Switch gears

Bike boom! Biggest surge in popularity for bikes since the 1970s! Bikes sold out everywhere! Headlines like these abound right now, and one trip to the empty racks in the sporting goods department at your local big box store will make it abundantly clear. Bikes are having a moment. (See Bikes Are the New Toilet Paper for my rubber-hits-the-road evidence.) People of all ages and abilities are switching gears and working bikes into their lives (including many healthcare workers, by the way, for whom numerous city bikeshare systems are offering free use).

This is great for lots of reasons, but as a child from that 1970s bike boom (remember this sound? hello, baseball cards in tire spokes!), I can tell you that one of the biggest benefits is to kids because bike riding is a gift for life. You absolutely 100% cannot feel like a kid when you ride a bike again every single time for the rest of your life if you didn’t ride a bike as a kid. (And, by the way, you most likely won’t be able to ride your bike with your grandkids some day if you don’t ride one now.)

The Good

Learning and connecting has never been easier

So, here’s the thing. You get a new bike (or back on an old bike from the attic or garage or shed — hear what happened when one bike in the attic came down after 20 years) and you do a loop around your neighborhood and all’s well — until you actually try to go somewhere and realize (quickly) that it’s hell on wheels out there (and I’m not talking the two-wheeled kind).

You’re not imagining this (this little link will knock your socks off). Massively-larger motor vehicles and driver distractions have resulted in year-over-year increased injury and death to bike riders (and pedestrians). Makes you wanna hang up the helmet, doesn’t it? Don’t. You have more power than you may realize, and you can eliminate a significant majority of the risks (and teach your kids how to do that, too).

My wheels got turning during these shelter-in-place days to see how I could help you. I adapted an in-person bike class I had already created and taught into a less-than-2-minute-a-day version (for 22 days, including the hello and goodbye), delivered via text (the first in the world). Pilot-test feedback so far tells me it’s fun and effective (I give you a sneak peek in the “How To” Bonus Content below). And it’s free for unlimited participants in the USA through the end of August — which means you can start as late as August 10, but why wait? Sign up securely here (note: I never have access to your cell phone number.) You have nothing to lose, and a lifetime of joy to gain (see Rode to Joy at the end of this issue).

Bike Bingo Wednesdays

It’s recommended that we don’t ride our bikes in groups right now. But bike riders are creative problem-solvers, and we’re connecting virtually. Why not tap in? Come to Bike Bingo Wednesdays this week (May 27) for the final Zoom gathering of this innovative, interactive event, create and hosted by Courtney Williams, aka The Brown Bike Girl (the new People’s Bike Czar of New York City). A ticket’s required.

Bike Bingo Wednesdays starts with a chat with a guest, and then we all play Bingo on special cards Courtney customizes each week that reflect each guest’s story (the cards get emailed to you beforehand; you can print them out — or I just play on my phone with popcorn kernels as space markers). Then we do it again with a second guest! And there are prizes (I actually won a super-cool hand-made metal bike pin last week).

Previous guests were Sheryl Porter, President of Bike Friendly Grand Prairie in Texas; Sean Jackson, co-founder Stoned & Fixed in Atlanta; Greg Benning of Bike Rescue in NYC; and Josh Bisker of Mechanical Garden Bike CoOp in NYC. Here’s the listing for this upcoming Wednesday (whoo hoo; join us!):

May 27 – Youth Bike Educator turned Mutual Aid Bike Mike Clark; plus Bike educator, woman bike traveler, Peace Corp-hopeful Pattie Baker on staying mentally flexible and changing plans

In separate news, there’s also a League of American Bicyclists Trivia Night this upcoming Friday for League Cycling Instructors so if you’re a fellow LCI, tap in to that as well. Check out bike organizations with which you are (or may want to be) involved and see if they are hosting any online events. For instance, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition just had their 10-year anniversary on Zoom and the International Ride of Silence just hosted virtual rides for that annual event.

