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‘Zero waste’ advocate visits Boys & Girls Club

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Tim Oey selects a participant to answer a question during his presentation on sustainability and zero waste at the Boys & Girls Club on Thursday afternoon. Olivia, the stuffed sea turtle on the front of the bike, is Oey’s mascot and is riding with Oey from San Francisco to Boston. (Alison Penn Photo)

A cyclist and zero-waste advocate challenged local kids at the Boys & Girls Club to research climate change.

As part of his ‘Save Our Seas Ride Across America’ Tim Oey began his ‘Climate Ride’ biking and speaking tour in San Francisco. He plans to travel 4,500 miles to Boston. He said he had traveled 1,700 miles in 28 days when he stopped in at the local Boys & Girls Club at 201 S. Garden Ave. on Thursday afternoon.

According to his website ZeroW.org, Oey has a degree in Chemistry from Harvard University, has worked in the computer industry for more than 30 years and began working on “public service and nonprofit environmental projects” in 2016. He said the reason for biking across the U.S. and promoting zero waste is to encourage kids and adults to take better care of Earth. The website also states that the plan is for Oey to give 180 talks during his 90-day climate ride.

“Climate change is jeopardizing all of your lives,” Oey said to the kids filling up two sets of bleachers. “For adults, we’re going to be dead before this really hits home — but for you young people it’s really going to hurt you in the future. But it’s very important you pay attention to climate change. Do you your research. Don’t just take my word for it. Double check about climate change to see that there are most of the scientists in the world all agree that climate change is a serious problem.

“In the end, we want to take care of our spaceship Earth, so it stays clean for all of you,” Oey said.

Using his laptop, Oey showed a PowerPoint of things he has seen while biking across the country, such garbage, a sea turtle with a straw in its nose, a deceased bird full of plastic and California’s superbloom. He also showed a photo of 150,000 children in Montreal protesting climate change a couple weeks ago.

Through the slower pace of cycling, Oey said it is easier to see how trash circulates from roads to rivers, and eventually how plastic and carbon dioxide pollution affects the ocean. Oey also teaches biking safety and he told a story about how he and some other bikers rescued a salamander by blocking it from cars, then took the salamander across the street in the direction it was heading.

To reduce disposable plastic consumption, Oey showed the kids his reusable food containers, reusable shopping bags, bamboo utensils, a collapsible straw made by FinalStraw that he uses during his travels and in his zero-waste lifestyle. With four people and three dogs in his household, Oey said he and his family create about a quart of trash per month.

Oey shared the following four challenges with the Boys & Girls Club kids, for them to do — or ask their parents to do with them.

• Vote with their fingers by putting things were they belong, such as trash and recycling in appropriate receptacles.

• Vote with their feet by choosing to bike or walk instead of using a car.

• Vote with their wallet by not buying trash.

• Vote with their voices by telling parents and friends to stop “polluting our world with plastics” and “to stop burning fossil fuels.” Oey also encouraged the kids to register to vote when they are old enough and until then to know they can contact their congressperson.

After his presentation, Oey opened the floor for questions from the audience.

Many of the kids asked about climate change, what Oey travels with, made statements about not littering and where trash goes, and they were given pieces of freeze-dried pineapple as a reward.

Natasha Welt, unit director of the local Boys & Girls Club, said Oey contacted the club while he was in Ruidoso early in the week and the club was “more than happy” to have a visitor.

Welt said the club does participate in some recycling initiatives with Keep Chaves County Beautiful and is open to future sustainable practices.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.