Category Archives: interview

Barefoot for a year?

If simply looking at the picture below is enough to make you smell the smell of feet, you are not alone. Arthur Jones (obviously) and English bloke who happened to live in China for a year decided that he was going to also spend a year living barefoot in one of the, from a foot’s perspective, most hectic places on earth.  You can read all about his exploits, trials, and tribulations by clicking on the link after the quote.

“I’ve always liked being barefoot from being a kid,” Jones says, explaining his yearlong experiment, which he is hoping to turn into a film. “It’s turned into something that’s made everyday life more exciting. It opens your eyes. You’re suddenly in touch with everything around. And it feels like you’re a little child discovering the world for the first time.”

Barefooters like to cite recent scientific research showing the health advantages to a barefoot lifestyle. One example is a paper earlier this year in the journal Nature by Harvard University human evolutionary biology professor Daniel E. Lieberman, which found that barefoot runners place less stress on their feet than runners wearing shoes. This happens because barefooters change the way they run, landing on the balls of their feet instead of their heels, thereby markedly reducing the “impact collision” or “heel-strike.” (Read the Rest)

I’m pretty sure this is green as hell, although I don’t recommend it.

Cycling Jacket – With Lights!


Safe AND stylish! Inventor Michael Chen, who says he got inspiration from Wii & iPhone, uses an accelerometer in his waterproof cycling jacket that senses when the wearer is accelerating and braking and a tilt switch to sense when turning. The sensors switch on the appropriate LED lights in the Reactiv Cycling Jacket. The design has won the 2008 James Dyson international design award. Check a BBC interview with Chen here.

Michael Chen, 28, won a £6,000 prize for his Reactiv cycle jacket, which changes colour as the cyclist brakes.

The inspiration for the jacket came from wanting to feel safer when cycling the streets of London.

Chen said: “I cycled round London in the dark wearing my first prototype. It was a £10 waterproof jacket with LEDs stuck on by gaffer tape.”

He continued: “For the first time, I noticed that cars passed me more slowly, gave me more room, and that the drivers and passengers were even making eye contact.”

[BBC News]

VS 13.04.2008: Waste = Food

Thanks to orangemenace at ArchitectureMNP for this documentary on the work of Michael Braungart and William McDonough, authors of Cradle to Cradle. If you haven’t read it, this is the type of book that will blow your mind. It introduces an entirely new (or actually, timelessly old) way of thinking about design, consumption and waste. This video does a good job of showcasing several successful projects which have followed the Cradle to Cradle concepts and philosophies:

An inspiring documentary on the Cradle to Cradle design concept of the chemist Michael Braungart and the architect William McDonough. Winner of the Silver Dragon at the Beijing International Science Film Festival 2006.

Here’s an interesting + informative documentary on McDonough + Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle concept in action – in essence showing us that waste is unnecessary, and that with smart design we can basically eliminate it. Of particular interest is that they’ve been pretty successful in convincing corporations of their cradle to cradle theory, because these businesses want to get the most for the money. Funny that being environmentally friendly is, in the end, economically friendly as well – we seem to have fought nature for so long to get ahead, and we’re now finally at a point where working with it is the next step in our development. Should be great.

::Video Sundays, or VS, is a weekly feature here on architecture.MNP. For more architecture-related videos, click on any Sunday in the sidebar calendar – or on the ‘videos’ category in the ‘archjutsu’ section. Additional videos that have been featured on any of the MNP sites can be found here on our YouTube page::

Obama for the Planet


Last Wednesday the MNP Group officially proclaimed our endorsement of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. We here at green.mnp would like to follow suit and endorse Obama as the best candidate to lead the country into a future of sound environmental policy and action. Obama has made it clear that climate change and energy policy will be one of the ‘defining issues’ of his presidential campaign. While he is not perfect on every green issue (no candidate is or was) we are confident that he will seek advice from the right minds and engage people across the country and across the globe in reducing our impact. Grist has great resources for determining how green each candidate is, as well as interviews with each of them. Here are some pertinent excerpts from an interview with Obama:

question You’ve consistently emphasized consensus and putting aside partisan battles. Many argue that, when it comes to climate change, the maximum of what’s politically possible falls short of the minimum we need to do to solve the problem. In other words, consensus won’t get us where we need to go. Will you fight the political battles needed to move the consensus on this issue, even if that means aggravating partisan rifts?

