On Two Wheels.
It’s pretty hard to be ‘earth-concious’ whilst living a day-to-day existence travelling by bicycle. Some might think that all the airmiles we’re saving by cycling means we can be more extravagant and more wasteful in other areas of life. But no we are committed to a “less waste, more life” philosophy. Here are some tips we’ve learnt along the way.
1) Get long life materials where possible.
This means if you are going to buy something then buy good quality items not single use/short life items. We buy items that are built to last because a transient lifestyle means you will use those few items every single day in all weathers. We splashed out on amazing sleeping bags, a simple but sturdy stove and pot and old secondhand bicycles. Most new mass-produced bicycles are made with cheap parts and buying secondhand means that our life philosophies of contributing to a cyclical unwasteful culture instead of the new.useonce.throwaway modern one is the centre post of our transient life.
2) If you can find an alternative which means you reuse instead of using once then at least try it.
This is a bit of a convoluted sentence but basically it means: try to look at everything in your lifestyle and find ways to change habits which are destroying our earth. For example, when we’re cycling we are always astounded by the sheer amount of little plastic packs of half used hankies. It makes us so angry! Why keep buying these useless things? Get a couple of beautiful fabric hankies, cherish and use those. I love my hankie (a legacy from my unknown grandparent) and I would be devastated if I lost it. How many people who use plastic hankie packs can say that?
Look at all the things you use and see what you can live without. Some easy ones are chewing gum, tooth floss (buy refillable organic biodegradable silk from DentalLace), shower less, stop taking supplements, eat more loose vegetables (ie. not wrapped in plastic), buy local products, stop using commercial toothpaste (there are better-for-your-mouth natural alternatives), use loose natural soap, stop using washing up liquid and clothes washing liquid (again there are natural, cheap, easy, effective alternatives), flush your toilet less (eg. only after a poop), don’t buy frivolous items (eg. useless plastic items, single serve sachets or packs, etc), ask around for things you might need temporarily, eg. power drill, instead of buying, don’t use essential oils, wash your clothes and bedding less often, mend clothes, never buy bottled water, watch less TV, buy secondhand more, invest in quality items, find creative ways to use leftover food, open your home to strangers, eat seasonally, cook from scratch, give things away….. the list goes on and on.
None of these things I’ve mentioned will impact your life badly. If anything you will have more time, less ‘stuff’ and less worry. Nothing bad will happen to you if you come into contact with a bit of dirt. If anything your immune system will thank you for it.
3) Buy less from supermarkets.
Most of the time whilst cycling we buy food per day because it is easier, lighter and we don’t attract animals at night when we are asleep in our tent. We try out best to buy from locals who use reusable or organic materials or from bakeries who use paper packaging. If you are living in one place then eliminating the supermarket is a far easier thing to do.
Look into small local producers who care about what they are making/selling. Build a relationship with the people and food in your local community. Get involved with a community garden or growing your own. Try to not support supermarkets. The food they sell is dead (not nutritious), unhealthy (full of sweetners, corn syrup and additives) and destructive to habitats and communities (where did your soya milk/steak/vegetables come from? How was it produced? Who was harmed in the making of that product? (And FYI you won’t find any of the answers you’re looking for on the packaging!)
4) If you can make it then make it.
We decided from the beginning that we didn’t want to spend loads of money on flashy panniers. We thought it through for about a month or so considering the options, looking in bins late at night and asking round. Eventually we made our panniers from old plastic fuel canisters and used heavy metal wire as hooks. We still have those same panniers after nearly 5,000 km. Heavy duty, durable, gorgeous, made by our own fair hands and loved unconditionally. There is also the added benefit that since we made these ourselves then we can very easily maintain and repair them ourselves.
This might also make you more in tune with the ‘true-cost’ of the cheap products we have available to us in high-street shops and online. If you make your own trousers, for example, you realise the time and effort it takes to make (took me two days – with expert help). Not to mention the materials. For example, what is the ‘true-cost’ of cheap cotton to the environment? Or the happiness and wellbeing of the people working on a cotton plantation? Maybe switching to organic cotton from a trustworthy brand is a step towards ‘true-cost’?
