A lifelong environmentalist, Mimi Torres has never owned a car, and she never will. In 2005, she was car shopping for her first vehicle when she realized owning a car didn’t resonate with her. Instead, she commuted by walking and bussing for a couple of years and then got a bike and she hasn’t turned back. Twelve years later, she estimates she has put at least 30,000 miles in on the saddle.
Climate Ride is addictive.
This will be Mimi’s fifth Climate Ride! She keeps coming back because, well, she loves it and she loves the Climate Ride community. Also, she says “it’s become addicting after two back-to-back years.”
This year, she had the opportunity to lead the GRID Alternative team. She first heard about GRID on Climate Ride California 2014, where she fell in love with their mission to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.
Last year, she saw they were looking for a Development Assistant in the Bay Area and knew that job was for her! She’s been in it for over a year now, and is bringing things full circle by leading their team on Climate Ride California Central Coast!
It’s in her blood.
Mimi has always been a socially responsible and socially active person. She confesses that “I was totally that kid that was in 10 clubs in high school.” She’s been involved in fundraising ever since leading a project with her high school DECA chapter where she raised thousands for diabetes research (for those who may not know, DECA is a 501(c)(3) that gives people in high and college business and management experience). She was involved with environmental groups all through college (eventually as Co-President of two of them) and knew that she wanted to work for environmental nonprofits when she was 19.
But her commitment to helping the planet goes even further back. She was the kid that loved beach clean-ups and wanted to know when the next one was happening. Her Aunt (who raised her) hated them – and she would sometimes just take a trash bag to the high school across the street from where she grew up and pick up trash for fun.
Mimi went vegetarian when she was 10 and has the distinct memory of wondering “Why do we eat animals? That’s weird” when she was 4. She probably would have gone vegetarian right then if she had known that was an option. She became vegan for life at 20 – she even has the tattoo, and yes, it’s vegan ink.
Pushing back on climate change
The effects of climate change are being felt across the country, but especially in California. Mimi points out that increased wildfires are a prime example. The last two years there have been wildfires so intense further north that the smoke has impacted the Bay Area for days. Last year that jumped to weeks. Mimi has lived in Berkeley since 2009. In the past, the most smoke they got from a fire up north was 1-2 days every few years.
But recently, the smoke has impacted the area for multiple days/weeks with air warnings and everyone wearing masks. In November of 2018, the air quality in the Bay was rated the worst in the world, with hazardous conditions prompting the city to ask people to stay indoors, wear masks, and even go to filtered air shelters according to The San Francisco Chronicle. The effects were even worse in the communities that have been affected by the cycles of drought and wildfire.
Mimi has committed both her personal and professional life to pushing back on the underlying force behind the intensity of these fires – climate change. She has mostly worked at nonprofits and is stoked on her current role in fundraising.
Since her second Climate Ride, she has “always kept GRID in the back of my mind, and early last year when I saw the posting for Development Assistant at GRID Bay Area I knew that was my job. Now I’ve been there for just over a year, and I’m leading the Climate Ride team! Whoo!! <3.”
She loves that now she gets to tell people her full-time work is with GRID Alternatives. GRID is a nonprofit solar installer that installs no-cost solar exclusively for low-income families while engaging with volunteers and green job trainees. They have also recently been getting into the electric vehicle access space. GRID hits so many points – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing pollution and saving money in communities that are disproportionally affected by climate change, volunteerism, green job training, and more. Across all of GRID (they have regional offices throughout California, as well as offices in Colorado and the Mid-Atlantic) they’ve installed over 12,000 systems (see gridalternatives.org/impacts). And they have installed solar panels on some of the homes affected during the 2015 Lake County fires.
Fundraising for GRID Alternatives and Bike East Bay
Mimi is of course very excited to be leading GRID Alternative’s team this year since she first met GRID on Climate Ride California 2014. But in addition to riding for GRID, she’s also raising money for Bike East Bay. Bike East Bay has been a beneficiary of all of her Climate Rides, and until this year she has always been on their team. She’s also been on the board since December 2017. Not raising money for Bike East Bay would be have been weird and foreign to her. So she decided to go for double the fundraising minimum and set her own goal to $6k! As of writing this post, she is on her way at just under $5,000! She’s never been so close to the fundraising minimum with this much time left before the ride and it’s left her feeling totally confident that she can hit her personal $6k goal, which she describes as “exciting!” Her top tip for anyone thinking of doing a Climate Ride or other large amount peer-to-peer fundraiser is to be creative and have fun! For example – she spelled out Climate Ride on the streets of Berkeley to make this Strava art as part of her 2017 Climate Ride efforts:https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10101899295778108&set=a.10100159504384008&type=3&theater
She found Bike East Bay shortly after moving to the Bay and she’s been a supporter ever since! At the time that she met Bike East Bay she’d been a bike commuter for 2 years and never heard of a bicycle coalition. She recently joked about first meeting Bike East Bay as her “Bike East Bay meet cute”:
I’d been living in the Bay for about 5 months – I was going to a night time event near Downtown Oakland and I was nervous about leaving my bike outside for several hours, and then I saw in a local newspaper that there would be bike valet on site – I’d never heard of bike valet, but that was cool! I noticed on my ride over to the event a rattling sound on my bike and realized it was because a screw had fallen out of my rear rack. I mentioned this in passing to the people at the bike valet (volunteers of (the then) East Bay Bicycle Coalition) and someone moved a screw from my empty water cage mounts to the rack. The rattling was gone and this felt like magic. They mentioned I could be a member. Also they had biking maps. I signed up on the spot.