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?
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).
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!
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!