Greenwashing Cycling Is Counterproductive*
Yes indeed, green IS the new black.
Whether you’re painting your nails with Chanel (or fake Chanel - the real stuff is rumoured to be going for around £80 a bottle), trying to put some clear green water between your political party and the next, or just trying to ease your conscience after a career of climate crimes.
It’s not surprising that in such times people are desperate to jump on the green bandwagon.
And it’s just as unsurprising that people are painting bikes as the green thing to be seen around.
Let’s face it - riding a bike is as close to zero emission transport as most of us can really get. So riding a bike is presented as a thing you should do in order to fit in with the new, green world order. People trying to get more people on their bikes have latched onto this as a brilliant marketing strategy.
BUT - and be honest here - as a child, did you ever enjoy eating your greens?
Even with peanut butter in a sandwich, no-one could ever have convinced the six year-old you that greens were fun, could they?
So in presenting bikes as "green" are we actually at risk of putting people off riding? "Green" equals . . .
- Hair shirts and hardship
- Flip-flops and dead-beat hippies
- The lunatic fringe - after all, everyone knows that the whole climate change thing is a conspiracy by scientists desperate not to get chucked off their gravy train and governments who just want to raise taxes. And yes, the same everyone probably also still believe that the whole finance crisis in the Wiemar Republic was a Jewish conspiracy, Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA, and that the lunar landings were faked. Conspiracies are everywhere - just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.
While a bike’s "greenness" is a positive, perhaps we’d be better off focusing on the other reasons for riding a bike. There must be at least 101 good reasons , but my favourites would include . . .
- Because it’s fun. The same six year-old who wouldn’t eat their greens loved to ride their bike, didn’t they?
- Because it’s convenient. For most of the journeys most of us make (that 70% or so of all trips that are less than 6 miles), riding a bike is actually quicker than driving when you factor in door-to-door times.
- Because it’s sociable. What? Riding along, you chat to people alongside you, at the lights, while you’re locking up. It’s just so much more personal than being a part of a car-human cyborg.
- Because you can eat cake. Lots of cake. Riding a bike burns 600-1000 calories per hour. If you’re trying to lose weight, cutting 600-1000 calories from your diet is just pure torture. Riding to work is fun. Which do you think is the easiest method to stick to? And did you know that cyclists live on average two years longer than non-cyclists , and have general health that’s ten years’ younger than their passport would indicate?
- Because you get time to sniff the roses. In a car you’re isolated from the elements. Out here on a bike you can hear the birds, smell the flowers you pass, and feel the wind on your face. It’s great to feel alive.
So be as green as you want . . . but ride your bike for all the right, selfish reasons.
*Huge, HUGE thanks to Marc at Amsterdamize for the inspration & title for this post. http://amsterdamize.com/2009/11/28/cycling-for-climate-granny-style/