answer I am the cosponsor of the most aggressive climate-change legislation in the Senate, along with Barbara Boxer [D-Calif.] and Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], which would reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. We are going to have to make some big decisions to meet those goals. Consensus doesn’t mean 100 percent consensus — there is undoubtedly going to be resistance from certain parts of the energy sector, and there may be ideological resistance within the Republican Party, and we are going to have to attend to the regional differences in terms of how people get energy. But I believe that we can put together a strong majority to move forward, as long as we are thoughtful about the potential losers in any big piece of energy legislation.

question Do you believe that we can achieve political consensus on this goal of 80 percent reductions by 2050?

answer I think with presidential leadership we can meet this goal, and it will be one of my top priorities. But it is going to require a thoughtful approach that accounts for the possibility that electricity prices will go up, and that low-income people may need to be compensated. We’ll have to deal with the fact that many of our power plants are coal burning, and consider what investments we’re willing to make in coal sequestration. If we make sure that the burdens and benefits of a strong environmental policy are evenly spread across the economy, then people will want to see us take on this problem in an aggressive way.

question Some argue that we should only commit to a global climate treaty if China and India do as well. Do you agree? How would you bring China and India to the table?

answer We shouldn’t look at it as a single tit-for-tat exchange. The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and the largest single source of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, so it is our responsibility to take the first step. We cannot expect China and India, with a billion people each, to take the lead on this if we do not — but we can expect them to join us if we demonstrate leadership. If we must take the first step, our second and third steps must be conditioned on meaningful participation by all countries. This is also an enormous opportunity for us to provide our technological expertise to these nations so they can leapfrog to cleaner technologies.

Really though, this is just a shameless excuse to post this adorable and exploitive photo of my niece (who will turn 1 in exactly one month!). I say exploitive because she is a young impressionable mind and should be free decide for herself who she wants to endorse politically. But, I predict that young Skyler will grow up to be a fierce advocate for the planet and its people, and thus will not mind if her cuteness is taken advantage of for the cause:


Green Heroes: Van Jones & the Ella Baker Center


Van Jones is a ‘human rights champion’ and co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA. Since 1996 the EBC has been working to promote alternatives to violence and incarceration for the youth of Oakland, with campaigns like Books Not Bars, which has helped to block the construction of a youth prison in Oakland and shut down two existing youth prisons in greater Cali, Silence the Violence, and the Bay Area PoliceWatch, which offers legal support and referrals for survivors of police abuse.

In recent years, Jones’ attention has been drawn to the environmental movement and he has become a major player in getting the needs of the environment in tune with the needs of the working masses.

You can already see the Green Wave lifting some communities, where hybrid and bio-diesel cars, stores with organic produce, homes with solar panels on the roofs, and green, vibrant parks are increasingly common. But go just a few miles away to urban centers, and the Green Wave often feels like a distant and irrelevant concept. Many people are just trying to survive, and the concern is not eating organic, but eating. Period. So who is participating in the new green economy? And who will reap the benefits?

In 2007 Jones officially expanded the focus of the EBC to include a green initiative, with the slogan ‘green jobs, not jails.’ In June 2007 Jones, with the EBC and the Oakland Apollo Alliance, convinced the City of Oakland to instate a ‘Green Jobs Corp’ that will train youth for green-collar jobs. They took the iniative all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives and worked with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-MASS) to bring this initiative to the national level and pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. The act will provide $125 million in funding to train 35,000 people a year in “green-collar jobs.”


Born from all this green momentum was the Green for All campaign:

The Green For All campaign is a bold effort to harness the growing power of the green economic revolution to fight the war on poverty. By securing job training for 250,000 workers from urban communities for the emerging green job market, the program will provide new avenues of opportunity for those who have traditionally been left behind by the nation’s economic growth. It will also give the crusade against global warming a broader social base, extending the green revolution to the neglected streets of cities like Oakland, Detroit, Baltimore and New Orleans.

