Photo courtesy of Benoit Jolicoeur
The first time he saw an Otesha play in high school, Benoit Jolicoeur knew he had to join in on the fun.
Now a fourth-year political science student at the University of Ottawa, Jolicoeur had to wait until he was 18 and finished high school before he eventually joined the Otesha Project, a youth-led environmental organization focusing on educative entertainment about sustainability through bike tours and theatre.
In 2012, he was a part of the Rising Tide Tour, a two-month, 2,000-kilometre bike trip from Fredericton to Halifax in order to promote environmental sustainability.
A year later, he and his team performed interactive plays—while travelling across the country on their bicycles—for elementary and high schools. The Cycling Through Change campaign discussed issues such as fracking, fossil fuels, and material consumerism. Rather than using props, the members used their bodies to simulate objects.
Along the way, he says he met inspiring people at other environmental organizations and bike coops, and learned a lot about alternative energy and organic farming.
Although the idea of biking more than 30 kilometres every day for two months seems like a daunting task, Jolicoeur assures it’s not as hard as people might think. Of course, it doesn’t come without some challenges. Cooking and eating on a bike tour is very difficult, for example.
“We would always eat the same things over and over,” he says.
Living with nine other people for two consecutive months wasn’t always easy either. Jolicoeur says it was a good experience in learning to compromise.
Although he was first inspired to consider and change his consumer choices when he saw an Otesha Project play back in high school, he admits it’s difficult to tell whether others feel the same way.
“It’s too difficult to measure the impact,” he says.
Jolicoeur explains that the Otesha Project’s plays try to reach out to people on a personal level. “Social media is a good one these days, but for me, there’s nothing that can beat the human touch,” he says.
This approach is how the project stands out from the crowd.
As the Otesha Project’s developmental coordinator Josh Martin explains, the bicycle theme is a way of “walking the talk,” so to speak. The project emphasizes sustainability in their plays and the organization tries to make responsible and sustainable choices throughout the tours, he says, including the human-powered form of transportation and a all-vegan diet.
The organization is now accepting applications for their 2015 East and West Coast tours.
Martin says he hopes the initiative will encourage Canadians to make more responsible consumer choices. “It’s all about considering how our everyday actions affect the world around us,” he says.