The Bad

Newest ghost bike in the USA

Speaking of the International Ride of Silence, it’s an annual event held the third Thursday in May that memorializes bike riders who have been killed by motor vehicles while riding. We were encouraged to ride solo or virtually this year, and I rode the most dangerous road for bike riders in my city — which just so happens to be the one on which there is a community center, a college, and several places of worship (including an orthodox synagogue to which members walk — which makes the sidewalk absolutely, completely not an option for bike riders, even if it were legal over the age of 12) and is on the way to my suburb-city’s main park, the food pantry, the middle and high schools, and two elementary schools*. It looks like this:

However dire that was, the worst part will be this upcoming Saturday, when the newest “ghost bike” memorial to a killed bike rider will be installed in my neighboring city by an organization named Bike Friendly ATL. I will be there, bearing witness, offering silent support to the family who lost their husband and father, and serving as a visual for city leaders so they think of a 56-year-old mom as part of the mix of people on bikes in their cities when they are making life-and-death decisions. See my blog, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, for a first-person account afterwards. Here’s one of the previous ceremonies I attended. Here are ghost bikes I’ve passed while Traveling at the Speed of Bike in other cities (hello Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Pittsburgh).

By the way, with more people riding bikes and with bike riding being a great way to social-distance, cities may really want to consider the impact poor bike access (and the presence of ghost bikes) has on their future tourism. It’s not a good look, folks. The time for change is now.

The WTF?

Safe access denied

Well, the photo above looks like fun, right? Not. (That’s on the road to the park in a self-proclaimed “family friendly” city that I mentioned above. Oh, say hello to Bike Noodle. Everyone’s asking about it lately.) No wonder people all over the world have asked for more safe access during these times of social distancing, and hundreds of cities around the world have sprung into action.

Not mine. I asked on March 20, 2020 (one week into my state’s shelter-in-place edict) and was told a firm no. No time. No resources. No priority. Now that many more people are riding bikes, especially with children, you'd think the first city in the southeastern United States to enact a Vulnerable Road User ordinance (bravo for that) would be on it. Maybe NACTO’s newest guidebook, titled Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery, will offer my city — and yours — some direction. One can hope.

“How To” Bonus Content

You rule, girl!

Hope, of course, is great, but let’s circle back to putting the power in your hands. Below is a text message you would receive if you enroll in my “Pedal Power with Pattie” Bike Class (which is specifically designed for teen girls and women, who are underrepresented in our public spaces) about the rules of the road — which, at first, sounds like an important but boring topic, and then it turns out it’s superhero time! (Note: Each of the 22 days in the class is this length and in this format: a visual, an intro, three helpful tips, and a bonus link to something fun, inspirational, and/or educational). The class is designed using proven best practices for number of characters per text and days per class in order to maximize knowledge in the shortest amount of-time-per-day possible. (Here’s another sneak peek, if interested**.)

Day 15: Rules of the Road

Getting on a bike and claiming your equal space under the law can be empowering. It can awaken or remind you of a force inside that, once recognized, is truly unstoppable. On a bike, you are encouraged to:

1. Expect first come-first served treatment, even if you are going at a slower pace than those around you. You do not have to cede your space to anyone just because they are bigger, faster, or louder. (Ride on the right when practicable).

2. Be conspicuous. Feel free to stand out and be noticeable. Wear bright colors, carry an eye-catching bag across your body, put lights wherever you want, and make yourself large at red lights (I typically put my feet down and my hands on my hips in "superhero" position).

3. Be predictable. The more you communicate through steady handling and signaling what your intended actions are, the more cooperative those around you may become. "Hold you line" and don't zigzag. But let's not sugar-coat this. Driver distraction, impairment, and road rage are real concerns, and that's not your fault. Stay alert, and make any necessary changes you feel will improve your safety.

Bonus Link (enroll in the class to see!)

Look, I hate even mentioning the negative because there’s so much god-damn joy in bike riding. Part of me wants to just stick with the life-affirming benefits of growing food (see Issue 9: Nourish) and call it a day. However, as bike riding enjoys its new heyday, I want to invite you along on the journey (even if it includes the good, the bad, and the WTF).

Let’s close with a Bonus Link from one of the days in my class. I call it Rode to Joy. You’ll see why. (And big, fat thanks to the City of Decatur, Georgia, USA for that public art. Art matters, and, in fact, many cities are using it in innovative ways in their current pop-up safe access solutions. I even told one of my city councilors about a grant to combine art and transportation for 100 forward-thinking cities. Stay tuned for more on that in the future. See Issue 8: Create for more about the arts. And fyi, the public street mural pictured on the cover of this current issue straddles the Reynoldstown/Cabbagetown neighborhoods of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. You can see more Art of Bike Riding here.)

