Celebrating Earth Day

Today is Earth Day – a day to celebrate our planet and think about what each of us, in our daily lives, can do to protect it. As cyclists, we get to enjoy nature in immediate ways: As we pedal over hill and dale, we feel the landscape, we smell it, and we become part of it. We also can make a great contribution to preserving it.

Cycling as a commuter can replace car trips and make a significant impact on the biggest threat facing our planet: climate change. It can also do the opposite, if I ride in distant places and drive (or even fly) to the start of my rides. Few of us can live car- and plane-free lives, so I think of myself as having a ‘carbon allowance.’ If I travel overseas, I try to combine trips that meet suppliers, visit family and ride my bike. Still, flying uses much of that ‘carbon allowance.’ In daily life, I ride from my doorstep – or take the train – when it’s possible.

The things we buy have a large impact, too: Manufacturing and distributing goods takes a large portion of the resources we consume. Buying quality things that I enjoy for a long time reduces the impact considerably. Do I need five bikes? Perhaps I would enjoy one truly great bike more? This wouldn’t just reduce the manufacturing by 80%, but the great bike will last longer, too.

When we shop, do we really need same day delivery? Do we want drivers to head out from distribution centers with just our package in their cars? Or is standard ground shipping, transported together with thousands of other parcels in a fuel-efficient truck, going to be just fine?

This blog is read by many in the bike industry, and it’s important to remember that, as manufacturers, our actions have a big impact. Let’s try to make products that can be enjoyed for a long time. Let’s support them in the long run. Can we prolong the lifespan of our parts by making them easy to upgrade? Sometimes, we can: Our new Rene Herse 11-speed cranks use a chainring that can be installed on all cranks we’ve made since 2011, bringing them up to the newest spec.

An aspect that we hear little about is reducing waste in production. This starts with selecting manufacturing processes that don’t waste material. For example, forging cranks (above) isn’t just stronger, it also uses just the right amount of metal. It continues with designing our parts carefully – recalls aren’t just dangerous for customers, they also waste a lot of parts. And it finishes with supervising production to make sure all our parts meet quality control from the onset. The latter is a bigger problem than I thought: When I visited the component plants in Taiwan, I was shocked by the size of the junk bins full of parts that were rejected before they even left the factory.

Looking back at the history of Earth Day, we’ve come a long way: No longer do we suggest that selecting a paper bag instead of plastic at the grocery store has a meaningful impact. Yet in many other ways, our consumption of resources has spiraled out of control. Each of us can make a difference. This doesn’t just reduce our own impact, but also can inspire others to do the same. Because living consciously creates great joy, and that is contagious.

So let’s celebrate our beautiful Earth by going for a ride today!

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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9 Responses to Celebrating Earth Day

  1. swanfallgmailcom says:

    jan, your comments about our consumption are well taken. many nations think they have cut or reduced their greenhouse emissions when they have really just outsourced production elsewhere.

  2. Emil says:

    Just reporting that I do almost all my transportation on Rene Herse tires. I haven’t flown in years, I rarely take the train and have never driven a car. These choices mean I can spend more time on my bike, which gives me great joy. Living and working in the same city makes it easy.

  3. mrgiff says:

    Nice one Jan. We can each play a part in this and it all adds up. It’s a positive and fun thing to do. All money spent is a political choice, so let’s favour manufacturers, products and service providers that take an eco conscious approach. Gone are the days of glossy bonded-plastic wrapped packaging being ok – it can’t be recycled. We must politely inform the brands that don’t get it. No single use plastic merch at sports events. As individuals…Recycling and reusing components, with trickle down parts offered to friends, neighbours and charities. Let’s reduce microfibre pollution from technical clothing, by a) choosing natural material clothing where possible and b) using wash bags like guppy friend and/or filters on the washing machines – available in the newer models. Biodegradable chain oils where suitable. Home made food with no single use plastics. Let’s recycle old technical garments; much of the man made fibre materials can be recycled into a different purpose. I’d love to hear ideas of what else can be done at a practical level for the individual.

    • Jan Heine says:

      I try to live by the old slogan: Reduce, reuse, recycle (in that order).

      • brad foster says:

        I’ve always been tickled by the related slogan from the 1940’s: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

        Oh, there is also that fourth R, which you hit upon in your post without saying it explicitly, Repair. I’m sure most folks who ride have done a bit of that over the years.

        As always, thank you so much for all you do. You are positively affecting more lives than you are probably aware of.

  4. Is there a way to mail “Bicycle Quarterly” without the plastic cover. Every time I receive an issue, my excitement to read is reduced by plastic that adds to one of the most serious problems facing the world today..

    • Jan Heine says:

      We thought about it. Unfortunately, we need to protect the magazine against water – U.S. postal carriers have a habit of carrying the mail through the rain until it gets soaked. Having to print hundreds of extra copies and mailing them takes more resources than the plastic wrapper. Fortunately, it’s only four wrappers a year… On a daily basis, we’re working on reducing the amount of bubble wrap and even tape that we use, while still ensuring that our shipments arrive in good condition.

  5. Alexander says:

    There are also othr ways we can contribute. I appreciate your styleof organising Brevets, i.e. getting to thecontrols by bike even as the organiser. Unfortunately also for biking mega events like Kanza and others get a lot of attention wherethecar park is full of SUV. Therea re too many peoplein the scenewho think cycling is an action sport like QUAD driving and a SUV is part of it. Wealso (guilty on this one) get to the scene by plane, which is of course worth thousands of SUV miles. Unless you havea specific reason to go e.g. to Japan, don´t. Here in Europe flying to Mallorca in spring, an island that has already basically run out of water) is almost standard now, while you could go to Northern Italy or Slovenia by car or even train or by bike.
    So: support your local ride, become a local Brevet organiser, explore adventurenext door. Every 4 years we make a big exception then and love to meet like-minded peoplefrom all over the world….If we do that every other month it becomes a bit lameanyway….

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