Jones is also a founding board member of the 1Sky coalition (dude does lots of things!!). Here he is speaking right here in the Dot:


And here he is on LinkTV:


And here is a Grist interview with him: A Van With a Plan: An interview with Van Jones, advocate for social justice and shared green prosperity

Incidentally, the ‘green-collar jobs’ catch phrase has been a pretty popular topic of conversation lately. Check out these stories on Grist. The first one is just generally pointing out the newfound popularity of the term, but what I found most interesting about it was the debate it sparked in the comments (and the general foolishness of the commenters). The second one is Van Jones seemingly responding to the debate sparked by the first one.
‘Green-collar’ jobs: The latest eco-buzzword
Memo to Candidates: Green-collar jobs mean standing up for people and the planet

Last thing: I was late on the tip, but Green for All put together a petition calling on congress to incorporate green and sustainable job economies into the soon-to-come economic stimulus package that they’re trying to get out before it’s too late… Unfortunately (for me), GFA handed in the petition yesterday. I signed it today, before I realized it was already in the hands of the man…but I bet they still keep up with new signatures and would love continued support, so sign the petition!

Building A Straw Bale House: Clearing the Site


I have a progress update from the field of my dad’s straw bale house. He visited my sister and her family in New Mexico in mid November and started clearing the land at the site. If you are new to the green.mnp Building A Straw Bale House series, check out the first entry to read about the design and software my dad has developed for his and my mom’s dream green retirement home.

Here is what he had to say:

I recently took a six day trip to Albuquerque. My agenda was to clear the site and check in with my builder, Cadmon Whitty, and Anissa Hogeland, the architect who is turning my conceptual design into construction drawings.

I stayed with my daughter and son-in-law and got a chance to catch up with them and my grandson, Joshua, 4, and see my new granddaughter, Skyler, 8 months!

When Anissa first laid out the house on a topo drawing of the site (a little $1400 survey cost) she suggested that floor joists over a crawl space might be cheaper than a slab on grade, due to the slope of the site and the amount of fill we would need to bring in for the slab. I was reluctant at first about losing the thermal mass in the slab, but I talked it over with Cadmon and he said that a two inch layer of lightweight concrete over the wooden subfloor works well for holding the radiant heating tubing. He did a top-of-the-head cost estimate that indicated this approach would be a bit cheaper than the slab and fill. When I ran this new approach through my energy model I was surprised to find that it didn’t increase the heading and cooling swings appreciably. This is because there is still a lot of thermal mass in the interior walls – cinder block with every other cavity filled with cement or earth. Once you have “enough” thermal mass, adding more has progressively less effect. I’m now glad about the crawl space, as it will make plumbing and other systems much more accessible. This is an environmental improvement too – less cement with its embedded CO2 emissions.

Clearing the site began with renting a chainsaw and chipper, and deciding just where the house will sit on the site. After marking out a few rough corner locations I began cutting away. It’s sad to cut down healthy trees, but there’s no way around it within the house footprint.

After the first day at the site I came home with a terrible stiff neck and shoulders. I guess that was from a day of chainsawing after not doing any for several months. Maybe stress or sleeping wrong had a part in it too. It stayed with me for the whole trip. Nights were the worst – just turning over in bed was a slow, painful process. One of the unexpected joys of building a house at age 66.

With breaks for lunch and some minor troubles with the chipper it took two days of chainsawing and two days of chipping. At the end I ran out of time and gas in the chipper with just a small part of the last brush pile left. There are now several stacks of firewood and two piles of chips which will provide some landscaping mulch. From my Coast Guard days I’ve named the piles after two small conical islands outside the entrance to the harbor at Saint John’s, Newfoundland, which are affectionately know by sailors as Mae West.

There will be more clearing at the south edge of the lot, but already the view is quite something. There is a broad valley of rolling hills, fields and forest, with several mountain ranges receding into the distance. I’m so glad I reoriented the house design to make the most of the view!

Another high point was the hospitality shown by the neighbor on one side, who helped me considerably with the chipping. His help and tool box saved my bacon when the chipper jammed one time. I also met the neighbors on the other side – a nice young couple who I’m looking forward to knowing better.

