I decided to add a new feature to this site -- celebrities who are actively doing work on environmental issues. My book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Building and Remodeling" (pre-order please!) will be out in January, 2009 and I'm excited about spreading the word about the benefits of becoming more environmentally conscious. To kick-start this new addition to the site is actor Matthew Modine, the founder of Bicycle for a Day, a great idea as a transportation alternative. It's a simple thing that everybody can do to help reduce carbon emissions. Matthew talks about his organization and the impact that race car driving has on the environment.
Everybody has a moment where they remember how they came up w/an idea or a desire to help someone. What was yours?
I was asked a simple question: if there was one thing I could do to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, what would I do? The answer for me was simple and practical, ride a bike. If the 'greatest generation' could storm the shores of Normandy to help bring an end to the second world war, this generation could certainly get off their butts and ride a bike to reduce their carbon footprints. The group that asked the question thought this was a great idea and they asked how it could be done, so I made a film for them which was presented at the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. The film had a tremendous reception and then I was asked how I was going to accomplish the goal of getting people to 'bicycle for a day' and two years later, Bicycle for a Day (BFAD) had its first event to raise awareness at New York City's South Street Seaport. Approximately 14,000 people learned about the project and the two charities BFAD supports: Waterkeeper Alliance and American Forests: Global Re-Leaf.
Bicycling in New York City has its own challenges. How do you teach people that it's an important thing to do?
NYC is a great place to bicycle. It's relatively flat and you generally can get what you want or where you need to be by riding less than three to five miles. And because of the automobile traffic, you can travel much faster than by car or subway. Also, because of the tremendous efforts of Mayor Bloomberg and organizations like Transportation Alternatives, bicycling is safer than it has ever been in New York City and it's only getting safer and more convenient.
Everybody is talking about greening -- do you think people are really listening? If not, what do you think needs to be done?
Yes, everybody is talking about being green. Well, almost. There are, remarkably, those people that think the world is 6000 years old and the Earth's resources and infinite and not finite. People that think there is no global warming and that the changing weather is all part of a 'higher powers' plan. And there are a lot of those people.
If we really want to make a step in the right 'green' direction, let's put an end to this incredible waste of gasoline. America is the world's largest consumer of energy. Race cars going around in endless circles is a perfect metaphor for the most spoiled generation in our country's history. Endlessly consuming and going around in circles. Is this the kind of American freedom that the country's founders imagined? Is this the land of the free that so many Americans have fought and died for? Is this gross consumption of fuel what our nation's young men and women are fighting for today? If you want to go around in circles and see how fast you can do it, let's make the cars electric, or better, make it a bicycle race for freedom and dependence from foreign oil.
Thank you Matthew!
Matthew had the right idea. Just as soon as I posted the article, Clean Air NY sent out an email with this information:
Starting in January 2009, people who use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation for their work commute will be eligible for a $20/month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses. In return, participating employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.
The Bicycle Commuter Act amends the federal tax code, allowing employers to offer employees this benefit. If you bike to work, ask your employers if they can provide this benefit.