Kweku Larbi dreamed up Baxter Wood. He didn’t know who or what Baxter Wood was, but when the phrase came to him in a dream, he knew it was the perfect name for the eco-conscious rainwear brand he was preparing to launch.
Later, he learned about Baxter Woods, a 29-acre nature reserve in Portland, Maine. It was a donation from Percival P. Baxter, a philanthropist who gave up his property inheritance to save the land’s natural state. But the like-minded founder’s philosophy was just a happy coincidence. “I’ve never been to Maine,” Larbi says.
Baxter Wood, founded in 2018, sells rain boots and coats made from recycled and natural materials. While eco-friendly, vegan rubber boots are becoming more common, the Indianapolis-based startup sets itself apart with two social programs: a purchase-funded sustainability education program in Larbi’s home country of Ghana and a new Buy Back program that allows shoppers to send in their old rubber boots for a $30 credit.
Larbi grew up 10 minutes from Ghana’s largest garbage dump, so the permanence of trash is never far from his mind. “The smell was everywhere,” he remembers. “Everyone would ignore it. They would see it and walk past it.”
When he arrived in Cleveland for college, he saw his classmates all wearing the same tall, clunky rubber wellies. Larbi and his fiancée and co-founder, Sarah Smith, decided to develop their own black, lug-sole Chelsea Boot. But with trash on his mind, he was determined to make sustainably: from 100% natural hevea tree-derived rubber from Sri Lanka, with elastic gussets and color-blocked bottoms. (“Even if you’re a minimalist, you still have a favorite color,” said Larbi.) They opted for an ankle height to help mitigate the need to swap out for indoor shoes once you’re out of the rain.
Likewise, the brand’s Trawler Raincoat, which launched in 2019, is a take on the classic fisherman’s jacket. Except Baxter Wood’s is constructed with polyurethane-coated rPET polyester—each coat is made from 22 recycled plastic bottles. The coats are sealed and welded at the seams for a waterproof finish.
Larbi hopes to close the loop with Baxter Wood’s new Buy Back program, in partnership with a Michigan company that shreds and processes old rubber boots and turns them into sports turf and punching bags. Customers can send back any rubber boot (not just ones from Baxter Wood) for a $30 credit to the site.
“We don’t care about the brand, if it’s a rubber boot, we’ll take it,” said Larbi. “We don’t think it makes sense for a pair of rubber boots to be worn for four years and then stick around for 400 more.”
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