I also talked with a couple of mortgage brokers about construction financing. There will be applications and financials to fill out for that. I’d like to be the general contractor for the job, as that could save some money. But I also know that all the scheduling and phone calls to subs are not my strangth – I’m a poor manager. “General contractor” involves several kinds of insurance, several kinds of risks, and the managing of the subs and the scheduling of the construction process. I’m hoping to work out an allocation of the different elements between Cadmon and myself that will make the most sense.

That’s it for now. Coming up will be the detailed final design, building permits, and negotiations with banks and the builder. We’re planning to start construction in early April.

Jack Partridge, 11/24/07


British Petroleum on Staff at UC Berkeley


Oil giant BP has been in negotiations with UC Berkeley since February on a partnership to research renewable energy technologies, specifically biofuels. BP will provide the university with $500 million over 10 years. The contract was signed a couple of weeks ago on November 14, but the deal remains a controversial one. Two days before the contract was signed Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! hosted an interesting discussion between two UC Berkeley professors with opposing views on the debate. Miguel Altieri is a Professor of Entomology and a renowned expert in agroecology, or sustainable agriculture. He is opposed to the deal between BP and UC Berkeley. Daniel Kammen is a professor in the Energy and Resources Group, as well as professor of public policy and nuclear engineering. He directs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and is on the executive committee of the Energy Biosciences Institute, which will carry out much of the research under the deal. Kammen is generally supportive of the deal. I highly suggest you read the entire transcript of the interview, but here are some excerpts that highlight views on both sides of the story:

Critics at UC Berkeley point to the corporatization of academic research, the ecological dangers of biofuels, and BP’s long history of environmental irresponsibility, they say. They call this an act of greenwashing by BP and have been protesting the deal since it was announced in February of this year. But supporters claim that the corporate – academic partnership allows the university to realize its renewable energy research agenda and provides the most effective and economical means of addressing the looming environmental crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the issue of BP giving this enormous sum of money, $500 million over the next ten years, is this of concern to you, the issue of the privatization of a public institution?

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, I think that the size of the grant can be a concern, but not for the reasons that you’re raising. I actually think that this amount of money is relatively small change, both for the oil industries around the world and, in fact, for the amount of money it takes to bring new products to market. New cars and new drugs frequently take that much money — half a billion dollars — to bring them to market. And as a research pot of money to start with, I actually don’t regard it as that much money.

The chance, though, that this amount of money would alter what a university does is a concern to me, and the degree to which a university might see grants like this as a reason or as an excuse or as a mechanism to alter what they would work on — say, move away from some areas and move into others — is a concern if it was being done in a way that I thought that the company had that driving force.
MIGUEL ALTIERI: Well, my concerns is that, first of all, Professor Kammen is saying, it’s very little money, and eventually it’s little money for BP, but a lot of money for UC Berkeley. And what they’re going to do with this money is basically skim off what 200 years of public investment has done. It would be very expensive for BP to build a university and a research facility. They will come with $500 million. They skim off what the public university has built over years, and then they bring fifty scientists from BP that are going to have access to students, and so therefore what they’re going to do is influence the research agenda of the public university. And it’s already happening.

And anybody that has protested — faculty — have been basically dismissed and disregarded as a colorful — as part of the colorful character of the campus. You know, we have to have these people that are always protesting.

And what worries me is that, on the one side, they’re promoting the wrong technology: biofuels is the wrong way to go. There’s no discussion, for example, in this proposal about alternative transportation systems, how to curb consumption patterns of petroleum and how to promote other alternatives that are much more viable. And biofuels are going to cause tremendous problems not only in the United States, but in third world countries especially, because if we devoted all the corn that is in this country, 125,000 square miles, we would only satisfy 12% of the gas needs. So obviously what’s going to happen is that it’s going to be grown in the third world, and basically the people in the third world are going to be paying the price for the over-consumption and the old-based style of living of Europe and the United States.

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, I think there’s a couple really good points in what Miguel just said. The first one is I’m actually, as well, concerned, that I thought that the debate on campus is not one that has been as open as it could be. And you’re right, there has been sort of high-profile protests, but protests and actually having sit-downs between the sides has been somewhat lacking. And I actually really view that as a feature that the campus is responsible for the lack of that, not BP so far, and the campus needs to do a better job in that regard.

