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. Fourteen years later, she estimates she has put at least 50,000 miles in on the saddle.

Climate Ride is proud to have been a part of a few hundred of those miles! We first wrote about Mimi in 2019, and this year, Mimi is taking on an epic independent challenge, so we thought we’d circle back. She’s got big biking plans for 2021!

Climate Ride is addictive

This will be Mimi’s ninth Climate Ride! She keeps coming back because, well, “I <3 Climate Ride!” and she loves the Climate Ride community. Also, she says “it’s become addicting after two back-to-back years.” Her challenge this year was born out of our popular North Coast ride, which we had to delay due to COVID-19. She was really looking forward to returning that ride for the third time along with her Bike East Bay board buddies Kjiersten and Kristi, but in place of that she decided to go big with three rides in California. She’ll ride the North Coast route with Kristi and Kjiersten in September. She just finished riding from San Luis Obispo to LA. And then she’ll also ride the East Bay perimeter later this summer! Combined, the trips will add up to more than 700 miles!

She’s learned after so many years relying primarily on bikes to get around that “anything that pops up on the road can be overcome. In 2017 when I extended the SF to SLO Climate Ride by riding on to San Diego I got a flat on the side of the 101 about twelve miles out from Santa Barbara. I had nothing on me to fix a flat and had to walk a mile (fun fact, the blue boxes on the side of the highway will send a tow truck at your own expense but can’t otherwise help you) and then hitchhiked to a bike shop in Goleta. This is the only flat I’ve ever gotten on a Climate Ride. I started carrying things to fix flats after that even though I knew I wouldn’t get another flat.”

In 2019, 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 had an opening in the Bay Area and knew that job was for her! She’s been with GRID since then. She works in fundraising, but still does more fundraising in her spare time!

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 ten 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 ten and has the distinct memory of wondering “Why do we eat animals? That’s weird” when she was four. She probably would have gone vegetarian right then if she had known that was an option. She became vegan for life at twenty – 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. Over the last several years, there have been wildfires so intense further north that the smoke has impacted the Bay Area for days. In recent years, that has jumped to weeks. Mimi has lived in Berkeley since 2009. In the past, the most smoke they got from a fire up north was one to two 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 over three years!”

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 19,000 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

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. She’s also been on the board since December 2017. Not raising money for Bike East Bay would have been weird and foreign to her. 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 two 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 five 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.

 

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