Environmental Commitment

A cross-country trip such as ours will consume resources; however, we are committed to minimizing our environmental impact by leaving the smallest environmental footprint possible.

We plan to reduce our environmental impact in three key areas:

1. Travel:

Our route, the TransAmerica Trail, stretches 4,262 miles across the contiguous lower 48 states, a daunting distance no matter your choice of wheels. Our wheels, connected to a sturdy aluminum frame and balanced upon two tires about as wide as your thumb, will carry us every single mile. All this, without a single drop of petroleum.

The average passenger car travels 22.4 miles on a gallon of gas (US Dept. of State) and will emit 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon (EPA). A car following the TransAmerica Trail would thus produce about 3,961 pounds of CO2 over the duration of its trip from Virginia to Oregon, something we’re going to eliminate completely via some old fashioned hard work. Can a small group of committed citizens make a difference? That’s a resounding yes.

2. Food:

Local vs. large-scale industrial agriculture

The local foods movement is gaining momentum as Americans realize that eating locally raised produce and meat is a more sustainable and healthier alternative to food produced by large-scale industrial farming operations. Industrial farming tends to favor quantity over quality, promoting soil erosion, salinization, desertification, and the loss of soil fertility.1 In clear contrast, small farms promote the use of smart, sustainable practices that aim to maintain agricultural viability over the long run. The use of cover crops, for example, provides soil cover during times when plots lays fallow, preventing soil erosion and enriching the soil through eventual decomposition.2

Industrial agriculture  or  local farms?

Feed lots  or  free-range beef?

 

The oil connection

In addition, the transportation of industrially grown products from farm to table uses an incredible amount of energy, as indicated by the affirmation that, “If each U.S. citizen eats just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could collectively reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”2

What are we feeding to our kids?

In the long run, not only does supporting local food initiatives improve the sustainability of our current food system, it also provides numerous health benefits. Due to industry’s tendency to focus on quantity rather than quality, nutritional value has moved to the bottom of the industry’s priority list.  This has become apparent through studies, which demonstrate a gradual decline in the nutritional content of various crops tracked by the USDA, as well as the growing abundance of foods with added chemicals, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients that you would have never found in your great-grandmother’s pantry.1

In contrast, small- scale farmers commonly practice organic farming, which “enhances the soil’s living and nonliving components.”2 Furthermore, foods from farmers markets are healthier because they are have not been highly processed and do not include additives. About 22,000 different food items can be found in today’s supermarkets and nearly all of them have been processed in some way.  This has lead to the average American eating about 150 pounds of food additives each year.1 Of those 22,000 items filling the shelves of supermarkets, only a select few will have been produced from local and seasonal ingredients.3 Not to mention, that at a farmer’s market you can actually meet face to face with the farmer that provides your family’s weekly intake of food pyramid essentials.

Our contribution

For these reasons we attempt to be conscience of our food’s origins and will make an effort to eat locally produced food as frequently as possible.  During our bike tour, we will  support local food sources by shopping at farmer’s markets and helping with community agricultural projects. To facilitate this interaction with local farmers, we are in the process of researching various local food sources along our tour route, and will be creating a GIS/Google Earth map  to put it all together.

1Blatt, Harvey. America’s Food What You Don’t Know About What You Eat. 1st ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2008. Print

2Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle A Year of Food Life. 1st ed. New York, New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007. Print.

3Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food An Eater’s Manifesto. 1st ed. New York, New York: The Penguin Press, 2008. Print.

3. Equipment:

Most of what we need for this trip is biking and camping equipment. For almost everything, we are trying to borrow it or buy it used, rather than buying something new.

Buying new items creates demand for the unsustainable market in which most products are made today. Resources are often taken from developing countries, whose disparity leads them to sell their goods at low prices that do not protect the people or the places from which the resources come. Then the resources must be processed, which often uses harmful chemicals and low wage workers to get the job done. Throughout the production process, goods must be transported back and forth around the world, using precious fossil fuels and creating CO2. For a really good video that explains consumerism and its effects on the world, see The Story of Stuff.

In order to keep our purchases on the record, we will be posting our equipment list and where we got it here:

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