Trust the journey,

Pattie

* Note: LOP lanes are being added — these are “Lipstick on a Pig” lanes that do not meet the National Association of City Traffic Official’s (NACTO’s) guidelines for speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic and are usually just added in order to enable a city to say they acted and increased their total miles of bike lanes in order to qualify for Bike Friendly City designation, even though they don’t actually provide additional access for people of all ages and abilities.

** Sneak peek at the entire “Pedal Power with Pattie” Bike Class (note: there have already been a few changes due to valuable pilot-test feedback from women across the USA)

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Issue 9: Nourish

Look, it didn’t take long during our current crisis for folks to realize that, besides toilet paper, food is a necessity. And healthy food boosts your body’s chances to fight off disease. Is it worth the effort as we hobble through this seeming-apocalypse known as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic? Is it too late if you haven’t jumped on the turnip wagon yet? Is there maybe something else going on with homegrown, fresh-picked sustenance that feeds your soul at a time when a single flicker of hope can get you through the day — and night? (Who joins me in tossing and turning a whole lot more than usual right now?)

They say planting a seed is the greatest act of faith in the future, and so I plant. I invite you along to join me. Can’t hurt, right? I give gobs of free tips on my blog Food for My Daughters (and in the book by the same name). I’ll share a bit here, too, and maybe we can finally grow some peas on earth (or at least peas of mind). No time for this growing movement? No problem. I’ve tried a few other ways to get fresh food recently as well that may be helpful. Dig in.

The Good

An act of faith in the future

I used to have a little urban farm in the back, side, and front of my home in a metro-Atlanta suburb-city, but I eliminated it over the past few months because I am scheduled to go to Peace Corps Uganda June 2 as an Agribusiness Specialist. However, all Peace Corps Volunteers in more than 60 countries globally have been evacuated, and I anticipate my departure will be delayed. And so as shelter-in-place edicts came down one after the other (city, county, state), I whipped my little world back into shape. Note: every garden resembles the gardener. Mine is a hodgepodge of intermingled, overlapping ideas (welcome to my mind). Yours will be different. There is no right or wrong (hang tight — I’ll tell you about the potato lady). Just start. Here’s what I did the past two weeks during lockdown:

  1. Gathered cardboard from curbsides on recycling day and laid it down (cost: FREE).

  2. Intercepted tree companies cutting and chipping neighbors’ trees and had them drop their truckloads on my front lawn and moved it bucket-by-bucket (what the hell happened to my wheelbarrow?) to four different grow spaces (on top of the cardboard) around my little suburban property (including a Sharing Garden by the curb for my neighbors) (It came out super-cute — see photo below.) (cost: FREE).

  3. Made biodegradable planting pots out of newspapers (cost: FREE). (See video here.)

  4. Did a quick run into a garden store (which was empty) for organic potting soil and seeds, and ordered some other seeds online (cost: maybe about $60 total).

  5. Planted in pots, wooden clementine boxes, a raised bed planter, and right into the ground. (See the “How-To” Bonus Content below for how to make a 1-Minute Victory Garden.)

  6. Started using my spinning composters and worm bin again (I had been dialing down on them in preparation for leaving);

  7. Built structures for vining crops to climb, out of tree limbs I cut down (cost: FREE, plus super fun — and fun matters, especially now).

Trust me — if you do nothing more than plant a single seed in a little pot on your kitchen counter, you will feel better knowing you took that act of faith in the future. May it grow, and grow, and grow.

The Bad

It’s really not safe to shop in person (so what to do?)

It’s really simply not safe to shop in person inside a store right now. Every single person with whom you cross paths could be an asymptomatic carrier of COVD-19 (and despite what the governor of Georgia said as recently as April 1 about us just finding this out within the last 24 hours, we’ve known this for awhile — it’s not news). Of course you can (and probably did) stock up on shelf-stable basics like cans of beans and peanut butter, but what to do about the fresh fruits and vegetables? I tried two methods:

  1. I ordered delivery from Whole Foods for the first time, and it went well. The best news is that if you are an Amazon Prime member and shop at Whole Foods already, your past orders are listed online so you can just click and add what you already like to your cart. The big problem is availability of delivery slots. Depending where you live, you may be sh*t-outta-luck on this.

