Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Earth Day

Here's a heads-up for folks around here: I want to stir things up a bit come Earth Day (April 22nd). The Girl Guides have been faithfully marking the day with their Recycling Drive and Cookie Sale, every year since I don't know when. And every year that I've been involved, I've grumbled my way through it. We idle our trucks all over town for hours. We collect beverage containers and cash them in for the deposit money, and say we're doing people a favour. Oh, sure, we collect their other recyclables while we're at it, so that's a service, and it's good for the environment. Well, wait a minute. We do this once a year. What about the other 51 weeks? How is this a service? And like I said, we idle our trucks all over town. I will boldly wager without even bothering to estimate anything, that we do substantially more damage by burning that gasoline than any benefit we do by gathering those recyclables. Well, er, isn't it educational? For both the girls and the community?

Oh please! What exactly are we teaching? We can do better than that.

Last year, I tried a small challenge to the tradition. I meekly brought Garth along to drive my little old pickup truck, but I also brought my bike and trailer. With another mom and a troop of girls, I walked around our assigned collection and sales route, pushing my bike and toting our cookies and bottles in the trailer. Garth kept the truck parked with the engine off, except for a few short hops to meet us at the end of a block and see if we needed to unload.

It worked fine. In fact, it worked great, because the bike and trailer could follow the girls more closely than any motor vehicle, and there was no awkwardness about who gets to ride and who has to walk, or whether the whole group should hop in for a ride now and then.

Now if the Girl Guides wanted to try some real service, here's a suggestion. We could build several bike trailers, or beat the bushes for existing trailers buried in back of garages or up in attics. For any girls who were keen to participate, we could fit their bikes with good trailer hitches (axle mounted - see a video demo at the Wike site). Then, for Earth Day, we could run the Drive with one truck, yes, I said ONE truck, plus a fleet of bikes and trailers, and cell phones. The truck would stay parked at the recycling bins until it was called for.

But that's not all. After the Drive, for the rest of the year, yes, I said YEAR, the more senior girls would be available to collect recyclables from anyone who has difficulty getting down to the bins themselves. Perhaps they could make an arrangement with the grocery stores to help with deliveries, too. That would teach about closing a loop, tying the grocery shopping trip to the recycling trip in a meaningful cycle that will settle into habit.

For those of you who are grumbling about practical details: a toboggan works great when there's too much snow and ice for the bicycle. And to keep the bananas and tomatoes from harm at 30 below, an insulated food cooler for summer picnics can do winter duty. And if you're thinking that those seniors still need to get out to the store to choose their groceries anyway, actually they don't. Some phone in their orders, and there is even an Internet catalog for shopping online from Chapman's (though Kelly tells me it has never been used, but it's there if you want to try it out). And there are probably some seniors who would welcome the chance to walk safely downtown and back, unburdened by recycling and groceries, knowing that their selections from the stores would be delivered later by a cheerful Girl Guide.

Oh, but the work! Who would co-ordinate it all?

The girls.


Come on, people. Believe in them. If you won't, who will?


Dan Trabue said...

Sounds like a fun idea.

We have an Earth Day service at our church every year and I've tried a couple of times to talk those who were able in to biking there. I even thought it would be cool to rent some four passenger bikes (they're available here) to pick up some of those who can't make it under their own power.

There has yet to be a mass buy-in to the idea.

arcolaura said...

We rented a three-passenger bike (two reclining seats for pedallers, with a little seat for a child in between) when we drove Ruth to music camp at the Peace Gardens between Manitoba and North Dakota. It was great fun, and gave a much better view of the lawns and forests and lakes than peering out a car window.