Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category


‘Ben bir çilginim’ – ‘I am crazy’.
That’s how I started my talk with the school children in Istanbul. I visited the Anakent and Birsoz primary schools in Istanbul as part of a Green Pedals activity, talking about sustainability. What an amazing bunch of kids!

Me at the Anakent school

Me at the Anakent school

On my bike trip I am working with Green Pedals – part of the Planet Green foundation, to start and maintain a dialogue on sustainability in schools around the world.

The kids at the Anakent and Sener Birsoz schools knew a lot, and were really engaged talking about the environment and sustainability.

Anakent school

Anakent school

Sener Birsoz school

Sener Birsoz school

Sener Birsoz school

Sener Birsoz school

The kids are making drawings showing how they and their families are sustainable, and about my cycle trip. A new weekly sustainability workshop will be starting on sustainability at the Sener Birsoz school. A really cool initiative. Thanks to the whole Istanbul Green Pedals team!

James and I will be leaving Istanbul very soon. James’ new bike frame is currently still held up in Turkish customs. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be released today so we can leave catch the boat on Friday evening to Yalova, and then continue our journey. Yay!


When I was a teenager, everything was ‘Made in Taiwan’. I could find Taiwan on the map, and that was all. My winter break from cycling is drawing to a close, and I leave Taiwan with fond memories of a friendly, staunchly patriotic people, of visionary city planning and public policy, and an extremely obedient, orderly society. Where else in the world do you throw out your rubbish at 9:10 pm into a rubbish truck to a backdrop of ice-cream van music?

The view down the street near my apartment in Taipei

The view down the street near my apartment in Taipei

 

Public infrastructure
I am absolutely amazed at the speed a modern public transport system has been created out of nothing in Taipei. Twenty years ago there was traffic gridlock. Rather than building more new roads, like the new policy of the Australian government, the Taiwanese government has implemented an amazing public transportation network that reduces traffic, increases accessibility, and improves health.

Twenty years ago, there was no metro. Now there is a brand spanking new one, spanning the metropolitan area. In the last year they have rolled out a massive public bicycle system – YouBike – similar to that in Paris, London and other European cities. The result is a huge reduction in traffic, a better, less polluted environment, and a healthier, more active population.

Metro etiquette
‘You can’t eat that!’ said the little boy, scolding the grandma.
‘There are video cameras watching you,’ I have been warned by multiple people. ‘If you’re chewing gum, just stop chewing. They may not see you, and you should be ok.’
The metro trains run every two minutes or so, and while waiting for a train, you can watch a video of metro etiquette.

No eating, drinking, chewing gum. People religiously wait in lines marked out on the platform. No-one sits in the seats for the elderly and handicapped (except the elderly and handicapped). Everyone – but absolutely everyone – leaves the left side of the escalators free for people walking up. Each station has a spotless, free toilet. I could go on and on. Part of the overarching public transport strategy, the metro has been coupled to societal education to make it a big success.

Rubbish and recycling
‘A dearth of rubbish bins,’ I have heard it described as. Indeed, there is hardly a rubbish bin to be seen. You just have to keep your rubbish until you shout with joy – ‘there is one!’ and you can unload your stuff.

Household rubbish? Well, everyone knows that has to be thrown out personally at 9.10pm. At that fateful hour the rubbish truck passes my house playing a simple tune that will stay in my mind forever. People congregate, throwing out the rest waste in expensive rubbish bags from the council in the first truck, the recyclables in the second truck, and the biodegradables in the third truck. Paper is only collected on Mondays and Fridays. It was the government’s goal to raise awareness on the amount of rubbish we produce. As a result, a lot less rubbish is produced.

Rubbish collection

The big place
China is called 大陸 (Dalu – or ‘big place’). Taiwan lies in China’s shadow across the sea. In Taiwan (different to the mainland) they use the traditional Chinese script. In Taiwan there are many words that are different to mainland Chinese. I have decided to no-longer use the mainland China words – I have caused enough irritation already. I know how they feel. Coming from the antipodes, I spell colour with a u, I drink from a tap, I used to wear nappies when I was a baby, and my parents took me for walks in a pram.

Chinese New Year in front of the television
I was lucky enough to be invited to a traditional family Chinese New Year celebration. I was warmly welcomed by my hosts, but I then realised how foreign I am in Taiwan. The celebrations involved a spread of traditional Chinese food.
‘Its chicken,’ he said.
I looked at the alien soup – black flesh floating in a clear broth next to a tangle of ginseng.
‘Really! Its chicken.’
It was black chicken. A new-year’s tradition.
My Chinese new year
Then there was a bright orange soup with floaty white bits. And another soup with some unrecognizable things. I pride myself on my adventurous appetite. Here, I just ate some fried chicken and rice. In Holland I have welcomed Korean cyclist guests. All they wanted was a Korean supermarket where they could buy noodles. At the New Year’s Eve dinner, all I craved was a piece of chocolate.

