On Friday, April 26, a fleet of yellow bicycles will depart from IUPUI at 9 a.m. and spread out across downtown Indianapolis. These teams of students have a collective goal of gathering as much trash as possible from Indy’s streets and parks, and recycling anything they can.
In 2015, the O’Neill School’s student council wanted to create an event that would focus on the principles of sustainability. They developed the concept for the Indy ReCYCLE Ride and collaborated with the IUPUI Sustainability Council, Pacers Bike Share, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail to bring the event to life. The first ReCYCLE Ride came to fruition in April 2016, timed to coincide with Earth Day as a reminder to students to be mindful of recycling and choosing a more sustainable lifestyle.
“I saw some trash laying around campus and on the walking trails downtown,” recalls Sawyer Knuteson, a founder of the event and current alumni engagement program assistant for the IU Alumni Association at IUPUI. “You don’t leave trash laying around your house, we shouldn’t leave it laying around our city. Our student council was looking for a way to contribute to the community in a sustainable and impactful way. Using the bikes to cover more ground provided that opportunity.”
On the morning of the event, teams of students and staff gather near the Pacers Bike Share across from the Campus Center. There are games and giveaways before the event begins. Then, the teams ride off, fanning out across the city to compete to bring back the most trash. At the 2018 ReCYCLE Ride, O’Neill Sustainable Management and Policy major Melissa Kidulas said the event was an easy way for everyone to give back to the community.
“This event is directly related to community engagement,” Kidulas said. “We’re helping to make the city a better place for everyone and create a more welcoming environment. Plus, riding bikes while we do it is fun and shows others that picking up litter can be fun.”
Kidulas understands the event isn’t just for O’Neill students. Her friend Diego Espinosa—a psychology major—decided to ride on her team.
“I really like this event because it gets people to look at their surroundings,” Espinosa said. “A lot of people don’t notice how much trash there is around you. It’s good to raise awareness about simply taking a look around your environment and helping where you can.”
But for students, the event is also about connecting with like-minded people. Nick Strange, a mathematics major, says it’s an opportunity to grow your circle and provides an example to people around the city.
“With all of the events happening downtown during Earth Month, this is a chance for other people to see us and for us to inspire those who aren’t part of the IUPUI family to care about the environment,” Strange added.
Last year, the ReCYCLE Ride set an event record. Teams picked up 430 pounds of trash from around the city. They were able to recycle 147 pounds of that. That’s twice as much as in the past two years, combined.
“Seeing all the student volunteers come together to clean the city and seeing the support from small business owners to donate prizes showed me that we really can make a difference,” Knuteson says.
To register to participate in the 2019 ReCYCLE Ride, visit go.iupui.edu/recycle-ride.