  2. I joined Misfits Markets, which ships me a box of 10-13 pounds of organic fruits and veggies (some of which have super-minor things “wrong” with them) every week for like $22. I’ve gotten two boxes so far and just look at the bounty (pictured above and below)! With more time to cook right now and with my younger daughter home from college due to the crisis, we’re whipping up all kinds of good meals. (See pages 94-95 in my book, Food for My Daughters, for what to do with a boxful of fresh produce, such as from a local farm — which is a great thing to check out, too, by the way, if they offer boxed deliveries and contactless pick-ups. Personally, I’m not going near an in-person Farmers Markets right now, however.)

The WTF?

Folks in need are more in need right now

For those who struggle in usual times, now is a sucker-punch to the gut. Literally. Kids home from school aren’t getting what might have been their main meal of the day (and the timeframe for returning to school is Fall Semester, at the earliest.) (That’s five months away, folks.) Low-wage workers may have lost their sources of income. Hoarding by people of means at stores may mean that the products that qualify for the governmental Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food benefits are not available to those who need them. Here’s how you can help:

  1. If you are going to shop in person, don’t go on the first couple of days of the month when food assistance accounts refill and those who have been stretching every dollar are stocking up.

  2. If your community has a food pantry or other assistance program, donate goods and/or money, and/or volunteer, if you feel comfortable doing so while maintaining a distance from others of at least six feet. If you are in need of food, go there. You will be welcomed, and more and more food pantries offer fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthy food.

  3. Donate to my friend David’s nonprofit food-rescue operation, Helping Feed Atlanta (pictured above). David (pictured above) is high-risk for COVID-19 and has stepped back to let his team of volunteers carry on the mission right now. He has two old vans that need gas and maintenance and he relies on donations.

“How-To” Bonus Content

1-Minute Victory Garden

Let’s cut to the chase. You’re on board with the move to start growing your own food and create a Victory Garden during the coronavirus crisis. But you are overwhelmed with absolutely everything right now, and trying to figure out the formula for soil and seed success is just not in your bandwidth.

You’re overthinking this. Breathe. Just breathe. I’m gonna have you up and growing in one minute for about $10 US. Seriously. The most important thing to do is start, and grow from there. So:

  1. Buy a large bag of organic potting spoil from your local hardware store or Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. (as of a few days ago, the garden section was still empty so physical distancing may not be hard yet), or see if someone will deliver it for you;

  2. Buy a packet of organic basil seeds (or lettuce, if your climate is colder than Atlanta’s);

  3. Put the bag down somewhere with a minimum of six hours of daily sunlight right on the ground or your patio, deck, or balcony (or ask if you can do so in a small space near your multifamily home);

  4. Rip open the bag enough to expose a good portion of the soil but still contain it (voilá— you now have a raised bed garden);

  5. Sprinkle seeds and then mix them in lightly with your hand or a stick;

  6. Water them. (Maybe poke some holes in the lower sides of the bag so it can drain.)

Continue to water daily for 7-10 days. When these seeds sprout and grow two sets of leaves, transplant them to other growing areas you may have had the time and energy to prepare (see what I do with wood chips). That’s it. Done. You’re a Victory Gardener. 

Okay, that’s a wrap for this month, folks. You can see all issues of this newsletter to date here (it’s not just about food). Tap into my blogs, Food for My Daughters and Traveling at the Speed of Bike (they both have free bonus resources and are updated frequently) and maybe even check out my books (pictured above). You may find something useful. Need a writer who specializes in triple-bottom-line sustainability? Looks like I’m gonna be here for awhile, so let’s connect on LinkedIn. Also, be sure to subscribe to this newsletter by clicking the button below so we can keep in touch as we face and embrace the challenges ahead in our changing world.