After the dinner, the new year’s eve continued on the sofa in front of the television. The odd fire-cracker was let off outside at random intervals. As the evening continued, I didn’t hear any crescendo in the fire-cracker activity, and was asleep by midnight.

Studying Chinese
People ask me, aren’t I missing cycling? Don’t I have itchy feet to jump on the bike and continue. While in Taiwan, I was studying Chinese. I love learning languages – another one of my passions, and didn’t notice the time fly by. I was proud and happy as I felt my Chinese improve every day. In the last few days I have been having regular long conversations in Mandarin, proudly using the latest grammatical structures I have learnt.

Chinese language grades
My time in Taiwan is now coming to an end, and my feet are becoming itchy. The next leg of the cycle trip can begin!!

 


During my winter break I will add a few non-cycling posts on some thoughts and experiences. I will continue the cycle from Holland to Australia in March 2015.

‘Smell this,’ whispers Jeremy, his head and light peering through the dark into the open skip. ‘Bleach. Someone doesn’t want us to take this.’ The pile from the bakery, sitting in the skip was doused with bleach. Some people think, if I don’t want it – you’re not getting it either. There is so much waste, but putting it to good use, I feel like a fugitive. My ears are perked up and my eyes are sharp, concentrating on the moment – night-time foraging in the rubbish bins of supermarkets in Adelaide.

Its called Dumpster Diving – salvaging food from rubbish thrown out at supermarkets, fruit markets and bakers. I first heard about it in Dubrovnik when Clement told about cycling 3000km through France without money. Florian has done it on his trip from Germany to Australia. In Adelaide I added the dumpster diving badge to my qualifications.

In the dead of the night we work. Behind the supermarkets. The bikes are parked. Head torches on. Watch for people. Listen. Be alert. Are the supermarket workers still there? Is security passing? Is that truck the rubbish truck coming to take away our booty?

Jeremy, our dumpster teacher opens up the skip. A faint smell wafts up, of everything, of rubbish. And then we sift in the dark, lit by the light of our head-torches. Moving boxes of empty CD covers. An old watermelon seeping its juice. A few leaves of old cabbage. Someone adjusts the torch to better see inside the skip. Then an arm is thrust down deep. Up comes a milk container. Use-by date – tomorrow. He touches it to his cheek. Still cold. Still sealed. Who wants it? And then another. Then an iced coffee. A carton of milk. It is wet. A drop of white collects in the bottom corner. Jeremy squeezes it. It’s good. The milk is from somewhere else. The more we look, the more we find. A stash of milk to satisfy us all. And all not passed its use-by date.

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

In another skip we find thick paper bags full of pastries from the bakery. Cinnamon scrolls, buns, croissants, cakes. We find bottles of orange juice, still cold. This is all stuff that couldn’t be sold. This is all good food. And it’s all going to waste.

I try to decide what I think of this. Society is wasteful – mountains of food are grown just to be thrown away. I think it is morally good to take this food and use it – without paying for it. But other people have paid for this, I hear you say. Other people have worked, and I just take the spoils of their toils. The supermarket is losing paying customers to dumper divers. Why pay for it, when you can get it for free? – just wait until closing time. There are lots of conflicting thoughts that go through my mind. I think that it is good there are dumpster divers. I am glad I have tried it. Although, I must admit, I would rather buy the food off the shelf. I am lucky enough to have the money to have the choice.


See below for English.

Vandaag hebben Mansi Jasuja en ik (arctic-cycler) aan het eerste Green Pedals activiteit deelgenomen – een leuke, interactieve sessie over duurzaamheid en wereldfietsen op de Willemsparkschool in Den Haag. De kinderen waren tussen 10 en 12 jaren oud, en waren fantastisch. Ze hebben echt goede ideeën gehad hoe ze kleine dingen in het dagelijkse leven kunnen doen om het milieu te helpen. We hebben de kinderen gevraagt om hun ideeën op de Green Pedals Facebook pagina te delen, klaar voor de pre-cycle kick-off volgende week vrijdag. Wij zijn allemaal benieuwd naar hun ideeën!!

Today Mansi Jasuja and I (arctic-cycler) took part in the first Green Pedals activity – a lively interactive session on sustainability and world cycling at the Willemsparkschool in Den Haag. The kids were between 10 and 12 years old, and were fantastic. They had some great ideas about little things they can do in their own everyday lives to help the environment. We asked the kids to share their ideas on the Green Pedals Facebook page for the pre-cycle kick-off next Friday. We are all keen to see their ideas!!

 

In front of Willemsparkschool in Den Haag

In front of Willemsparkschool in Den Haag

Mansi at Willemsparkschool for Green Pedals

Mansi at Willemsparkschool for Green Pedals

Talking about the trip

Talking about the trip