Bicycle group passes through Marquette for sustainability project

Ellie Zubrowski and Gavin Glatting, or “G,” work in one of the gardens at the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative along Fourth Street. The two are part of the Green Riders group that’s bicycling across the United States to learn about and promote sustainability. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Bicycling is sustainable in at least one obvious way: If you ride a bike, you don’t use a car that needs fossil fuels to run.

The Green Riders, however, have found another way to promote sustainability while getting in a little — make that a lot — of exercise.

The title of the group alone should be a clue that it’s interested in a “green” way of living while riding bikes.

One of the 50 or so riders making their way across the United States is Gavin Glatting, who prefers to go by “G.” Before the trip, he lived in Austin, Texas.

“Right now, I live on a bicycle,” G said.

However, the group makes stops, one of which took place in Marquette on Wednesday at the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative along Fourth Street. The co-op was established in 2012 to create a community space for local climbers and to incorporate sustainable living practices into the residents’ daily lives.

It was a good fit for the bicycle group, considering its full name is “Green Riders — Good Deeds on Bikes.” According to its Facebook page, the group plans to ride cross-country and start gardens in the communities of every state through which it passes, plus it will stop at places like permaculture farms and off-the-grid homesteads to learn about how they live their low-impact, environmentally friendly lifestyles.

Riders from all over the country were invited to join the trip, which G said began May 29 and goes from Central Park in New York City to Seattle — and do “stuff” along the way.

Some of that “stuff” was the visit to the co-op where he helped plant native wildflowers to act as pollinators in the garden where the co-op grows vegetables.

“This actually seems like a good opportunity for us to actually get our hands in the dirt,” G said. “It’s exciting.”

The next scheduled stop was near Ashland, Wisconsin.

The ride is for 82 days, but some riders will break off near the end, G said. He’s going to Oregon for a cultural gathering called Oregon Eclipse, which will celebrate the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. The shadow of the eclipse is expected to make a swath across the United States, beginning in that state.

The Green Riders fund their trips in ways as unique as they are.

“Some people are spending a lot of money,” G said. “I might be spending more money than I wish I was, but other people are doing it almost totally without spending any money at all.”

So, how does a traveler bike across the United States on a non-existent budget?

Dumpster diving and counting on the generosity of hosts are some of the ways these riders make it through the trip, he said.

“Kind of a mix of a lot of different things,” G said.

The Green Riders made a two-day stop in Munising before making it to Marquette and the Climbers’ Co-Op where they were to take a tour and, of course, help out.

Climbers’ Co-op member Melissa Orzechowski explained how the Green Riders would make their presence known.

“We try to grow as much of our own food as we possibly can in our garden, and this front bed here has some vegetable plants mixed in, but also has a lot of flowers because we’re really trying to attract a lot of pollinators,” said Orzechowski, who was clearing sod in one spot where onions would be planted.

The Green Riders planted native wildflower seeds that, if all goes as planned, will grow into native wildflowers that attract native pollinators, she said.

The seeds were acquired, Orzechowski said, from the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. Some co-op members had volunteered at several YDWP events, and in turn, received the seeds as a thank you.

Ellie Zubrowski, of Fort Myers, Florida, said she was taking part in the Green Riders’ trek to explore the country.

However, she had a more altruistic purpose as well.

“I guess I just want to make a difference in the community and learn about all of the things that we can do as individuals to make the world a better place,” Zubrowski said.

Riding across the country and working in a garden — which last Wednesday was a rainy and relatively chilly day — might not sound like Club Med to many vacationers. So why are the Green Riders taking on this challenge?

“I think that each person has a different answer to that question: Why are they doing this?” G said. “I am doing this because I am very interested in the movement of sustainability and I want to learn more about how I can be a better human.

“I also wanted to just prove to myself that I can do something kind of crazy, and so here I am.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal .net.