When two eco-friendly French students travel on their break year, they choose to cycle around South East Asia to promote ecotourism and raise awareness on plastic pollution
Today we meet Mathilde and Apolline to discuss their conscious bike trip adventure called “Bike to Act.”
How did the Bike to Act project arise?
We wanted to go abroad and travel but in a responsible way to which we added a sports challenge.
The idea of Bike to Act came from our consciousness about the environment. We’ve always had a special relationship with nature and have wanted to act to preserve it.
Our project is simple: cycle 8000 km across Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia to raise awareness of plastic pollution and more responsible tourism.
Why did you choose Southeast Asia ?
First, it is a part of the world that we have wanted to discover for a long time.
We are crossing countries with great cultural richness, but also famous for their magnificent landscapes.
We also wanted to understand the relationship of local populations to waste and pollution in this part of the world. Understand how this issue is being managed.
Being our first major cycling trip, the countries we chose are known to be easily visited by bike, which is not insignificant for bike trip beginners.
What actions do you carry out on the ground?
We exchange a lot with the locals to understand the increase of waste in the villages.
We have made talks in schools and organized clean-ups ; actions that we share on our social networks.
We also visit sorting and recycling plants to better inform ourselves and discuss with industry professionals.
This trip so far has also taught us a lot about our way of consuming.
Halfway in your Bike Trip, what can you say so far?
Plastic pollution is everywhere in the countries we have crossed and not only on beaches.
It’s mainly due to street food and the Fast-Life habits people have adopted in the major cities. Plastic is considered as really useful, and modern. In some case, it can also be seen as more hygienic.
In Laos, we saw hardly any sorting or recycling plants, whereas, in Thailand, they’re more and more present. But people must understand that sorting plastic, is essentially a way to earn money, more than an environmental act.
What surprised us is the lack of awareness of plastic pollution or waste management.
When you cycle through magnificent landscapes and all of a sudden see trash fields, it’s pretty overwhelming.
We felt this particularly in Laos, where the trash can is basically the ground.
Seeing people throw their garbage out of the bus window, unpacking their ice cream and naturally leaving the packaging on the ground… It would surprise most travellers, but here it’s part of the normal things you do.
The highly touristy places in Thailand, are very clean at first sight. In these mass tourism areas, people clean beaches in the morning, before tourists arrive.
If you go further off the beaten track, you realize that the problem is moved to another area. We crossed fields covered with plastic and witnessed cattle eating it.
How do the locals react to your approach?
Those with whom we manage to have discussions understand and are pleasantly surprised by our approach. They feel proud that we can help them like this.
In more remote villages, it is more complicated. We often exchange with each other using signs, and many people don’t necessarily seem to understand why we spontaneously collect waste and do our own clean-up sessions.
We hope that they can understand the process and that it will have an impact on their vision of plastic pollution.
Tell us more on how you are giving back
We have recently become ambassadors for the art of change 21 association through their MaskBook operation. A collaborative art project aiming to raise public awareness of pollution and global warming. The idea is to turn anti-pollution masks into a work of art and awareness. Ours, as you can imagine, were covered in plastic.
Since our departure, we have partnered with a French fair trade tee-shirt brand. Each sweatshirt or T-shirt purchased allows the collection of 5 Kilos of waste and 1 Euro is donated to a partner association. Ours is Surfrider, an obvious choice for us, and values that speak to us.
Mathilde and Apolline, are now in the center of Vietnam and have already reached the 5,000 km mark.
Next stop, Cambodia to continue their awareness-raising trip. Before heading back to France, where they hope to continue to carry out sustainable travel actions.
To follow Mathilde & Apolline visit the Bike To Act Facebook Page or follow their adventures on Instagram.