In terms of the fuel issues around the world, I actually take quite a different view than that by Miguel. It is true that if we devoted all of our corn to making ethanol in the US, we would only reach about 10% or 12%, so it wouldn’t be a significant effort, and you wouldn’t want to give up all that corn use for ethanol. But an interesting and, I think, a critical feature of the BP proposal is that, in fact, corn ethanol is excluded. Everyone who works on ethanol and biofuels worldwide recognizes that alternate fuels are available that are far better, the so-called cellulosic crops, that even include using garbage and using the waste carbon dioxide that comes out of power plants on just the land sitting next to those power plants. Those are areas for research in this proposal, not corn.

And so, if there was to be an approach that would look at alternatives that did not make the tension between food and fuel worse, it’s a project like this. In fact, in many parts of the developing world, the potential to grow crops that are useful for farmers locally at much higher efficiencies than they draw today — for food stocks, again, not corn — is an option that this proposal should be looking at. And the degree to which we do a good job there, I think, is very much due to the sort of things that Miguel said, and that is having this broader discussion and analysis not only of what we should be doing, but also how it goes on.

MIGUEL ALTIERI: I think what we need is, first of all, is to call again for an open debate, which has been suppressed, because basically the people that were questioning this have been accused of attempting against academic freedom. And basically what academic freedom now means in Berkeley is just that you cannot question the financial associations of faculty.

I mean, we need to look at the record of BP. We cannot associate with BP. It has a horrible record in terms of environment, in terms of human rights, and so on. And they have been, you know, destroying the environment for many years, and now they come as the doves of ecology.

We need to also put in place people that are going to be looking critically at the social, ecological impacts. We cannot leave in charge climate change and ecological questions to a bunch of engineers and chemists and genetic engineering people. We need to bring ecologists, social scientists, but also that are critical and are independent, that are not associated with this proposal and therefore open to debate, and also bring the public of California to question their public university that is being funded by them. They need to reclaim their university, their public university.

My question is: How many universities is BP trying to infiltrate? They have also recently teamed up with researchers at the Biodidesign Institute at Arizona State University to learn more about using cyanobacteria as a biofuel feed stock. Don’t get me wrong, it is nothing new for companies to be teaming up with universities to do research, but the sheer scale and influence of a mega-company like BP changes the dynamic of the game. It may be inevitable that the oil giants will take over the biofuels industry, if only by brute force, but is it necessary, or even allowable, that they take over our universities and intellectual freedom as well?


M-nus the CO2: Minimize your IMPACT


Richie Hawtin, Berlin-based techno DJ, has started a campaign with his record label Minus to get musicians of the electronic persuasion to reduce their carbon footprint. From the official press release:

In response to the times we live in, and due to the ever-increasing amount of proof regarding the impact of human activity on our planet, I am pleased to announce our current environmental initiative. The aim of this strategy is to one day become a carbon neutral company. I also hope that our efforts will both encourage and inspire other musicians, DJ’s & entertainment related companies/individuals to find their own ways to limit their impact on global climate change.

Hawtin is focusing initially on emissions resultant from his constant air travel and Minus’s manufacturing practices. To offset the dirty air travel of himself and all the Minus employees he has been buying carbon credits through Berlin-based Atmosfair, which sources their carbon credits through Gold Standard certified projects. The manufacturing practices are a little trickier for a music company since there are so many of us still who enjoy getting our music in physical form, whether it by vinyl or CD (myself included…). But, Minus has revamped their entire manufacturing process so that it involves zero plastic and instead uses recycled or FSC certified sustainable paper. For the rest of the digital world, Minus is working to get all their music available digitally on their own site, and on digital club music superstore Beatport. In the future, Hawtin hopes to take the iniative further by investing the money that is going into the carbon offsets into actual sustainable energy projects.
Check out the press release at (in the top right corner) or And for your viewing pleasure, an interview with Hawtin on his green initiative by Beatport:


An Interview With Bikes Not Bombs


Bikes Not Bombs is a Boston-based bike shop that does a lot more than sell bikes. In fact, calling BNB a bike shop is a bit of a misnomer, since it functioned as an international outreach organization long before it started selling bikes locally. Founded in 1984 by Carl Kurtz, BNB started out sending used and recycled bikes to Nicaragua in protest of the US backing of the Contra War during the 1970′s and 80′s. Since then, the bicycle activism of BNB has only multiplied. In their own words:

Who We Are: Bikes Not Bombs promotes bicycle technology as a concrete alternative to war and environmental destruction. For 23 years, BNB has been a nexus of bike recycling and community empowerment both in lower income neighborhoods of Boston and in the nations of the Global South. BNB’s programs involve young people and adults in mutually respectful leadership development and environmental stewardship, while recycling thousands of bicycles.


