I'm currently a co-owner of a small renovations contractor in a small city (~50k) in northern Wisconsin. My equipment consists of a 7x14' trailer full of tools, large diesel truck, and minivan. All of these pieces of equipment are near catastrophic failure, but see at least weekly use. We do not have a location for office, shop, or indoor parking of any of our equipment.

For all my previous careers, I've been able to operate without vehicles or large equipment which has satisfied my personal environmental goals, but it seems extremely unlikely that I'll be able to do any sort of single/double family residential construction without gas powered vehicles, and especially because most customers would scoff at seeing a contractor show up on a bicycle.

Despite this, I'm wondering what different aspects of this I should really be looking at in regards to sustainability. Is driving my old leaky minivan and finding locally sourced and milled lumber more important than riding my bike to site and having box store lumber delivered all the way from Oregon? What's the impact of owning and moving around a wide variety of tools? Could this even be economically competitive with all the other specialized contractors who are willing to drive from a county away to do short, specific tasks?

I conceivably have access to build any type of trailer for bicycles. I'm fabricating a trailer for a local bike delivery service that can hold 1000 pound pallets, this person could also deliver some types of lumber for me. We can assume that my budget is high, operating costs are low, but time is short. I'm interested in any types of stories, success or failure, of people running handyman/carpenter/trade businesses to be more sustainable.

  • 1
    A large enough bicycle might hardly be recognised by customers as such. Would they scoff at that? Can add a trailer for bulky stuff. I don't know your customers, but you might get free advertising in regional newspapers :)
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


No affiliation, but I have proof-ridden an Urban Arrow Tender at a large bicycle trade fair in Germany, and it would seem to fit a lot of stuff:

Urban Arrow Tender
Urban Arrow Tender. Source: Greenbike Shop

Competitors exist. A regular engine will go up to 25 km/h, but as an S-Pedelec you could pedal up to 45 km/h (or whatever the US equivalent limits are), competitive with speeds driving a car for moderate distances (I don't know if they exist as S-Pedelecs; you'd some pretty good breaks to stop quickly if this beast is fully loaded, and personally I find that 25 km/h already feels quite fast — riding such a bike takes some getting used to!).

Perhaps the vendor would tell you some "success stories"?

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