HEN THE winter rainy season begins on Vancouver Island, most Cowichan Valley residents store their bikes and drive their cars. Everyone, that is, except for cycling enthusiasts like Aaron Bichard and Katie Harris. They have a special reason: as owners and operators of Cowichan Recyclists, they ride their bikes in the wind, rain and even snow to ensure that the Duncan business community has a recycling service. Attached to their bikes are custom-made trailers that hold up to 20 large containers of plastic, paper and cardboard. Larger cardboard pieces and extra plastic bags of recyclables are stacked on top of the containers and are often covered with tarps to keep the load dry. It is not unusual to see Bichard carting a two-metre-long trailer — with a load up to nearly three metres high — and another trailer behind it more than a metre long. “We are such a visual business. There aren’t many bikes and trailers as big as ours,” Bichard says with a smile. “Our business brings a new aspect, a new type of character to the downtown Duncan area. Not many communities can say, ‘Hey, we’re so green that we have bicycle recycling.’ ” Bichard, 34, cycles 30 hours per week collecting recyclable garbage from businesses. Harris, 35, is involved in the business only a few hours per week since she focuses most of her time on freelance radio production and voice-over work. So it is Bichard who people have become accustomed to, as he rides his bike with trailer in tow up to 40 kilometres per day. But few people realize that Bichard and Harris have an unusual shared philosophy and a depth of commitment to the downtown community. Until September 2007, award-winning journalist Bichard worked for the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, and Harris worked as an announcer and commercial producer at Duncan’s SUN FM radio station. It appeared they were rising stars in the world of journalism, but they wanted something more. They wanted to spend time together making a difference in their community. “I would make all these connections with the community and talk to people who were making a difference — making a real social and environmental difference — by doing volunteer work or just doing amazing things in the community. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be the objective journalist who would write about these issues. I wanted to act instead of just recording.” So they quit their jobs to focus on freelance work, start their recycling business and devote their free time to connecting with the community. “We wanted to do this as part of our lifestyle. We thought it would be fun — an adventure. When you work for someone else for years and years, you miss out on quality time you 29
Published on Aug 30, 2011
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