The Best Gear for Your Environment

One of the most intriguing dichotomies that outdoor athletes must address is gear. Great gear is awesome, don’t get me wrong. A wetsuit that keeps us toasty in 50 degree water is amazing. Mountain bikes that allow us to climb and descend with formerly unknown speed and control are breathtaking. Skis that excel in poor snow only make us crave our mountain time more. There are few arguments that the new gear is inferior to the older stuff. If we were to ask Shackleton if he’d like to trade up from the seal skin jacket and meal to a gore tex shell and some dehydrated beef stroganoff I reckon we know how he’d go. But the gear can also create a greater divide between us and the environment we love.

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Nice bike, that’ll be 8500…hours?

    But why wouldn’t we jump in line at the register at the outdoor shop or fill the online cart at the website of our choice and have the latest and greatest delivered to our front door? Perhaps because we all love the planet. Some love the city and it’s trappings, some the wilderness, and most of us a blend of the two. And for the fortunate few of us getting folks out into the wilderness is our calling. My job is to get people to fall in love with the wilderness so they’ll develop a connection to it and want to defend it. Ya know, vote for it (come on people!), pay for it, or put in some old fashioned elbow grease for it. So try these on for you and the planet, three reasons to consider before buying the latest kit for your outdoor adventures.

 

    Reason one – New stuff needs to be built from raw material that is part of the planet. A good reason to love wooden boats and clay pottery eh? I recollect a statistic that stated that on average the new product that you hold in your hand represents only 10 percent of the raw material that went into creating it. Ow. My new bike tires left 10 times their weight in resources in a landfill, tailings pond, forest floor, or in the atmosphere. That’s a lot of bulldozer and co2 for my schralping.

    Two – Maintaining and repairing gear is good work and keeps your old stuff out of the landfill. Yup, the ding dude, sewing bro, and mechanic chick are saving your stuff and our planet. Right in your neighborhood. And probably getting more trail and water time than you. Support your local community and keep your gear alive.

   Three – Money is time. No, not the other way around. Buying the latest requires money, and that predicates office time. Productivity is what makes the world go ‘round, but that money/time equation reduces your outdoor time. And more importantly interpersonal time.  Family time, road trips with the girls, sessions with the bros. You know, the best of times.

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OK, maybe not second hand helmets…

Please don’t think I don’t buy new though, there are bits I recognize as critical new parts. On my bikes it is new tires and drive trains. Second hand windsurf masts and wetsuits aren’t my preference. And nothing beats a fresh bar of wax. I’ll  take mine in a cardboard box over the plastic wrap, thank you very much. We don’t need to get monastic about this stuff, sometimes we just need to resist the marketing hype for another season. I can’t wait for my favorite new bike to be turned out of the rental fleet and secretly hope my buddies are upgrading their boards so I can score their hand-me-downs. A day or two of ding repair and they’ll ride as good as new. Is it really a clearer conscience if I buy their cast-off? At least I didn’t miss the last session because I was at the office working so I could afford the latest. We’ve all got our own challenges that we face but I hope you’ll take pause before going all in on the next big buy. I’ll take my queue from the happiest kid at the pumptrack!

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Fat Tire Friendships

Recently I got a call from Tawn Kennedy of the local bike-advocacy group Greenways to School asking if I’d like to join the Mission Hill Bike Club for a Wednesday ride. Heck yeah!

Bike Club is amazing. It’s a chance for about 20 students to get together and pedal locally while interacting and challenging each other. I absolutely love riding with kids. The unbridled energy and lack of distraction ensures that everyone is going to have a good time. It takes me back to my days as a kid on a bike and the relatively carefree attitude that we all had before jobs, rents and relationships.

– See more at: http://www.hilltromper.com/article/kids-bikes-friendship#sthash.pz9o8PYT.dpuf

Reflections on the Scotts Valley Plastic Bag Ban Debate

Reflections on the Scotts Valley Plastic Bag Ban Debate.

Thanks Russell and Civinomics for covering the bag ban issue in Scotts Valley. You can be certain I’ll do everything I can to avoid spending money in Scotts Valley. If their council can’t be bothered to do the right thing for the environment then I can’t support their businesses that will most likely continue to dispense the single use plastic plague.