5) Think outside of everything you’ve been told.
We are told a lot of lies growing up in capitalist culture and most people blindly go along with it. But what if you start to question all the little things you’ve been told? Well that’s the exciting bit. Learning from other cultures and seeing other world views whilst cycling from one country to another is a beautiful adventure into the depths of your prescribed faith/culture/lifestyle and beyond.
I happen to have been born in a Protestant part of Northern Ireland with strict faith, between many starched pious faces and narrow minded petty views (and I agree that every faith has these kinds of people but I speak only of my own experiences). But the world (thank Allah/God/nothing/Mother Earth/something) is not just made up of these people or their faith or their world views. The point is: people and cultures and places that are not our ‘own’ (and I say this in inverted commas because I don’t believe in borders or flags or owning land/property) have a lot to teach us.
For example, we were looking to buy a bike stand for Albert’s bike because he had to constantly either be on it, hold it or prop it. We met another cyclist (Spanish/Argentinan) and he just had found a long wooden stick with a natural V bit at the top to hold the frame. It was amazingly simple and we were admiring it and his genius. We are always learning amazing tricks from people we meet.
Before (before here means my life before bike packing) if milk went off I would throw it in the compost but now I throw it in a batch of pancakes. Tastes like heaven. Partly this is because I’ve been going through a food revolution the past years and partly it’s because I don’t prescribe to food waste any more. I have seen so much food be thrown out on my life by housemates, colleagues, friends or relatives and I ask myself why? People might just think I’m greedy but really I am just incensed at their lack of care and lack of awareness.
Can you really not eat leftover rice? Why can’t I eat what’s left of my kebab from last night? So what if the cheese is five days past its use by date – how does it smell/look/taste? What’s wrong with open passata that’s been in the fridge for three weeks? Can’t you scrape that mouldy bit off the jam? Can’t you use stale bread for breadcrumbs? Oh you’d rather buy Paxo breadcrumbs? Um. Okay.
6) Try your best.
It’s hard to not get angry at people who don’t understand what it means to have a minimal impact on our earth, but the world is made up of many different people in different circumstances with different life views. Not everyone believes in climate catastrophe or wants to ‘reduce’ their current lifestyle of over-convenience.
And I’m not saying that I don’t get angry, I find it hard to stop the hate I have in myself for our wasteful and murderous society and how I have been inducted (nor have I even been presented unbiased information so I can make an informed choice) into this madness by my own culture and upbringing. Do I just have to have that top made by small underrepresented hands living an incessant life of work work work for pennies? Or do I just have to have that coconut milk latte even though thousands of animals have died and precious habit lost? Do I just have to have it? And unfortunately yes, in spite of everything I know, sometimes I do have it.
I know it’s difficult. We only see the end product, not everything that has come before it reached our shelves but just imagine that it was you. You are those small hands or that beautiful rich wild rainforest or you are that person whose home is being ripped apart.
I try my best. And often fail. I am the product of so many misguided ideologies. But I’m also trying to look past that and try to live a life which is more caring and considerate of the earth.
7) Tell people.
If you’re on a road of discovery then talk about your experience. Talking about new ideas might get other people thinking or they might come to you for advice or discussion on a particular topic. If you do start using a fabric hankie then just mention it when you see someone using a disposable tissue. If you make something yourself that you would otherwise have bought, be proud and tell people.
Start a seed of thought. It might not go anywhere but in this world of mindlessness it is good for the people around you and closest to you to hear that someone is thinking and someone is doing. Don’t forget that it is in living-memory that the world has leaped to mass-production, over-consumption and fatal destruction. Within living-memory. Many people think that others will just sort all the hard issues of the world out for them. But it starts with each of us changing things in our own communities. Thinking and questioning everything. To talk and open discussion on the big issues affecting us right now. Today. #extinctionrebellion#
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