Upcycling is the process of turning materials from the wastestream into new materials of higher environmental value.
Upcycle Yourself is a similar concept on a human scale, turning from agents of pollution into agents of environmental change.

Jun 7, 2010

La velorution verte

I'm becoming an extreme gardener. I'm missing out on the planting season at our veganic eco-garden back in Quebec, so I've decided to garden where I am, on a bike. We generally change locations on a daily basis, covering between 30km and 90km. We recently stopped in Beamsville Ontario for two days, and I took full advantage of this temporary stability to add mobile gardens to my ride.

My fender is now growing wheatgrass. Young sprouts of alfalfa and clover are trying to grow from the bikeframe. Pea shoots are poking their heads from a plastic bottle reclaimed from a recycling bin. And in a reused plastic food container grows a polyculture of grass, clover, radish, canola, and beet.

When we visit schools to talk about sustainable living, we spread the idea of being the change that we want to see in the world. I have now seeded the beet I want to change in the world (what do I want to change the beet into? From a seed into beet greens... from beet greens into my cells).

The bike is now receiving much more attention from strangers, along with questions about how to garden and why we're cycling. It may be a feeble attempt at food production and carbon sequestration, though it seems to be a powerful force of smiles and education.

In French, there is a term that I adore, velorution. The French word for bike is velo, so it would simply translate into English as bicycle revolution, though in French it forms a beautiful pun. The velorution is more than a mode of transport, it is a state of being in the world. It's a world where cars are replaced by bicycles as the primary mode of moving ourselves from place to place, where the streets are safe to play in, where oil use and air pollution are replaced by exercise and fresh air, where city planning and zoning ensures close proximity between our homes and our workplaces and services, where individuals can meet and greet each other while riding instead of remaining stagnant extensions of a machine, where the constant drone of motors is replaced by the occasional ding of a bell, where 15km an hour becomes the standard pace of existence. It's part of the great slowdown, to regain our humanity, self-reliance and balance through using our own energies.

Between the 1940's and 1970's, agriculture was reformed during the green revolution. Technology was used to maximize yields, bringing synethetic fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil-fuel powered machinery to the forefront of food production. Yields have increased, though we are borrowing ancient sunlight, attaining larger yields because of cheap oil, leading to an overall loss of calories (and topsoil!) from modern methods of food production.

So, in an effort to flip things around, at least on my own bike, in my own garden, and within my sphere of influence, let me start working toward a velorution verte, my personal green velorution.


How to add a bicycle garden:

A passerby in Toronto was impressed with the concept of bicycle gardens, and suggested that I find a way to patent it and sell it. Not a fan of monetizing or patenting life and knowledge, here is all the info, freely shared...

If you'd like to add a pot with soil, simply find a way to attach it to your bike (i.e. a reclaimed plastic water bottle can easily fit in a water bottle holder. Plant densely to avoid soil loss on bumpy roads).

If you'd like to work without soil to add gardens in funky spaces, follow this technique: (1) Begin with love and intention toward the bicycle and the garden, as it requires water and attention several times a day. (2) Wet some cheesecloth. Wrap cheesecloth around the desired part of the bicycle 2 or 3 times (like the fender or the frame), ensuring that you do not inhibit the function of gear and brake cables. (3) Add seeds, preferably pre-sprouted. Grasses, like wheat and barley, are the most effective, since the single blade can easily penetrate the cheesecloth, whereas two-leaf plants tend to be suppressed. Grasses also send out a quicker and heartier root network, and grow to more impressive heights. (4) Wrap the cheesecloth once or twice over the seeds. Close it using safety pins (5) Keep the cleesecloth constantly damp. In sunny weather, this could be 10 times a day. In a cool garage, this might be twice. (6) Ride, harvest, enjoy.