If you bike to work or for errands rather than driving, you’re already doing something good for the environment.
You can enjoy a bike ride around town and find out how to be more environmentally friendly on the EcoTour this weekend.
The EcoTour is an 18-mile bike ride through Champaign and Urbana on Saturday that visits homes that offer examples of green environmental practices. They include geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar and wind power, rain gardens and the Solar Decathlon house built by University of Illinois students.
The ride is organized by Peter Davis, owner of Champaign Cycle. It starts at the B. Lime store in downtown Champaign, where ride participants can learn about wind generators and rain barrels.
It will include a stop at the Champaign home of Anna Barnes and David Riecks, who installed a geothermal heating and cooling system in 1999, when they decided they needed a better cooling system than window air-conditioners.
With geothermal, Barnes said, “For every BTU we buy from Ameren, we generate three. The excess heat from cooling ... gets transferred to the water heater. So in the summer, when we’re running the system, our hot water gets heated for free. It’s a byproduct of air conditioning.”
She and Riecks are also installing a rain garden to catch the excess water that runs down Washington Street.
She and Rena Jones of Urbana think the tour will let people get ideas of changes they can make at their own homes.
“It feels good to have a representation of what other people can do, and help them achieve the goal we had,” Jones said. She and her husband, Drew, have 34 solar panels and a 50-foot wind turbine at their Urbana home.
They installed their first solar panels and the turbine in 2007. Their home is part of an Illinois solar association open-house every year.
“We wanted to do something to create more of an impact” than simply recycling, Jones said. They also have a geothermal system.
The solar and wind power are most effective in the spring and fall. The Joneses had a $25 power bill for the month of April this year for their 3,000-square-foot house.
“What’s great about this is, now that it’s all set up, it happens automatically,” Jones said. “We do nothing. We go about our business ... and if the sun is shining, the panels are collecting energy, and if the wind is blowing, the turbine is going, and we’re either buying or selling (energy) all day long.”
The ride participants will also see a rain garden being installed at a Champaign home on the day of the ride, then visit a mature rain garden at another home.
Davis said cycling and environmental concerns are naturally linked.
“One reason for cycling is that it’s environmentally friendly,” he said. “Cycling puts you in much closer contact with the environment than driving around in your car.”
“Cycling is not going to replace the automobile, but it’s one element in saving money and treading more lightly on the Earth,” he continued. “People who are interested in cycling are naturally more interested in the environment. I thought it was a great link.”
Anyone interested in participating in the EcoTour bicycle ride on Saturday can register for the ride at Champaign Cycle, B. Lime or by sending an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to EcoTour@champaigncycle.com, with “Registration” in the subject line. The tour is free.
Peter Davis, owner of Champaign Cycle, asks anyone planning to participate to preregister so he can make enough tour guides for the ride.
Riders can begin the ride anytime between 10 a.m. and noon at B. Lime, 12 W. Washington St., C. Participants ride at their own pace.
For more information, go to www.champaigncycle.com.
Photos below: The University of Illinois Solar Decathlon house under construction in July 2009, and the wind turbine at Rena and Drew Jones' Urbana home.