Oh, wait! The potato lady story! So I have a friend from Russia who personally witnessed her grandfather survive the dissolution of the Soviet Union and collapse of the economy by planting potatoes, so she wanted to start a garden here and asked me for advice. I told her it was too late to plant potatoes and then made more seasonally-appropriate suggestions. She planted potatoes anyway. You know why, folks? Because it’s not about the potatoes. It’s about feeling safe, and she ultimately needed to connect to her grandfather’s example. Sure, she planted other things, too, and she will most likely have a bounty (maybe even of potatoes). Bottom line? Don’t overthink this stuff. Just do what feels right. And maybe, just maybe, everything will be ok.

Trust the journey,

Pattie

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Create

Truth? It’s hard to write about the arts, as I intended, when Hurricane Dorian is pummeling toward the east coast of Florida, where a bunch of my loved ones live (and about which I wrote in Issue 2 of this newsletter). On the other hand, it’s getting to the point where the arts are all we’ve got left, it seems, and maybe they’ll help us move forward in new and exciting ways. They are needed now more than ever (and, in fact, I think we’re about to enter a true Golden Age of the arts). Here’s why:

Artists help us see things differently;

They help us imagine a better world;

They foster empathy;

They open minds;

They provide alternative platforms for expression, that can then lead to needed action.

And if there are things we need right now, it’s that. All of that.

I’ve been away from my arts for a bit this year, I miss them, and it’s time for the life-affirming joy of creating again. That’s why I’m back to writing books in the dark of early morning (fiction this time). (See my published books here.)

I think I’ll just show you some street photography of artists, ok? And we’ll end with a little poem from a few years ago, instead of sticking to this newsletter’s headlines. I’m not in the mood to write about how Jakarta is sinking into the sea and the entire city is going to be relocated (and how Miami, New Orleans, and other coastal biggies may not be far behind); or that 65.6 million people have now been forcibly displaced around the world (with only about 1% of them ever permanently resettled), including about 40 girls between the ages of 11-18 at The Global Village Project, which is the only school specifically for refugee girls in the world (and where I just attended a 4-hour volunteer orientation and training, including a session on trauma because of what these children have been through). Yes, creativity is needed to deal with these issues, but today they just feel heavy.

So, that’s that (or as my mom always said, “period, amen, end of story” when she was trying to shut sh*t down). This is our eighth and final issue. I originally created this newsletter in case I got the Peace Corps Jamaica thing so I would have a concise way to do monthly updates over the next two and a half years while abroad in service. Since that's not a go (heartbreak!), there's no reason to continue it (since I already have a blog). But we covered a lot of ground, and it was fun. As usual, I’m always evaluating quality corporate, nonprofit, and editorial writing opportunities.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, especially to those who subscribed (this newsletter enjoyed a 65% Open Rate; FYI, a good Click to Open Rate is considered to be 37%, so maybe we were onto something here). I mostly liked designing the covers, if you want to know the truth. Here’s the alternative one I designed for this week. (Pssst: I actually don’t know why hope endures, but it does, and I do continue to be hopeful. David Byrne, who has a new website called Reasons to Be Cheerful, and I hope you are, too.)

Trust the journey,

Pattie

* I didn’t get to write about busking, as I intended on the cover of this week’s issue. See here and here for a couple of little posts about that. You may also enjoy my 10-Step Plan to Put Paint on a Public Wall. Bottom line: watch out for overly-restrictive noise ordinances and previously-public space that’s now private as both of those are leading to the death of public expression of artists (and everyone). Also, keep your eye on “gentrification by art.” We’ll talk about that more another time, somewhere else . . .

Trust

Okay, I’m gonna go super-short on this one. I’m in the middle of getting ready for the 10-year anniversary of a community garden I helped start, and I’m cutting and painting wine bottles to fill with herbs so . . . let’s knock this out.

FYI, I’m just about over my heartbreaking disappointment last week at not being selected for the Peace Corps. Lots of good happened during the whole two months after my interview that I spent waiting for the word, however, and that made it (sort of) easy to get back to trusting the (damn) journey. Bring it.

The Good

Pretty barriers, and could kudzu be the cure?

I was on one of my regular bike rides when I got to noticing, yet again, how the City of Atlanta is really hitting it out of the park with the concrete barrier plantings. Most cities are adding some version of these to keep motor vehicle drivers from plowing down pedestrians (or bike riders, like on the Hudson River Greenway in my beloved NYC — my photo of memorial sign below), but most of the ones I’ve seen have been purely utilitarian and downright ugly. These are nice. Bravo.

