Friday, May 1, 2009

Alison Gannett's Global Cooling Tour— Walking (or Biking) the Talk

I've always been one to push the green envelope. Last winter, I had a dream opportunity—to convert an SUV to a solar-powered plug-in gas-electric hybrid, enabling it to get 100 mpg. I dreamed of reforming the auto industry with this prototype and loved the idea of further reducing my transportation carbon footprint. I had already been working on reducing my energy use by another 50% in my green solar-strawbale home and was deep into the 100-mile diet, sourcing only local food, pasture-raised local meat, and growing my own food inside at 9,000 feet in Earthboxes. I even started baking my own bread products, all in five minutes a day. Little did I know that this greening experiment would not have the payoff I intended. The converted SUV had only reduced my transportation carbon footprint from 1.6 tons to 1.4—chopped peanuts in comparison to the rest of my work. Once I figured in the 70 ton carbon footprint of the construction of the vehicle, I knew that my mantra to do the little things was going to ring true again. I needed to consume less, not shift my carbon consumption to alternative energy, such as a PHEV vehicle. So, I sold my SUV.

My first attempt to live without a car would be my East Coast Global Cooling Tour. How to get from Colgate College, NY to New York City, to Boston to NH and then back to Colgate? Public transportation doesn't exist in these areas and I wanted to go beyond renting a hybrid vehicle. So, my first thought was to use a bicycle—why not get in spring shape while getting from event to event, while also throwing in visits to the family? Now if only the weather would cooperate...

My first Global Cooling Ski Adventure Show was held at Colgate College, in Hamilton, NY. Director Abby Rowe was beyond hospitable and in addition to organizing a great show, she arranged for a slick bicycle for me to borrow. As I stuffed my camping gear, my AirSupported Gogo, computer, and business clothes into my touring bags and strapped them onto my bike, (about 15 lbs total and no racks) I headed out into the chilly weather with a lofty goal of reaching NYC, 280 miles away in 2.5 days.

Winding through central New York dairy farm country was pure pleasure on back farm roads with names like "Potato Farm Road" and "Horse Hill Road". Day two slammed me with the 15% grades of the Catskill Mountains and even more "small" yet torturous hills along the picturesque Delaware River. Riding into the Big Apple turned out to be my favorite day with the remote Harriman Park and Bear Mountain, then heavenly bike paths and routes into NYC across the George Washington Bridge and then into the orderly mayhem of Time Square.

In NYC, I sourced cool farm-to-table restaurants in between meetings and my "How to Green Your Business and Save Money" presentations with National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal, GreenTeam, and GlobalKinect. The farmer's market at Union Square proved that NYC was really making strides in the low carbon footprint arena.

Next, I was off to New Hampshire for meetings with to work on a potential collaboration to assist businesses in lowering their carbon footprint while increasing profitability. was started by the CEO of Stonyfield Farm yogurt, to rate businesses on their green or not-so-green efforts on climate change.

Nashua was the next stop, home of NEMO, for a photo shoot and facility tour. It’s always amazing to me how much work goes on behind the scenes that we never appreciate in our wonderful outdoor gear. NEMO’s progress is impressive as one of the only companies to make significant strides to green the tent industry. Yet beyond that, their gear is impressively strong and light. My Gogo was a crucial piece of gear that enabled me to pull of this feat of traveling the east by bicycle without panniers.

In celebration of Earth Day, Kate and Nicole at NEMO, along with their friends Harpoon Brewery, arranged a viewing of my slideshow in Boston. Along with NEMO and Harpoon, SmartWool, Patagonia, Osprey, EMS, and KEEN chipped in prizes for a silent auction and raffle, so we could raise money for my Save Our Snow Foundation. I started this non-profit to spread my Global Cooling Shows to schools and organizations around the world who want to help make a difference to save our planet. I use my four-step CROP framework to show people how you can reduce your carbon footprint while also saving money. It really helps folks get started or evaluate what steps they should do next in their home, business, school, event, community or government. The event rocked!

Luck was on my side for the final part of my journey. Rain and snow arrived while I visited with my mother (always pushing me to expand my horizons and supporting my bizarre career paths). Just as it was time for me to mount my bike again, the weather cleared and I prepared for a 450 mile tour of NH, VT and upstate NY, back to Colgate. What an amazing way to see your surroundings and meet folks, like Eris, 85 years old and still running her Lake Store in the Adirondack Mountains, not missing a day in 63 years. Descending from the mountains, temperatures soared to 90 degrees, buds bloomed and I found a ton of history, visiting museums and riding the "Tow Paths", a trail for the horses that pulled barges inland along the Erie Canal for hundreds of miles.

Selling my vehicle for Earth Day was a huge step, one that will not be easy and not always this green, but it sure felt good to take that first step. I encourage everyone to calculate their carbon today at


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