Anybody can do Sustainability
My summer of cycle action continued yesterday with another first – I entered a race. A proper race with entry fees, commissionaires, rules, closed roads and a number pinned to my backside. It wan’t any old race, though, it was the UK’s only urban cyclocross in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle with road, path, grass, dirt and cobbled sections, plus a couple of obstacles requiring a dismount.
I don’t have a cyclocross bike and my road bike has neither low enough gearing for the tough climbs nor tyres chunky enough to handle the off road bits, so I removed the pannier rack from my clunky old hybrid and used that. As I lined up (at the back of the bunch) on the start line, I realised I was one of just two riding flat handlebars and platform pedals.
So how did I do? Well I lapped the other guy on a non-specialist bike and beat 12 of the others, coming 11th out of 24 novices. I was delighted! I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the other races, drinking beer and berating my cycling buddies for not giving it a go.
How would I have done on the ‘right’ bike? Looking at the finish times, I’d have been lucky to move up one place on the standings. The main limiting factors were the power in my legs, my mediocre descending skills and the mechanical problem which led to a skipping chain on the last lap and a half. The last was bad luck, the first two could have been improved with some dedicated practice of which I did zilch, relying on my road cycling fitness and working it out as I went along.
Last week I had another of those phone calls with a potential client who spent most of the conversation telling me why his business couldn’t do Sustainability. I’ve heard it all – too big, too small, customers, suppliers, employees, bosses, buildings, technology – there’s always an excuse to do nothing. However, I have rarely seen anybody who gives Sustainability a real go fail miserably – even those few who managed to alienate the rest of their organisation got plenty of good stuff done before they were shuffled out – and some of my favourite case studies involve small businesses with minimal resources.
Sustainability success is largely in the mind – and those who don’t line up on the start line are destined to stand watching the race from the sidelines, wishing they had taken part.