Basic Mountain Bike Skills Clinic Saturday 11/23/13

Ever wonder how those people on the video seem to float over rocky sections of trail and backflip over 72-foot canyons? We won’t be learning to backflip but the basic skills that you’ll pick up at Saturday morning’s free clinic will inject the confidence into your riding that you’ll need to take it to the next level.

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Sean Floats

IMBA certified mountain biking instructors Dave Robinson and Sean Andrasik will be taking us through the basics of bicycle setup, body positioning, shifting, and braking. This clinic will precede the 10am Emma McCrary slow ride hosted by Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC). After the clinic we will climb and descend the MBoSC built Emma McCrary trail and take time to “session” the more challenging, and fun, sections of the trail to help build skills amongst all of us!

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Kelly Flips

Sean and Dave’s primary goal is for everyone to enjoy a safe and fun morning on the bike. Join us and build your confidence aboard your bike this Saturday November 23 at 9:30am at the corner of Highway 9 and Golf Club Drive!

Watching Whales, Learning to Sail….

After checking the forecast for the day (wind variable, five knots or less) I headed down to the harbor with a good bit of concern. What could new sailors possibly gain from sailing lessons without wind? Little did I know that the ocean would come to our rescue, once again.

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Two snoozing humpbacks blew fishy snores at us while we drifted around them.

 More here….

Greening the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

Few things in life go together better than mountain bikes, friends, and beer. These three things are at the core of the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival and a big reason that we sought to be a part of the organization that produces the event. The event also provides an opportunity to extend the reach of the conservation message and it is one of the few opportunities to get in front of nearly 10,000 people in just two days. The mountain bike community provides a perfect audience for the conservation message, fit individuals who enjoy engaging in athletic pursuits in nature, who better to coach on being better environmental stewards?

photo credit Karen Kefauver

photo credit Karen Kefauver

Minimizing the environmental impact of the event goes hand in hand with messaging about improved stewardship. The planning, implementation, and follow up surrounding these efforts is termed “greening” and takes a number of different forms. Planning to minimize the event’s impact involves a tremendous amount of communication with municipalities, vendors, waste haulers, and the event marketing team. We contacted vendors and let them know that excessive packaging was the enemy. One of the largest components of municipal waste streams is packaging and it surrounds nearly everything we purchase. We worked with the county to ensure that we were in compliance with their progressive ordinances; they have banned Styrofoam food ware and plastic shopping bags. We contacted the hauler to secure wheelie bins and dumpsters in the appropriate ratio, as well as compost bins. We also worked closely with our marketing team to ensure that we messaged our participants to carpool or ride their bikes (People Power provided bike valets). We even managed to run completely off the grid thanks to the support of three local solar companies (Allterra, Sandollar Solar, and Moved by Bikes).

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The one aspect that excited me the most was the challenge to eliminate the need for bottled water at the event. As every athlete knows water is the most crucial component in assuring performance. With multiple competitive events from short track and pump track races to a dirt jump competition we had to have water available to our guests. But bottled water is emblematic of a plague that continues to wreak havoc on our environment, marketing. Most people have been sold the idea that bottled water guarantees safety and convenience, but in reality it delivers neither.

  • Municipal water quality standards are higher than those of the bottled water industry
  • Tap water is available from every tap, not just at the supermarket or convenience store.
  • Tap water is cheaper than bottled, averaging $.0025/gallon vs $5.00/gallon on average in America.

Prior to the event Inspired Stewardship developed a relationship with Zuvo Water and in concert we developed a water dispensing “bar” that delivered high quality, great tasting water at no cost to our visitors. Our marketing efforts encouraged visitors to bring their own container and for those who didn’t we provided an environmentally friendly cup. Those with camelbacks appreciated the water the most as they were able to refill their water bladders with some of the best water they had ever tasted. And it was at the water station that we were able to deliver the reinforcing message that they were saving oil and money by drinking tap water, win-win!

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In the end our guests were treated to an experience that left a very small footprint on the planet and instilled a renewed sense of community and responsibility for the environment. I can see those that purchased our stainless beer mugs lounging after a ripping ride for years to come looking at the logo from the Santa Cruz Mountain Biking Festival thinking, what fun. Now turn off that computer and throw your leg over your bike and make the world a healthier place!

How Gravity Trails Will Save the Environment

Wait, wait! I thought downhill mountain biking trails destroyed ecosystems, what are you selling here? Isn’t downhill mountain biking all about young kids skidding down sheer cliffs, creating huge ruts that carry all the dirt off the mountain? In a word, no.

