Concept2 is one of the most well-known brand names in the rowing industry, and renowned for their indoor rowing machines, oars, and ergometers. The RowErg, which sells for $900, is one of Concept2’s most popular products and can be found in gyms and boathouses around the world, used by Olympic and collegiate rowing teams, Crossfitters, and general fitness enthusiasts.
Concept2 has made strides in transitioning to renewable energy and limiting the shipping process of the final product but they definitely have some work to do with the materials they use in their products and their transparency regarding how they source the materials for the RowErg. Although the RowErg is built to last, this same reason is what makes it unsustainable: it is made of non-biodegradable plastic that will last forever.
The RowErg has many individual components. It has an aluminum l-beam monorail with a stainless steel seat track, aluminum front legs, steel rear legs, a steel flywheel, a nickel chain, and a battery-powered PM5 performance monitor. The PM5 performance monitor requires two D cell batteries, but it also uses the power that is generated by the user while rowing, preserving the battery lifespan. The RowErg’s seat, flywheel enclosure, foot boards, and other plastic components are made from ABS. ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a non-biodegradable plastic that is also the main plastic used in LEGO bricks. ABS is commonly used for machine parts because of its durability and high melting point but is classified as a number 7 plastic. Number 7 plastics cannot be recycled like typical plastics and are frequently sent to the landfill to avoid the lengthy recycling process. RowErgs are built to endure heavy training, and the individual parts are replaceable. It does not require a lot of maintenance besides basic cleaning and should be a one-time purchase for the user.
Concept2’s website does not specify where their individual parts are sourced from and who manufactures them, and declares that their machines are assembled in their factory, which is somewhat misleading. The RowErgs are assembled, tested, and packaged in their Morrisville, Vermont factory, but the individual parts are sourced from other countries. After I did some more research I discovered that their PM5 monitors were being sourced by a contract manufacturer called Gabrian International, a company that helps businesses source aluminum and electronic products from Asia. Gabrian’s website specifies that Concept2’s manufacturing partner produces the PM5 in China, and an aluminum extrusion supplier in India produces the large aluminum monorail that is the main structure of the RowErg. Concept 2 also says on their website that they sell all of their products factory direct, eliminating any unnecessary shipping from other retailers. This eliminates extra shipping but it does not distract from the fact that the production of the RowErg is international and excessive.
According to their website, Concept2 has around 100 employees and all of them work on site at their headquarters. However, specific information regarding the employees and working conditions at their manufacturing partners’ factories is unknown. Concept2’s website also has a basic sustainability statement with some vague goals of enforcing recycling programs at their factory and trying to be zero-carbon by 2030. Even though the company has a sustainability statement, there is no in-depth plan published to outline the steps needed to meet these goals, implying that sustainability is not a high priority for Concept2. On the other hand, Concept2 does use solar energy to help power its headquarters and has a public website where users can view the power produced every day by the solar panels. I think this is a step in the right direction, and I appreciate that anyone is able to monitor the renewable energy they are actually producing and using, but Concept2 does not have this data in an easily accessible part of their website.