What did you do on your summer break?
Moira Mercer rode her bike and collected empties.
“I had no idea that I would collect so many recyclables in just two months!” exclaimed Mercer.
Two months and more than 6,500 empties later, Mercer’s efforts will benefit a non-profit on the other side of the world.
The Lake Cowichan School education assistant spent her summer break riding her ebike five days a week and stopping to pick up any empties she spotted as she rode.
These were not short, leisurely rides.
“Business at my Cat Hotel was slow this past summer because of the pandemic. As such, I was able to go on extended bike rides at least five times a week. On other days, I walked 12-20 kilometres,” Mercer explained. “On average my daily ride was 75-plus kilometres.”
Ebike or not, the rides were hard. So hard, in fact, an unexpected byproduct of her efforts was a 35-pound weight loss.
“One still has to pedal on an ebike! Rides were typically five to six hours in length as I’d be off my bike anywhere from 150-300 times to pick up the cans and bottles along my route,” Mercer explained. “Weight loss was not a goal but getting physically fit was.”
She cycled towards Skutz Falls no fewer than six times and also cycled twice from Cassidy to the Nanaimo Lakes. Her favourite ride, though, was one of her two main routes: the “tranquil and scenic” logging road circling Cowichan Lake.
Her other main ride was the Pacific Marine Circle Route. Well, parts of it at a time.
“I divided the Pacific Marine route into two rides as I would have to be cautious about how much battery life was left on my bike,” she explained. “An ebike is very heavy so it’s difficult to ride without any battery power. One route was from my home in Honeymoon Bay to the ‘point of interest’ tree along the PMR. Other times I drove my car to the Harris/Gordon main split then cycled to Fairy Lake.”
Both routes were equally giving of bottles and cans, she said, pointing to the number of campsites and the many tourists heading out to Port Renfrew.
There was one trek from her home to Fairy Lake that was particularly notable. Not only was that the ride that netted Mercer her record of 303 cans in one trip, it was also the one where her bike’s battery ran out and, suffering from heat exhaustion, she was rescued by a concerned couple, who’d doubled back to pick her up after giving her water the first time they’d passed her.
Mercer has since limited her rides to 85 kilometers to ensure adequate battery life, and she’s ordered a spare battery.
All told, Mercer collected approximately 5,200 beer cans, 700 pop cans, 700 plastic water bottles, and 80 glass beer and wine bottles.
“It’s nice to have my garage space back,” she said. Mercer raised $676, which she then gave to Ocean Conservation Namibia through their GoFundMe page.
“The welfare of animals has always been my Achilles heel,” she explained. “While watching animal rescues on YouTube, videos by Ocean Conservation Namibia popped up on the side bar. When I checked out their website, I liked what I saw.” Mercer explained that during the pandemic the group is cooking meals for the locals in need, educating local youths in schools on conservation and rescuing seals from entanglements caused by discarded waste in the ocean from fishing trawlers.
“Some seals depicted have horrible wounds caused from these entanglements,” Mercer noted. “A video put out by Ocean Conservation Namibia earlier this week stated that the seal freed from its entanglement that day was their 500th rescue this year. I’m also aware that marine life all over the globe is in peril because of the garbage and pollutants dumped into the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. This disturbs me.”
The folks at OCN were thrilled to receive the help from afar.
“Your donation is one of the bigger donations we have received so far. It will help us to continue with our work, we are very, very grateful,” wrote Katja Dreyer of the OCN team in an email to Mercer. “Conservation is not a priority in Namibia unfortunately. Thank you for supporting us, thank you for caring about animals, thank you for creating awareness for our cause!”