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Gravity trails are another term for steeper than average trails designed for descending. They are indeed typically frequented by the younger portion of the mountain biking demographic that is more endorphin driven. I’ve heard of these riders referred to as the Red Bull generation more than once. This is the group most often targeted as bad for the image of our sport and are at the nexus of the trail access controversy. They are sometimes identified as the “rogue trailbuilders” who are cutting lines on the hillside that are most prone to erosion. They are often ostracized within the sport and targeted by authorities for ticketing on the “illegal” trails that they prefer. And they are our best hope for environmental advocates for generations to come.

Without trails or representation the gravity set will continue to be pushed to the margins of our sport except in the handful of mountainbike parks and enlightened trail systems here in America. History shows that marginalized populations push back against convention which creates conflict that often results in police action and a negative perception by the community at large. And if convention succeeds, they relent and move back into the shadows and abandon what they love. Do we really want more kids spending their lives inside playing video games rather than outside, getting fit, working in the wilderness?

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Now instead of a circle of kids around a police officer with his ticket book out imagine them lined up with shovels and McLeods in hand on your favorite trail. Imagine your city council meeting packed with high school students taking their turn in front of the microphone imploring the need for more sustainable trails. Imagine your kids training all year on local trails to tune up for competition around the country. Isn’t that a better picture? This is a reality in Canada and New Zealand, and a rare sight here in the US.

Sustainable gravity trails exist around the world and they are spawning an enlightened environmental ethic. Not only do these trails provide opportunities to learn about building trails and protecting wilderness, but they lead to wiser personal choices that benefit the environment (think re-useable water bottles, trash cleanups, and diminishing carbon footprints). Activity in the outdoors provides time for reflection and provides a perspective on humankind that can’t be had in front of the TV, in the car, or in the boardroom. Gravity trails aren’t just for the youth either, there are plenty of aging adrenaline addicts out there. And we need to get the ball rolling.

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The future of our planet rests in the generations to come. The next John Muir is taking the bus to school today and will ride their downhill bike afterwards. And she desperately needs a legal place to ride that bike. If we criminalize their favorite activity, their love for the trail, who will be left to take care of it? Gravity trails can save the environment. Please join me in supporting the development of more gravity trails. Learn about what is happening in your area to support trails by joining your local mountain biking club or visit IMBA to see what they are doing nearby.

Trail(or) Trash

You may be starting to wonder what the weird photos are in the margin of this site. Looking closer they are, yes, trash. Trail trash. So…what’s the deal here?

I hate trash. I love trash. Trash tells us so much about who is directly impacting the environment beneath our feet. For the past seven years I’ve studied ocean trash, picking up refuse that is floating in the water and on beaches. Good money in it? Nope. I’ve been doing it to learn about who is polluting and where. Not so easy to sort out considering ocean currents, photo degradation, and marine organisms’ rapid population of anything in the water. But we’ve leveraged this information to help support Styrofoam and plastic bag bans, to help regional planners understand how their cities impact our ocean, and to educate the public. The end result? Marine debris collection and advocacy is at an all time high and densities of targeted waste are already declining. But why on land?

Marine Debris

I love trails. I love chasing the guy in front of me, I love nudging my buddies into the bushes as were blasting down the trail, I love the endorphins that come from a strenuous ride, and I love stewardship. I am a fan of nearly every activity that gets more people out into the wilderness. I firmly believe that if we want people to fight for the environment, they must first love it. But trash detracts from that love. Trash demonstrates a lack of respect for the environment and those that love it. Trash also demonstrates a misconception that has been held by too many for far too long, that the earth will take care of all our mistakes. The best way for me to demonstrate my love for the trail is to pick up after those idiots (and show up for trailwork days)!

Excuse me, did you drop something?

So what do the photos show? Too many people still use single use waterbottles. Cigarette butts…really! That’s how we enjoy the fresh air? Beer cans, check. Plastic packaging, of course. The bulk of what I pick up daily is packaging and plastic bags. But what are those tiny rectangular bits in the photos? The torn off tops from energy packets (Gu, no thank Yu!).* Who uses those? Cyclists and runners primarily. I see 10+ cyclists for every runner, so I think it’s mostly the cyclists. And students. My ride takes me through the UCSC campus, so I see the streets and trails twelve months a year. And there sure has been a whole lot more trash blowing around campus since September 22 this year….

