup, a Rickshaw Bagworks “ZERO” messenger bag. Like I said… “a charmed life.”

After receiving the bag, I looked into Rickshaw and was impressed by the low-impact manufacturing processes that go into the ZERO. Here’s the story from Rickshaw:

The ZERO is specially designed to optimize fabric cutting and eliminate material waste. The result is a distinctive and elegantly simple shoulder bag design, available in four sizes, and a wide variety of color combinations.

“We were inspired by the principles of the ‘zero waste’ manufacturing movement, for both its environmental and economic benefits. This notion made us think of patterning in rectangles that fully utilize a width of fabric so no scraps are produced. By eliminating scrap, our products are more cost-effective, which translates to better value for our customers, and our operation is more environmentally friendly,” explained Rob Honeycutt, Rickshaw’s Director of Operations, and designer of the ZERO bag.

In addition to wasteless manufacturing, the ZERO is made from scratch in Rickshaw’s new San Francisco factory, entirely from domestically sourced fabric, webbing, plastic components and labels, thereby shortening the raw material supply chain and reducing its ecological footprint. To facilitate recycling, the bag is made of 100 percent nylon, including the fabric, webbing, plastic components and labels. “The ZERO product line is the result of our most recent efforts in sustainable design,” explains Mark Dwight, Rickshaw founder and CEO. “We took a three-pronged approach to this design — eliminate manufacturing waste, minimize the supply chain footprint, and make the bag from a single material.” Dwight is a student of William McDonough’s Cradle-To-Cradle sustainable manufacturing philosophy, and wanted to create a mono-polymer product — in this case a “pure-play in nylon”. “This entire bag can go right into the shredder for recycling into carpet or some other nylon regrind product,” explained Dwight.

The ZERO is a beautiful and interesting bag. Around the base, the cloth is folded in-and-around itself, reminiscent of an origami crane, the technique being a part of the zero waste manufacturing design. It has a single flap, one large compartment, and a pair of smaller compartments in front. The construction looks good, though it’s not super heavy-duty (overbuilt?) like some messenger bags out there; my guess is that it’s geared more toward the casual user than the commercial messenger. In fact, the bag appears to be perfect for how I intend to use it, and I’m thrilled about Rickshaw and the good work they’re doing to reduce waste in the manufacturing process.

Many thanks to Wend Magazine for running their Friday Photo contest, and Rickshaw Bagworks for their contribution to the Friday Photo prize pool.

Rickshaw Bagworks
Wend Magazine

15 Responses to “Saved by Zero”

  • Karl OnSea says:

    “. . . charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.”

    So watch out for those cars on your trips to the library, restaurant or grocery store! And it’s probably best to keep an eye out for Burnham Wood too ;-)

    But it is a lovely bag though.

  • RJ says:

    “Small messenger bag.. to carry phone, wallet..”… are you sure you don’t mean “man purse”? ;)

  • Alan says:


    Hey, I resemble that remark!! ;-)

  • Doug says:

    Very nice! I’ve been thinking about procuring one of those.

  • uber says:

    would love to check out rickshaw, but their site crashes my firefox everytime i go there!

  • Dale says:


    The link to Rickshaw Bagworks keeps crashing Firefox. ???????

  • Ows says:

    How about sharing some of that luck around?!! :-D

  • Iain says:

    I have to say that the photos are excellent, you are too modest.

    @uber: make sure that you have the latest version of flash installed go to “about:plugins” in the address bar and then check the revision against what is available at Adobe’s wesbsite.

  • Thomas Barone says:

    CONGRATULATIONS Alan, very deserving ! But we regulars already knew your photography is outstanding now other people appreciate as well.

  • Alan says:


    It’s working OK in Firefox here. Like Iain mentioned, it’s a full-Flash site, so it’s probably a plugin issue.

  • Alan says:

    @Iain, Thom

    Thanks very much guys. Whatever I lack in skill I make up for with a lack of confidence… ;-)

  • brad says:

    A good similar alternative to consider is Tom Bihn’s Large Cafe Bag. I got one of these last autumn expecting to use it for running small errands on my bike, but my girlfriend liked it so much she’s been using it all winter and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get it back…it’s pretty much her bag now ;-)

    One thing that I didn’t see in the specs about the Zero is whether it’s water-resistant (or waterproof). If it’s not at least water-resistant that would be a deal-breaker for me.

  • beth h says:

    I saw the Rickshaw “Zero” bags at Interbike. I was impressed with their manufacturing approaches. Sadly, they are not waterproof, which was a deal-breaker for my Portland-based shop. But they’re very attractive all the same. Nice score, Alan.

  • Eddie says:

    Congratulations, Alan! I think Wend Magazine shows good photographic taste. The Rickshaw bags are awesome, especially in their minimal waste approach to design and manufacture. If you want to take a minimal waste approach as a do-it-yourself project and you are handy with a clothes iron and sewing machine you could make your own messenger bag out of plastic bags like this:

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Rickshaw Performance Tweed™ ZERO Messenger says:

    […] been using a Cordura nylon Rickshaw ZERO Messenger bag for over a year now and it’s become our favorite all-purpose messenger bag. It’s perfect for […]

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