Community Member Spotlight: Nathan & Elsbeth

Zero Waste Chicago Community Member Spotlight: Nathan Coll

Nathan and Elsbeth Cool and their two young daughters, Madeleine and Aletheia, have found themselves effortlessly creating a lower-waste lifestyle as a result of their family's preferred mode of transportation: biking. 

"Freedom, simplicity and joy are the three words we keep coming back to," says Nathan when describing their biking lifestyle. Nathan has always biked, but Elsbeth didn't become a regular biker until she thought more about navigating the city with children. Everything seemed cumbersome and stressful, from loading the kids in and out of a minivan and sitting in traffic to taking them on public transportation. Transporting the family by bike gives them more freedom to get things done, on their own time. And the girls love biking, too: "It's exhilarating and adventurous for them - they're also part of the journey because they are participating in the ride."

"If there's one thing that is consistent in our life, it's editing - and being very intentional about what we are consuming and what creates waste in our life. Being car-free, the bulk of our world is within the radius of bikability. It helps us make decisions about what we do and where we go." This is especially true when grocery shopping. Because of the physical constraint of how much they can take with them on a bike, they have learned to become more efficient about the types of food they buy. Says Nathan, "We don't buy a lot of packaged processed foods because they come in bulky packaging and have a low calorie count." Similarly, when their daughters were babies, the Cools used cloth diapers because they weren't able to haul tons of disposable diapers by bike.

Biking has reinforced many other positive lifestyle habits, too. For example, the Cools have found that they don't need a gym membership (they get their exercise through cycling), and they don't pay for gas (no car). Bikes do have annual maintenance costs, but they've found these are much less than those for a car. Nathan says that he and Elsbeth are proud that they are instilling these attitudes in their kids. 

You can read more about the Cools' bike adventures here. Elsbeth has recently launched a new family bike rental company, Four Star Family Cyclery, whose mission it is to help families discover the joy of life by bike - so check them out!

If you'd like to read last month's Community Member Spotlight, about new composter Jenny Fukumoto, please click here!