Bikes, Buildings and Gardens:  The Language of Sustainability
Bikes, Buildings and Gardens: The Language of Sustainability

What do bikes, buildings and gardens have in common?  Could they provide us with pragmatic ways to be co-creators with God?

Our work in commonGood around bicycles and gardens is coalescing with developing work around the built environment to form the commonGood Sustainability Project.  Our understanding of sustainability is living in the present with actions that respect and care for all God’s creation that will come after us.  I see a connection between bikes, buildings and gardens which opens opportunities for creating with God a place on earth that is just and sustainable.

There are lots of buzz words in the bicycle, building and gardening communities.  In the bike world, road riders can warp your mind with discussions of frame geometry, gear ratios, sucking wheel or pulling pace.  Mountain bikers will fling at you terms like slick rock, single track and 29er hard-tail.  Bikies may dip you into words like randonneur, peloton, pannier, bike kitchen or radially spoked.  The groupie vocabulary essentially leads to this:  Use your bicycle as an alternate form of transportation.  Even if you enjoy recreational trail riding or flying at speed on a road bike, set up a bike you can use instead of your car for short trips.  By biking to the dentist, school or work, you reduce the natural resources consumed, helping the next generation meet their needs. You reduce the pollution that compromises life for plants, animals and humans.  And if you’re not a rider, advocate for complete streets that create safe ways for walkers, bikers and cars to share the road.

Roads are part of the built infrastructure, a human project.  Roads and buildings are part of our day to day scenery, so most of us don’t pay much attention to them unless something goes wrong or a change inconveniences us.  But their impact on the earth is huge.  Buildings account for as much as 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Instead of floundering in terms like green building, energy audits, low-flush toilets, weatherizing and water-wise landscaping, focus on making your home, business or church as energy efficient as possible.  CommonGood is stepping into building sustainability at Madison Street Church with a new LED lighting system and low-flush toilets.  In our monthly Quest for Community gatherings, we are considering what it means to house ourselves in ways that support community life and reduce the impact of our homes on the created environment.  In September 2014, we are hosting a “Zip code Calling Conference”, where civic leaders and folks from Riverside will discuss and learn what it means to create livable communities here.

Livable communities are intertwined with gardens as a part of the built environment.  Plant life brings us both beauty and food.  To talk gardens is to hear about raised beds, compost, grubs, community supported agriculture (CSA), farmers’ markets and local farms.  From this rich soil of ideas, increase your participation in the local food movement.  Some of the ways you participate are: purchasing your food from farmers’ markets near your home, putting panniers on your bike and riding there, joining a CSA or food co-op, buying your fruits and veggies from road side stands and local farms, growing food at your home or starting a plot at a community garden.  We continue to nurture our garden at Madison Street Church while starting and maintaining our home gardens.  We also support the work of local community gardens in the Arlanza and Grand neighborhoods.

If sustainability is living in the present with actions that respect and care for all God’s creation that will come after us, let us continue to ask God to convert our hearts, inform us through contemplative prayer, fuel us with love and sustain us in community:  for God is the author and sustainer of all creation.

John HeadshotJohn Alfred is a lifetime cyclist in Riverside and beyond, and a member of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in Riverside.

Posted by Debbie Wright