Cyclist's environmental awareness campaign will take her to Argentina

Posted: Tuesday, July 06, 2004

In Philadelphia, Kristen Sullivan would often confront people who had discarded their garbage on the sidewalk.

"I got more negative responses," she said. "People wanted to throw their trash on the ground to spite me."

Now three weeks into a year-long, 11,350-mile bicycle trip from Fairbanks to Ushuaia, Argentina, she's finding a warmer reaction to her message of environmental awareness.

Sullivan, 27, was in Juneau for the Fourth of July weekend as part of her EarthCycle campaign. She's trying to spread the message of "eco-logics."

"It's all ways that we can lower our impact on the environment," Sullivan said. "They're no big deals or huge investments or anything. It's just thinking a little bit before you buy."

During Sunday's Fourth of July parade, Sullivan sat at a table with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. She handed out her pamphlets and hoped to collect information about environmental awareness from others.

You can follow Sullivan's trip at www.earthcycle.org. A friend in Philadelphia, Nancy D'Aquino, is updating the site.

"In Haines, this woman gave me a great recipe for 'Poor Man's Roundup,'" Sullivan said., "Four parts vinegar, one part salt, a couple drops of liquid detergent. You spray it on weeds, and they're edible. I call it, 'Smart Man's Roundup,' because it doesn't have any chemicals in it."

"Normally we go to the store and buy something made with chemicals, only because we don't think about other options," she said.

Sullivan began planning for her trip three years ago. She was inspired while working with the Peace Corps in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She met a Swiss couple that had biked to the capital from Prudhoe Bay.

"I started planning to do a trip to get from all the way at the top to all the way at the bottom," Sullivan said. "And then I thought I'd like to do it for a reason and make people aware of something."

"In college, I started taking environmental science classes, and that got me interested in living together with the environment. It shouldn't be such a struggle - trying to live my life, and trying not to use too much."

Sullivan left Fairbanks on June 14. She hopes to arrive 11,350 miles south, in Ushuaia, Argentina, sometime in the next year. Her Philadelphia home is rented for the next year and she had to quit her job with PWI Energy, an energy management firm.

"I thought I'd start with a metropolis," Sullivan said of Fairbanks. "I didn't think there were going to be enough people from Prudhoe Bay through Deadhorse to get out my pamphlet and talk to. They're pretty low-impact already."

"I would love to get down to the southern tip of Chile, but I'm not doing this to beat the elements of nature or to go from the very top point to the very, very bottom."

Sullivan biked every day in Philadelphia and kept "in general shape" to get ready for the trip. She competes in triathlons every summer. She's covered about 50 miles a day from Fairbanks, pulling a trailer with 40 pounds of food and gear.

"Every five days I restock," she said. "The most common purchase is sunblock."

Her first extended run was 660 miles to Haines, where she arrived June 27. She left Juneau on July 5 on the ferry to Prince Rupert, B.C., and plans to bike south to Seattle. Once there, she will participate in a friend's composting sessions.

Sullivan isn't worried about the traffic along the West Coast, but she is concerned about crossing the Mexican border. She may ditch the trailer and switch to carrying bags.

She also plans to fly from Panama City, Panama, to Quito, Ecuador, to avoid the beautiful, but dangerous, Darien Gap of Colombia.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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