More observations while Traveling at the Speed of Bike? Both muscadines and kudzu flowers are filling the air with the most wonderful grapey fragrance right now. Think Welch’s purple grape juice. That smell. Regarding kudzu, I still think it’s the cure to something. Cancer, maybe. We wouldn’t have so much of it for no reason. You may enjoy kudzu-related posts of mine titled Who Will Be the Next George Washington Carver? and Channing Cope and His Vine of Hope. I’ve been down this road before.

The Bad

What’s with all the fake grass?

Look, artificial turf just doesn’t make sense at this time when we should be making environmentally-sound decisions with every single step forward. Here’s what I know, and why I recommend the precautionary principle regarding these plastic places. I didn’t even include the part about how artificial turf kills the entire microbial life of the soil underneath it, or the potential leaching of micro-plastic particles into our groundwater on all those ball fields, dog parks (!), and playgrounds.

I was happy to see that my suburb-city’s recent report about its greenspace clearly classifies the artificial turf it is adding on which children will be playing as non-greenspace. That should tell you something.

The WTF

Apartment marketing

I’m not really sure what to think about this marketing for an apartment complex I passed recently. At first, I thought, “Whoa. How narcissistic.” But the more I think about it, if the messages those of the Millenial and Gen Z generations get all day long is that they’re supposed to save the world (of no fault of their own), maybe coming home somewhere where they can just be pampered isn’t too much to ask.

“How To” Bonus Content

How to ride a bike without getting killed

  1. Make sure your bike is in good riding condition;

  2. Choose a route that matches the level of risk you are willing to assume (don’t get sucked into that “you just need to be more confident” crap);

  3. Know the main reasons crashes happen and take affirmative steps to avoid them;

  4. Advocate at city hall for increased safe access;

  5. Take my class, which includes all that (and more) plus bonus tips specific for girls and women, based on rubber-hits-the-road findings nationwide.

    Note: this mom pictured above has clearly got it goin’ on.

Okay, team, over and out this week. Follow along so you don’t miss an issue as we shift to monthly now:

And as always . . .

Trust the journey,

Pattie

Go full circle

So I was Traveling at the Speed of Bike to my local park (oh, wait, I brought my bike in the car that day because some days I don’t want to deal with this), when I ran into Donna Agolli, who runs a local chapter of the Danish nonprofit, Cycling without Age. She takes residents of a senior living facility just down the road from the park for rides through the park in a e-trike rickshaw (a trishaw), usually on the same night as food trucks and music is there. They do a loop on the multiuse path, chat, and perhaps get an ice cream. With the heat lately (we’re at 53 days this year over 90 degrees Fahrenheit/32 degrees Celsius as I write this), she’s been doing some morning rides as well (such as when I saw her).

I love this and may even volunteer with her. But I cringed when I watched her leaving the park to bring her passenger, Audrey, home just minutes away. What’s with that main entrance to a city’s main park with no traffic light or crosswalk?! Here — take a look:

A couple of days later, I slept over at my mom’s new senior living community so I could join her at Movie Night in their cute theater, and the movie shown was Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I’ve been thinking ever since about our sisterhood as women, across borders and beliefs and generations, as we increasingly just pick ourselves up and move forward. At the end of the day, we’re all just pedaling each other home.

The Good

Scooter businesses rockin’ cradle-to-cradle products

So, who’s rockin’ the cradle-to-cradle product innovation (with responsible stewardship every step of the way in the product life cycle) when it comes to those ubiquitous scooters now in hundreds of cities all over the world? Turns out no one. So I have this sort of outside-the-box idea (inspired by a cradle-to-cradle scooter leasing concept presented by two researchers from Delf University at an international conference way back in 2010). Here goes:

If the problem with scooters (as I found in my recent article for Ensia) is that they have such short lifespans and then get trashed (or, maybe recycled as scrap metal), and if a Dutch company is already making sit-down scooters with fast-growing, sustainable hemp mixed with bioresin in a mold*, and since there are already some artisans building both bicycles and private sit-down scooters out of bamboo, why not use bamboo** (which is already in the shape of a scooter neck and wouldn’t require a mold) to make sharable scooters? Many cities only allow 100 or so sharable scooters on their streets, and this seems like a reasonable quantity to pilot-test as a truly sustainable product. The next questions, of course, are which company can do this and which city wants to be first? (Okay, fine, maybe there are some other questions, too. But let’s think big here, folks, before we kill ideas.)