Aside from international, local community and retail work that BNB does, they also offer bike mechanics training classes to the community at large. I recently signed up to take one of these classes in order to get a little more intimate with my bike, and decided it was about time BNB got recognized on green.mnp. The organization holds ideals near and dear to the heart of green.mnp and the shop staff is always more than helpful when it comes to any bike-related query. I caught up with Matt Coe, a manager of the Jamaica Plain bike shop (and my bike mechanics sensei), and Lee Archung, BNB Board member and Treasurer, after one of my mechanics classes and asked them a few questions about the work that BNB does locally and globally:

Can you tell me a little about the history of BNB and how it has maintained itself and grown over 23 years?
Lee Archung: Bikes Not Bombs started in 1984 during the Nicaraguan Contra War and that whole series of US interventions in Central America; the organization was founded on the logic essentially that, as a country, the United States is sending down all this armament and technical training used by the military causing all this death and destruction, why don’t we send something practical? I think the first shipment was a few hundred bikes that went into Nicaragua, and over the years they went into Nicaragua, El Salvador and as the momentum built, and as the organization got established as a 501c3 non-profit, that program expanded.
Matt Coe:
Bikes Not Bombs started in response to US policy in Nicaragua, during the Sandinista period, against the US government support of the [Contra] opposition. It was started around the same time as Food Not Bombs and other “not bombs.” It started off operating out of a bunch of other bike shops, actually, collecting parts and trying to get containers together to send over there. Carl, the founder, spent time over there. That went on for a while and then at one point they realized they had all this programming aimed at overseas, but almost none that had any impact on the surroundings in Boston. At that point there was a big change toward local youth programming, like Earn a Bike, Girls in Action, more social advocacy stuff. My involvement in the retail shop and training center came out of that, in that they started doing vocational training and then started the shop as a fundraising tool. Since I’ve been here, we’ve gone from being open 15 hours a week, to now we’re open up to 75 hours, so it’s been a huge change for the shop.
LA: Some time around 1987, 88, or maybe a little later, we said we’re doing all these things overseas, why don’t we do something domestic, and that’s how the concept for Earn-A-Bike got started, at least in Boston. The basic logic being that we can teach basic mechanics and ride safety to younger people, aged 15-18, get them interested in biking and working. We’ve got about 4 or 5 no-longer-young people who have gone through that process of Earn-A-Bike and vocational training who are now full-fledged mechanics. Two of them work here, and one of them is on our board, Max Lee. Max is now a shop owner, he has his own shop in Hyde Park. There’s a girls program, called Girls In Action; there’s a youth alumni program called YDIP, for Drop-In Time, so anybody who has taken any of the youth programs can come in once a week on Wednesday to hang out and work on their bikes, but we also try to integrate an academic component, so they bring their homework. And there is the Voc-Ed program, which is once a year. It is a 6-hour, very intensive, career-oriented program to get people who are interested in getting their first steps into the bicycle industry. So when they finish that program, they have enough skills to work in a shop, which is enough to make them dangerous.

As Bikes Not Bombs has gotten to be a lot more locally oriented, do you still do all the global outreach work?
Yeah, Bikes Not Bombs has grown in a couple different directions. I don’t have a great grasp on how things were 15 years ago, or 8 years ago, but I think there’s a much greater presence in the community as far as getting people on bikes, getting people riding bikes – and in an affordable manner. But we sill do have a large overseas presence. I think we shipped more bikes overseas last year than we ever have before. It seems to me that recently we’ve had a lot more staff and volunteers overseas assisting in development programs. So, I don’t think we’ve lost our international focus at all, we’ve just diversified with all the local stuff.


