• The Climate Ride starts in the Big Apple and ends at the Capitol Sept 21-25.

By Julie Thibodeaux

Swetha Kannan is gearing up to “put the pedal to the metal” when it comes to environmental causes. For the last three months, she’s been training for the 300-mile Climate Ride from New York City to Washington, D.C. in September.

The annual bicycle ride raises money and awareness about climate change, green energy and sustainability while promoting biking. Over the past 5 years, the nonprofit has granted more than $1 million to 56 organizations dedicated to these issues. 

Kannan, a Dallas-based Texas Instruments engineer, said she’s been an avid supporter of green causes for many years. The 30-year-old native of India volunteers at the Deep Ellum community garden, belongs to several green networking groups and started a sustainability blog last year. Already, a dedicated bicyclist, she had been on the lookout for a charity endurance event that benefitted environmental causes. When she read about the Climate Ride in the Green America newsletter, she immediately jumped in. 

“I see a lot of endurance events to support ‘cures’ but I think a lot of problems come about because we’re not kind to the environment,” she said. 

To secure her spot in the ride, she’s required to raise a minimum of $2,400. She’s already raised $1,600. Her money will go to Green America, 350.org, the Environmental Working Group and the Solar Living Institute, which she selected out of a roster of more than 60 organizations.

The 5-day ride is described as a picturesque trip through green countryside and historic towns. The route, which starts out with a ferry ride from Manhattan, winds through the Garden State of New Jersey, Pennsylvania Amish country and Maryland horse country before ending at the Capitol in DC. Participants are encouraged to meet with congress members on Climate Ride Lobby Day following the ride.

She said her family is supportive but admits they're shocked by her latest venture

“A lot of these values came from my family but I take it to the next level -- that’s what scares them.” 

One thing she knows, she’ll be in shape for the ride come September. She’s logging in as many as 100 miles a week bicycling around town. Plus she’s already ridden a 60-mile ride in 7 hours while visiting her sister in New York City recently. 

“That was an accident,” she said with a chuckle. “That weekend I was supposed to do two 30-mile rides but I couldn’t find the transportation to come back.” 

Kannan said preparing for the event has been energizing. Filled with a new sense of empowerment, she’s started collecting chip bags at work for upcycling and launched an Instagram project, documenting litter she sees on her bike rides. 

She hopes to eventually transition to a career in sustainability.

“Because of this commitment, I’ve been inspired to do more things.”

Read more about Swetha’s Climate Ride and how to donate.

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Julie Thibodeaux covers environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living for Green Source DFW. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Send your green bulletin items to Julie@greensourcedfw.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.