Taking Big Steps: A Planet-Friendly Move to the University of Waterloo

Monday, September 23, 2019

By Katrina Steckle

This September, Honours Science student Andre Wiederkehr moved into the Conrad Grebel University College residence at the University of Waterloo in a unique way—he biked. The second year student and his brother Theo biked the 90 kilometres from their home in near Mildmay, Ontario to Grebel in Waterloo, a trip that took them nearly eight hours. As for how he transported everything that he would need to live at Grebel, Andre gave a simple explanation: “I towed my belongings in a homemade bike trailer.”

Andre's Trailer

Andre originally built the trailer for camping and hauling purposes and said that the idea of using the trailer to move back to Grebel occurred to him after he started building it. Andre noted that he was able to carry out this decision because of his consciously chosen lifestyle. “I have a good bike, an appropriate trailer, and a body adapted to biking long distances,” Andre explained. Andre remarked that he has been using his bike for an increasingly large part of his transportation over the last few years.

Travelling by bike has developed in Andre’s attempt to avoid damage to the Earth. “Over the past few years I’ve lost most of my hope that humans will change how they live soon enough and in large enough ways to avoid an environmental and social catastrophe in the relatively near future,” Andre said. “I’m simply doing what I can to live in opposition to the destruction of the world I love.”

What surprised Andre most about the trip was how much physical energy it took to tow the weight of his belongings for nearly eight hours. He noted, though, that often the most challenging part of long bike trips like this is setting one’s mind to it.

“I think this applies to many changes that we need to make regarding environmental problems: there are many worthwhile things we can do if we will only commit ourselves fully,” Andre remarked. “This wasn’t some kind of isolated, symbolic action, but part of a logical progression in changing my lifestyle holistically.”

The Global Climate Strike is happening on September 27 in Waterloo, and Andre is planning to attend— but with a caveat. “I appreciate a lot of what the strike is aiming to do,” Andre said, “but I feel it also has several problems, including the assumption that individual responsibility and action are not as important for us to focus on as political or regulatory action.”

Andre summed up his actions by concluding, “I don’t think that what I did is particularly special. It’s within the reach of almost everyone. So I would encourage you to look for big steps you can take in your own life. I’ll keep looking for them in mine.”