Riding the green wave
Biking 2,000 kilometres would be difficult for anyone, but for Mount Royal student Eily Sweeney, cycling from Calgary to Victoria this summer was more than just a physical challenge.
To draw attention to the ever-growing environmental issues facing the world, 22-year-old Sweeney decided to cycle to the west coast in a tour she named Ride the Wave.
“Basically it’s a bike tour to inspire young people through first-hand experience of Canadian environmental initiatives to get involved in the critical sustainable action of their own local communities,” she explained.
The now second-year university transfer student began planning for the excursion in May, shortly after exams, but said her passion for the environment began long ago.
“I have a deep value for nature and when I see what’s happening in the world, when I see a development across the road from my house . . . I really am uplifted to do something about it,” said Sweeney.
Shortly after coming to college, Sweeney joined Sustainable MRC and her passion continued to grow as she saw “the potential of youth involvement.”
“That was sort of the point when I felt that I finally could make a difference and it was that sense of fulfillment that I’m doing the most work that I can through my own campus,” she said.
The concept of Ride the Wave came to Sweeney while she was training for a triathlon. She approached her friend and fellow MRC student Alex Meyer, 23, and he gladly agreed to make the journey with her.
After over a month of planning, Sweeney was able to find sponsorship and raise $5,000 to fund the trip and create a website.
The Ride the Wave duo put foot to bike pedal on June 21 and after 54 demanding days ended up in Victoria on Aug. 18.
“We were cycling the whole time and we were boycotting any use of cars,” Sweeney said.
Along the way the two stopped at 23 sustainable initiatives focused on intentional communities and green building.
In addition to the environmental pit stops, Sweeney and Meyer spent three days at the Yasodhara Ashram, along Kootenay Lake, doing karma yoga, explained Sweeney.
At the Ashram, they met 26-year-old Mandi Walters, on her own personal bike tour from Spokane, Wash., who decided to join the Ride the Wave team for the remaining half of the trip.
“Having Alex with me and having three people, it was fabulous … cycling 2,000 kilometres by myself would not have been fun,” she said.
After the three finally made it to Victoria, Sweeney said they all realized how much they had learned along the way.
“It’s not just a bike ride, it’s not just physically demanding … I grew spiritually, physically, emotionally, in every way,” she said.
Seeing the numerous sustainable communities was a complete contrast from the hectic lifestyle of Calgarians, added Meyer.
“It really gave me a wonderful perspective on other ways of life,” he said. “It changed me.”
While summer is still months away, plans for Ride the Wave 2009 are already in the works, said Sweeney.
“Why I know this works is I see Alex and I see Mandi and I see how they’ve changed over this trip and how they’ve changed through connecting with people along the way,” said Sweeney.
Anyone interested in contributing to environmental awareness, Sweeney encourages to check out Sustainable MRC to make a change at the community level.
“It is the youth that’s going to push things through … we have the power to do something.”