Bambike founder Bryan Benitez McClelland talks of a life rooted in sustainability and why he appreciates seeing automakers like Lexus expand their range of electrified vehicles
In the 16 years that Bryan Benitez McClelland has lived in the country, the Filipino-American entrepreneur has made quite an impact as a fierce eco-warrior. He has proudly introduced and popularised a line of innovative, handmade bamboo bicycles known as Bambikes, which are crafted locally in partnership with the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation. With fair-trade labour and green building practices at the heart of the enterprise, socio-ecological purpose is what undoubtedly fuels McClelland’s business and, by extension, his life.
McClelland’s passion for sustainability sprouted early in his childhood. “When I was a kid, I went to a summer camp called Keewaydin in rural Vermont that was geared towards outdoor activities and adventure trips. So many of my formative experiences happened there,” he muses. “Living in cabins and tents while also exploring forests, lakes and rivers really brought me to appreciate the wonders of nature and a desire to protect our environment. ‘Help the other fellow’ and ‘leave no trace behind’ were our mottos. These have stuck with me and guided my journey through life.”
His affinity for the outdoors led him to study environmental resource management at the University of Pennsylvania. It was at this point that sustainability truly became a kind of anchor for McClelland. Soon after graduate school, he moved to the Philippines, linked up with Gawad Kalinga and the rest was history. “Having discovered that creating bikes out of bamboo was possible, as a Filipino and as a bike rider, I knew it had to be done here in the Philippines,” he recounts. “At that time, the term ‘social enterprise’ wasn’t really being used yet, but I just felt that this business could address some of the large problems that we faced, like climate change and poverty. We had renewable natural resources available and a need for value-added job creation in rural areas; plus, biking is just a really practical mobility solution and a lot of fun.”
It has now roughly been 13 years since McClelland built his first Bambike, and the entrepreneur has since been recognised as an ambassador by the World Bamboo Organisation. As he has recently been devoting more time to a project by the ocean to protect sensitive coral reef ecosystems, it’s no surprise that McClelland’s days
now never quite follow the same routine. He says, “My time is split between working on Bambike and with my other team at Batala Bar, where we always end our eco tours in Intramuros. It’s a pretty good day if I get to ride around on a bamboo bike and eat some Filipino ice cream with our guests.”
While his transportation around the city is mostly solved by an electric Bambike, McClelland states that his preference for long-haul and out-of-town trips is, unsurprisingly, driving a hybrid electric vehicle. “In order to really mitigate the effects of climate change, we have to work on numerous fronts; and more sustainable mobility solutions have to be a part of that,” he relays. “For quite some time now, I’ve been seeing the numbers of electrified vehicles going up in the US, with members of my family driving electric cars as well. It is really good to finally see more electrified vehicles hitting the streets here in the Philippines.”
McClelland further narrows down his car of choice to three things: utility, quality and sustainability. The vehicle needs to be well-made and reliable for his safety and peace of mind, while being able to load up all his gear and balance energy efficiency over its lifetime. It’s for these reasons and more that he admires the Lexus brand and its electrified range.
Aligned with McClelland’s personal mission, Lexus has expanded its ES lineup to introduce the hybrid electric ES 300h Luxury variant. Designed for those who appreciate higher levels of comfort and convenience while rooted in the ecological nature of Lexus’ hybrid electric drive technology, this sleek ride exhibits an uncompromising level of sophistication, excellent fuel efficiency and exhilarating performance for the futureforward car enthusiast.
McClelland recently got to see and experience the vehicle at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Quezon City, where he enthused: “The dedication of their Takumi masters at Lexus to excellent craftsmanship is what stands out to me the most. I respect the attention to detail and focus on quality in their manufacturing process. Just as in building our Bambikes, there are no shortcuts; it is the years of experience and well-honed skills of their craftsmen, and our Bambuilders, that make all the difference in how you encounter the finished products.”
He finally shares some advice for anyone who strives for a more sustainable lifestyle: “By making conscious and informed choices about how we live—what we eat, the types of structures we build, where and how often we travel, and how we get from place to place—we can make cumulative improvements and shift our society down a more regenerative path.” Truly exemplifying how this advocacy is a well-rounded and lifelong pursuit, McClelland fittingly remarks, “To describe myself in one word, I would have to use the term ‘bambuhay’, which for me is a way of life that embraces the physical characteristics of bamboo being flexible, resilient, malakas at maganda; and the versatility of the material, capable of being made into anything you can imagine.”