How do you express your love of the trail? Pick up the trash. Come on people! Every time somebody sees you doing the right thing it triggers a significant pause. Why is he doing that? What is he picking up? Who dropped it there in the first place? Get your whole crew onboard, imagine the impact then!

Get your crew on the clean trail program!

Please join us in being part of the solution, and help spread the love known as environmental stewardship. Trashing our trails is counterintuitive…trail(or) trash, you can be the difference!

Clif’s Litter Leash

*Of note on litter leashes, Gu has made a point of arguing that they save 20-40% on packaging by not including a litter leash. Saves them cash and arguably saves the planet’s resources. But how many complete packets do you see in the photos? BTW, Clif Shots have the litter leash. Does big trash absolve some of the little trash challenges? You make that decision with every purchase you make.

Stop and Smell the Roses, er, DIRT (shut down your computer and help out this weekend)!

 “WHOOOAAAA!!”… the unmistakable, unabashed howl of getting airborne on my bike, flying through the crisp air and feeling like I suddenly grew wings the size of an albatross!  THUD.  That would be the jolting sound of my body slamming into the dirt and reality setting in as I realize neither my bike or I have wings of any sort and the log I was trying to huck over had attacked me and pitched me into the terra firma.  Dragging myself up from a rather pretzel-like position, I look up and catch the highly amused expression on my partner Dave’s face…and then the Geico reptile blows by us both on a tricycle.

All true with the exception of actually seeing the famous car insurance critter on wheels.  That’s only partially true because it happened in a dream I had last night.  I woke up from this unique reverie with an intense desire to head out for a long, grueling ride on the trails (sans the Geico charger), and it couldn’t happen fast enough.  Oh wait!  This little thing called ‘LIFE’ with its day to day responsibilities, challenges, and ceaseless to-do lists must take precedence over my insatiable thirst to pedal myself silly for several hours.

I opened the bedroom curtains and saw another beautiful day had begun in Santa Cruz with cerulean blue skies, the temperature hovering around 65 degrees, and a refreshing light breeze carrying a mildly salty scent from the nearby sea.  Despite the fact that I had budgets, resumes, chores, and the always harrowing task of figuring how to stretch one paycheck to the next on my mind, all I wanted to do was RIDE.  My mind drifted to the last time I embarked upon a major pedal that literally left me writhing on the pavement  with every muscle in my body on fire; the Demo Forest in Aptos, CA.

At the top of Demo with friends, anticipating the descent!

Demo is brutal.  Elevation Gain/Loss +4,568/-4,439…sweet single-track trails and some epic technical sections but the climbing is truly diabolical in my humble opinion.  Dave was preparing me for this ride for weeks, and I worked for it though in the end I realized I could have pushed myself a bit harder.  No, I am not a masochist.  Anyway…it’s incredibly beautiful up there (literally in the middle of nowhere), almost otherworldly.  The color green played itself out in a million personalities, from neon to lush and darkly mysterious.  How I noticed this while I was dripping with sweat, mumbling incoherently to myself, and questioning what I did to deserve such suffering, I’m not sure.

The agonizing ascension was well worth it.  Pedaling downhill, carving through epic berms, and hauling my bike into the air beneath me made me forget about the trials and tribulations of everyday life.  I was in the thick of it, enjoying the total mind-body-spirit connection with nature that’s unlike anything else.

My daydreaming ceased right there when my cell phone began to vibrate annoyingly against my leg.  I knew I didn’t have the time to do a Demo-type ride so I handled my necessary tasks, hopped on my bike, and rode a couple miles out from my house to West Cliff Drive (one of the most visually stunning roads in northern California, with ocean views that humble your heart and calm your soul).

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

My point?  Getting out of the proverbial box and enjoying the fresh air is a necessity.  You don’t always have to show your appreciation for nature by zooming at breakneck speed down a steep trail (or surfing a wave big enough to topple the Empire State Building) because sometimes mixing it up and slowing down allows you time to really notice the beauty that surrounds you.   When you take time to notice it, you begin to love it, and when you love it you conserve and protect it.

This Saturday is Make A Difference Day.  If you can’t make it Saturday join us Sunday at Nisene Marks State park (on the south side of Demo Forest) from 9:30 to 2 pm. Think about what you love about nature, and sign up for a project this weekend.  “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill

Contributed by Shawna Peak