Back to hemp for a moment — I’d love to see a compostable scooter made out of hemp (which is now legal to grow in the USA with a permit) mixed with wildflower seeds and bioresin (assuming this is biodegradable) in a mold like what the Dutch company does. Not only would this provide a cash crop to farmers and a truly environmentally-sound transportation option in our congested cities and sprawling suburbs, but there could also be designated “scooter gardens” where these scooters could be planted at their end-of-life (after all removable parts are harvested, reused, and recycled) so they can grow and create pollinator corridors that save bees, butterflies, and therefore, well, frankly, the imperiled future of our food supply.

I know — crazy, right? I actually bought organic hemp seeds from the UK so I could observe them growing through all stages of their lifecycle in my home garden to better understand them as a raw material for products, but then realized that that would be illegal (yep) for a little ol’ person like me just trying to learn a thing or two about the world’s future potential. I even picked the brain of Marty at the Pot Shop in the Little Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta, but frankly, he’s really not in the business of scooter design. But he was one of my Today’s Nice Stranger selections, so that was good.

The Bad

Compostables that cause cancer?

So did you catch the news story this past week about how eco-friendly packaging from places like Chipotle and Sweetgreen may have known carcinogens in it? They’re something called PFAs (which is short for a big, long word, of course), but, spoiler alert, it seems these “forever chemicals” are already everywhere. The problem of course, is calling something with them “eco” and then letting them break down their poisons into soil.

This USA Today article does a good job of taking you around the block and back on the topic, and I can hazard to guess how many damage-control PR folks got involved with providing info to that reporter to try to offset the negative damage done by the revelation of the chemicals. Eat at home or at places that use real dishes, or bring your own food or containers whenever you can, folks. You can’t trust nothin’ out there anymore.

The WTF?

We’ll just let the picture do the talking on this one. Nuff said.

“How To” Bonus Content

How (and why) to make a worm bin

(Note: I wrote the following for U.S. News and World Report a few years ago, so I’m borrowing my own words here).

Worms rock in a home garden, and not just under rocks. They also do a bang-up job eating their weight in food waste each day, and turning it into one of the best amendments you can add to your soil—vermicompost. Vermicompost (also known as worm castings) works to add micronutrients to soil and improve its structure. Trust me—it's a good thing. A worm bin gives you a controlled environment for this magical transformation from waste to wow.

The trick? Be sure to get red wrigglers (not earthworms) for this purpose, and don't feed your worms too much or too often. Take the time to get to know how much is just right, based on how quickly they consume what you give them. Want them to take more waste off your hands? Try chopping up the scraps you give them (some people actually do this in their blender or food processor), so they can consume them more quickly. Be sure to add some eggshells to aid in the worms' digestion of food scraps. Keep in mind that if your worm bin smells, something's not well. Slow down, add shredded newspaper, or even consider starting over.

There’s a story in my book, Food for My Daughters, about when my worms first arrived. It’s more than ten years later, and I still have them (or, at least, their descendants). Here’s how I made my worm bin:

If you want to keep it super simple, feed them just a few fruit and veggie scraps every two weeks, and add shredded newspaper on top maybe once every month or two. I keep them year-round in my garage. It’s actually easy to forget them. Use the finished vermicompost around the base of plants in your garden. Full circle, folks.

And, by the way, if you’re looking for a sweet little children’s book about worms, don’t miss my friend Lin’s book, titled Eco in the Garden.

Okay, that’s a wrap for this week, folks. You can see all issues of this newsletter to date here. If you enjoy these kinds of stories, tap into my blog as well and maybe even check out my books. You may find something useful. (This link has lots of helpful stuff, too.) Also, be sure to subscribe by clicking the button below so we can keep our conversation going. Two more weekly issues, and then we go monthly.

Trust the journey,

Pattie

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