How many countries do you supply bikes to?
MC: I think right now there’s 5 or so main recipients. There’s Village Bikes in Ghana, there’s a bike project in South Africa, there’s Maya Pedal in Guatemala, there’s an Earn A Bike program on Nevis Island in the Caribbean. It’s always changing, there are 25 to 40 different groups through the history of BNB. Pine Ridge Reservation 15 to 20 years ago, lots of places, New Orleans right after Katrina.

Is Boston the main hub for Bikes Not Bombs in the US, or are there other locations?
MC: Carl had done a lot of work mostly overseas and had been successful at it, and then he decided to try and get other people involved and at that point there were 10 or 15 Bikes Not Bombs throughout the US. There’s still a small inactive one in New Hampshire and another small inactive one in Austin, Texas. Which is why we have a sign at the Hub that says “Bikes Not Bombs: World Headquarters,” which is kind of silly now. So there were a lot of other ones in the US, and then most of them sort of died out or turned into other projects. There are, however, a lot of other good groups doing pretty similar work to what we do, like Working Bikes Cooperative in Chicago, for example.

In terms of US bike culture, what do you think about the US, compared to other countries, in terms of using bikes as a means of transportation?
MC: There’s places where bikes aren’t used at all for transportation, and there’s places where bikes are used really effectively, like Amsterdam. I love riding my bike – it’s fun, get to be outside, there’s a lot of reasons – it’s not soul-killing and boring, like a lot of other transportation options. But, it’s also difficult because to really make change a lot more people would have to ride bikes, but because of conditions, how streets are set up, and all these other things, it’s not at all reality like it is in other countries. In Europe for example, where you see old folks riding bikes, people riding bikes in high heels.

Yeah, it seems like there are cities where they’ve done a lot of infrastructure changes to make it friendlier for bicyclists
MC: Yeah, Chicago is a good example where the mayor sort of made a statement that he wanted this to happen – and now Chicago is a very bike-able city, there’s bike highways going through it, there’s lots of places that are easy to navigate, lots of bike paths. There’s lots of places in California like that too. And then there’s places that aren’t at all like that.

What do you think about Mayor Menino’s Bike Summit?
MC: Yeah, I don’t know. Bikes Not Bombs got a late invitation to get involved…I went to a bike shop owners’ meeting talking about our involvement in it, but it wasn’t especially interesting. Some of the other meetings other BNB staff went to they found fruitful and useful and had a lot of good energy. I don’t know the history of this in Boston, but I don’t know if there’s been a time before when the mayor has put funding into anything, like bike lanes or attention for traffic issues; there’s no place to park your bike in Back Bay, or half of Boston. There seems to be a lot of good energy – it will be interesting to see what comes out of it, and how much changes.

You guys have these programs overseas and support biking overseas; do you think that if the US did more to make bicycling friendly it would influence other countries, especially developing countries?
MC: Western culture in general is very car-oriented. It seems like the US has a lot more to learn from some other first world countries who we would try to emulate or catch up to. We definitely have a lot to learn from developing countries, as well.

How long have you been riding bikes?

MC: Since I was a little kid. It’s funny, the kids who work here, who are in high school, ride bikes over and talk about bikes all the time, and it’s a part of their lifestyle. Definitely in my high school, kids didn’t ride bikes. I had a friend who rode a BMX bike, but you didn’t ride your bike to school. It wasn’t until about ten years ago, around when I went to college and moved away from home, that I started taking it seriously again. Then I went on a long bike trip and started gaining some confidence in mechanics.

How many high school students get involved in the programs here at BNB?

MC: There are a lot of kids who are in high school who work here and at the Hub, maybe 15 or 20.
LA: Elijah is our success story. He spoke at [a cycling] conference yesterday. He started in Earn-A-Bike, completed two Earn-A-Bikes, volunteered and worked in the shop and now he’s the second Earn-A-Bike instructor.


How can people volunteer or get involved in the different programs?
MC: The way to get involved is at the Hub, every Wednesday night from 7-10 is volunteer night. Bikes get sorted and prepped for shipment overseas. There’s also fairly regular container loadings. Then from there volunteers who are interested in more responsibilities get recruited into doing more.