Mindy Ahler wanted to ride her bicycle across the country before she turned 50. All she needed was a reason.
She didn’t need to look far to find it — Ahler, 47, has dedicated the last five years advocating for lower carbon emissions in the United States. This ride, she said, would be a chance to talk with people and learn how climate change has affected their communities.
“It is the perfect time to be debating what we are going to do about climate change. That’s where we need all voices to be chiming in,” she said.
Ahler hopped on her mother’s 30-year-old Trek bike in Seaside, Ore., on Aug. 27 and departed for Washington, D.C. Under the name LowCarbon Crossings, she and her biking partner, Ryan Hall, crossed 14 states and traveled nearly 4,000 miles over the course of 79 days, arriving in the nation’s capital in mid-November.
Now Ahler is back in Edina, and wants her experience to motivate her community to live in a more sustainable way.
“We want Edina to be a leader,” her partner, Paul Thompson, said. “I mean, Edina is a wealthy community. We have a lot of resources.”
Ahler is the co-director of Cool Planet, a grass-roots organization she runs with Thompson from their home in Edina’s Morningside neighborhood. They are also regional coordinators of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit working to get a fee imposed on carbon emissions that would be returned to households as a monthly dividend.
Ahler and Thompson have found several ways to localize their advocacy efforts. They power their home using wind energy through a program offered by Xcel Energy, and they support Edina students who are part of iMatter, a youth climate advocacy group in the state.
She also rides her bike, a low-carbon form of transportation.
“We have a lot of great biking infrastructure in Minnesota overall,” she said. “We’re doing a lot with solar energy and wind energy.”
This summer, Edina hired its first sustainability coordinator and agreed to lower its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025. A solar panel array will be built on the rooftop of the city’s public works building next year; Ahler and Thompson are one of 66 households that subscribed to receive energy from it.
While biking across rural America, Ahler would start up short conversations with people about her cause. Some people did not believe in global warming, she said, but agreed they needed to take better care of their surroundings.
“I don’t think it helps any if I’m immediately trying to change someone’s mind. They’re going to resist that,” she said. “What we felt from talking to people all across the country is that people are hungry for real conversation.”
Ahler is speaking about her biking trip Monday, Dec. 12, sharing videos and recounting stories of her weeks on the road. She will discuss ways Edina and other suburban communities can be more sustainable, through recycling, switching to renewable energy or calling elected leaders.
“Not everyone needs to go to a weekly meeting to be part of what is happening,” Ahler said. “There are all these little personal actions that are important.”
Ahler’s presentation is Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Edina Morningside Community Church, 4201 Morningside Road.