UPDATED February 4, 2011

BY The TDA Team

IN TDA Foundation

no comments

UPDATED February 4, 2011

BY The TDA Team

IN TDA Foundation

no comments

How to Green Up Your Bike Tour

photo © 2007 David Neubert

Cobalt mining destroys children’s lives in the Congo, e-waste is polluting in India, bottled water consumes 10 times the resources of tap…  the daily news is filled with stories about how our purchases have far reaching affects that go well beyond the lifespan of the products we buy and the resources we use.    Unfortunately many of the externalities we create through our consumption affect people in the developing world the most.  The irony that the very tours we run, partial proceeds from which go help people along our routes, are also creating issues for them is a little unsettling.   

We want our tours to be as low impact and socially responsible as possible and we try hard every year to lessen our impact.  It’s challenging.  Our carbon footprint is a big issue and things like disposing of waste on tour also pose big challenges.  I’ll discuss the things we do on tour to reduce our environmental footprint in another post but today I’d like to talk about some ways you can help us lower your impact as you prepare for your tour.  Responsible travel, green travel, eco travel… what ever you want to call it starts from home, continues on tour and even after returning home.  Here are a few things you can to before, during and after the tour to lessen your impact. 

Before the Tour:

Buy used 
Whenever appropriate, buy used items.  A lot of things you bring on tour won’ t make it home anyway so why not start with a pre-owned tent, bike or laptop?  You may be saving something from the landfill and you’ll be saving yourself some money.  At the finish line of our tours we will collect any items you do not want to fly home with and donate them to appropriate groups.   

Do without  
The list of things we could do without is long.  It’s a lesson that is illustrated everyday on our tours both by witnessing how simply people in developing countries can live and by realizing how narrow your wants and needs become on tour.   Give your gear list a really good once over and think about what you can cross off the list before you buy it.   
Buy Local
Visit your local bike shop and camp store instead of Amazon and Ebay.  Not only will you get better advice and service but you’re supporting a neighbor and reducing shipping and transport externalities.    
Shop Good:
When you need to shop online consider using Good search andGoodshop.  Every search you do on good search donates 50% of the search revenue to the charity of your choice.  For a small organization (I always prefer to support small organizations) that can mean up to $800 a year. It’s powered by yahoo so the search results are good. 
Goodshop has partnered with popular retailers so that 1%-5% of profits from the items they sell go to your charity of choice.  There’s long list of charities to choose from but I’d like to suggest you choose Amigos de Iracambi.  They work to conserve the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil and create income opportunities for the surrounding community.     
I bet your friends have tents and sleeping bags etc… they could lend you.  Sometimes they may have extras they don;t even want. My friend Cliff just gave me a $300 tent. He got married and needed a bigger one.   Its several years old and not worth much on craigslist and he knows I’ll get a lot of utility out of it.  Put the word out on Facebook or by email that you could use a few things for your tour and see if you can borrow them locally.     
On Tour: 
On tour you can do a lot to help us reduce the impact on the local environment on tour by helping us manage our waste diposal systems effectively.    

The three bin system  On tour we dispose of our waste using a 3 bin system.  One bin for organics, one for Burnables and one for re-usables.  Organics are buried every day, burnables like paper and cardboard are burned first and then buried with the organics.  Re-usables are are reused in camp or given to local resident to reuse. Anything left over from the re-usables bin is disposed of in local trash pits or garbage cans.    
The key to the 3 bin system is using it properly.  When we get careless and throw organics into the burnables or forget to rinse a reusable container before we throw it in the bin the system breaks down.  You are big part of the effectiveness of this system and your help is greatly appreciated. 

Don’t buy bottled water!  

Bottled water is terrible for the environment and costly.  At times you may have no choice but to purchase bottled water but avoid it whenever you can by carrying a reusable drinking container and filling it from our water stores or clean local supply.  

Poop right 
Practice your squatting!  Depending on the terrain, soil conditions and population density there are several ways we dispose of waste on tour.  The most common systems will be pit toilets and what is commonly referred to as the cat method.  We’ll discuss that in more detail on tour but for now just know that the more responsible you are in dealing with this on tour the healthier our environment will be.     

After the tour: 

Donate your stuff to us.  At the finish line we’ll have donation boxes lined up for you to place your unwanted items in.  Bike spare, clothing, tents… whatever you prefer not to carry back home.  We’ll collect eveything and make sure it gets to an appropriate charity of group that will get some good use out of the items.  

Please leave any of your own tips and advice in the comments.  For more information about preparing for a tour you can visit our website:  www.tourdafrique.com or follow us on Facebook.  


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