otesha volunteer

Cycle for Change: Otesha bike tours

Welcome to beautiful British Columbia. Home of the Canucks, the West Coast Trail, Bryan Adams… and freakishly large zucchinis?

otesha volunteer

Yup. Meet Zucchini Baby: just one of the many reasons my four-day volunteer stint with Otesha in Vancouver was so awesome.

For those of you unfamiliar with Otesha, they’re a wicked cool youth-led charity that organizes cycling tours in different places across Canada. Along these epic, pedal-powered excursions, participants promote sustainability through interactive theatre pieces and workshops for schools and community groups.

otesha volunteers

The Otesha gang rehearsing their play, “Cycling Through Change.”

But the best part? They don’t just promote sustainability, they live it. They use bikes instead of cars. They create their thank you cards out of scrap cardboard instead of buying them from the store. They all carry reusable water bottles. They even spent hours as a group creating a “Food Mandate,” outlining the types of foods they will and won’t buy while on tour.

During the group’s orientation week at the gorgeous Southland Farms, I volunteered in the kitchen, helping prepare meals. That alone was a rewarding experience (although chopping up Zucchini Baby was a sad , albeit delicious, moment).

Otesha volunteers

Bicycle maintenance training

Much of the food we ate was generously donated from local farms, bakeries and co-ops and we made every attempt to waste as little as possible. We cut out the bad spots on peaches. We rifled through the box of lettuce and only composted the truly spoiled bits. Even the stems of some of the tougher greens got tossed into that night’s vegetable stew.

Meal plans each day were based around what we had left over and what needed to be eaten up. And the results? Dee-lish!

At the end of my stay with the Otesha-ites, I had the opportunity to share my story. Now, I’ve given talks in fancy restaurants, banquet halls and corporate boardrooms. But nothing beats making a presentation while sitting around a campfire to a group of inspiring change-makers.

Otesha volunteers

Rounding out the night with some campfire jams under a starlit sky

Inspired by Otesha, here are a few take action ideas for your consideration:

  1. Support Otesha! Learn more about this fantastic organization and how to join a tour! Get behind these amazing champions of sustainability.
  2. Create a Food Mandate of your own. It doesn’t have to be wildly elaborate or formal, but I love the idea of taking time on your own or with your family to think about where your food comes from and how you want to consume. Whether it’s moving to more organic produce, looking for fair trade coffee or buying food as locally as possible, there are many ways to consume with a conscience. And setting a Food Mandate is a good way to clarify your goals and expectations.
  3. Be Lord of the Leftovers. Before rushing off to the grocery store to pick up more food, take stock of what you’ve got in your fridge and pantry already. Plan your meals around what needs to be eaten up to reduce your amount of food waste. Get creative and if you can’t get through everything, make things like soup that can be frozen and eaten later.
Josh is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome, where he noodles and doodles about life and the lessons learned from it. He's the author of Simply Blunderful and creator of The Overcoming Obstacles Toolkit.

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