Alternative Energy

Published on May 7th, 2009 | by Guest Contributor


Climate Cycle: Chicago Rides Toward Solar Powered Schools

Climate Cycle is a Chicago-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to make schools more energy efficient by donating solar panels and empower youth to become leaders in the emerging green economy through education.

Photo Credit: ClimateCycle.comChicago Cyclers

Chicago Cyclers

Their flagship event, the Climate Cycle bike ride, will take place on May 9, 2009 along the shores of Lake Michigan. All money raised will be used to purchase solar panels and donate them to Chicago schools. Climate Cycle celebrated its first solar inauguration on April 14, 2009 at Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy in Chicago. Purchased with a grant from the Motorola Foundation and installed by donated labor from the I.B.E.W. Local 134 electrician’s union, the six solar panels are now in operation.

I had a chance to talk with Joey Feinstein, founder and Executive Director of Climate Cycle, last week while he was busy preparing for the upcoming ride. Climate Cycle is essentially a blend of his three passions- bikes, education and the state of the environment- driven by his belief in the effectiveness of activity-based change.

Me: How did Climate Cycle get started?

Joey: Climate Change actually started in my mind in San Francisco. I went to the Presidio School of Management and that’s where I came up with the concept. While at school I took a cross-country bike ride from Wisconsin to the West coast. On that trip the initial seed was planted by a farmer in North Dakota who spoke to me about climate change on a personal level- he felt it on a visceral level.

From there I started teaching at the Rice Children’s Center and I felt a need to bring climate change issues up to people it affected. I considered teaching full time but business seemed like a great way to get the message out there and make a difference.

What kind of turnout are you expecting for your inaugural Climate Cycle ride on May 9, 2009?

We have over 300 registered riders. There are some great teams and people from all walks of life. We are really looking at this as “How do we as a society bring together different groups of people?” One of the key aspects of Climate Cycle is the mobilization of the African-American community on bikes.

There are lots of teams from the South Side of Chicago. One school has 25 people, a mix of administrators, teachers and students, and they have already raised $4,000!

We have the support of some great organizations. The Local 134 Union is donating all of the labor for free. Motorola has been a great sponsor—they have put up a $30,000 matching grant for every dollar we raise through the Climate Cycle event.

How does your Energy Efficient School Program work?

Climate Change raises the money. A General Contractor oversees the project. The Local 134 Union donates the labor. We pay for it and give the solar panel system to the school.

We also do education as a follow up to the installation. We work with each school to integrate the solar energy system into their curriculum by doing things like installing interactive energy meters that give real-time readings on school energy use and show how weather affects that energy usage. We set it up so that the meter runs backward when the school is producing more energy than it is using to demonstrate how much energy the solar panels are saving.

How is Climate Cycle looking to grow in the future?

We are taking a two pronged approach: designing the Climate Cycle events and creating a sustainable initiative in the schools.

For the Climate Cycle events, we want to expand our Chicago event and eventually expand to other cities. We want this organization to be raising tens of millions of dollars to put solar panels on schools across the country.

In the schools we would like to see this grow into integrating internship opportunities to get the students more involved and collate a body of educational best practices for integrating with school curriculum.

We want to make these events fantastic. The time is now and we want to be a Sustainability Showcase on Wheels.

What kind of bike will you be riding at Climate Cycle?

My Trek 520—same bike I rode across the country in 2000. I’ve got 12,000 miles on that bike, 3200 on that trip alone. And I’ve only ever had two flats.

To learn more about Climate Cycle, visit them at: or follow the buzz as the ride approaches this weekend at @climatecycle on Twitter.

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