Recycle BicyclesWhat happens when a shiny new bike catches your eye? If you already have a trusty two-wheeler parked in your garage, the internal conflict begins:
No, I really shouldn’t. Besides, old faithful back at home has gotten me through thick and thin, not to mention the fact that it’s still in pretty good shape. Yeah, but I deserve something new. And this one has flames leaping off the frame. Totally smokin’! If you’re so crazy about goofy graphics, then just paint them on your old bike. There. Problem solved! No, it’s more than the paint job. This one is tricked out with a coffee cup holder. I need that. Now. The color-matched fenders aren’t too shabby, either. Oh gosh, would you just listen to yourself? You don’t want to be like all of the other hyper-consumers out there dazzled by the latest, greatest shiny toy, do you? Actually, yes, I really do. Why should they have all the fun?
Whatever the specific circumstances surrounding our old bicycle purging and consequent upgrading, a substantial number of them (at least in the U.S.) are ultimately either abandoned or far worse — thrown away. Meanwhile, there are individuals around the world who, due to financial hardship and/or familial circumstances, lack basic access to more convenient and efficient modes of transportation such as biking. Even more surprisingly, many of those people happen to live in our neck of the woods. Recycle A BicycleThis reality inspired Recycle-A-Bicycle, a New York City-based nonprofit organization, to kill several birds with one stone by implementing the following sustainable goals:
  • Foster youth-based environmental education, cultural arts programs and job training in the community to spread the good green word about how bicycles can maintain our fitness as well as that of the planet.
  • Inspire the younger generation to recognize the value of volunteerism.
  • Keep approximately 1,200 unwanted two-wheelers out of area landfills annually.
  • Create three centrally located NYC bicycle shops that not only offer affordable refurbished models, but also full-service repairs, harvested parts and even new biking accessories.
Recycle-A-Bicycle’s grand visions are now playing out on a daily basis, most notably through its efforts that consistently contribute to a greener tomorrow. The nonprofit makes it easy for NYC residents to donate unwanted bicycles rather than dispose of them, either by dropping them off at its brick-and-mortar locations or by arranging for door-to-door pickups when they have a larger quantity (10 or more). Then, Recycle-A-Bicycle arranges for volunteers and young community members to sort through the donated stock, earmarking some for bike swaps, others for refurbishing and others still for parts/metal recycling. As it stands, approximately 500 school-aged participants learn how to revamp and recondition donated bicycles every year via the training received from Recycle-A-Bicycle’s internship programs. While the nonprofit does give away some of the bicycles in its inventory that have undergone a mechanical and physical makeover, it also employs a carrot-from-a-stick strategy through its Earn-A-Bike youth program in order to teach and reward participants for long-term participation. Children must volunteer a predesignated number of hours in the community and also comprehend Recycle-A-Bicycle’s basic bike mechanics curriculum so they can then build their very own cycle using a supplied frame. Cleverly, this process not only instills dedication, creativity and drive within the participants, but also the value of work ethic and goal fulfillment. For those who are drawn to the eco-arts, various recycled bicycle craft workshops are offered, either through brief afternoon classes or recurring sessions throughout entire school semesters, utilizing scraps that remain from bicycle refurbishment efforts. For example, Recycle-A-Bicycle shows attendees how to create clever eco-friendly jewelry using smaller bike parts and more substantial artistic sculptures with larger wheels, spokes and even frames — once again instilling the notion that when creativity is applied, there is no such thing as waste. If all of this talk of bicycle recycling is beginning to make your insides feel a little warm and fuzzy, guess what? You don’t have to watch from the sidelines, particularly if you’re a resident of good old NYC. Recycle-A-Bicycle is always more than happy for you to join them Wednesday evenings during its weekly two-hour volunteer night, or, if you have a larger group (such as a school, workplace or other social group), the program can make arrangements to accommodate you based on what will best work with your schedule. No worries – they’ll even offer you a freebie crash course in how to break down dilapidated bicycle donations for responsible recycling, so no excuses, OK? Two hours of your time in exchange for a positive social and environmental impact — what an irresistible, eco-tastic way to make a difference!