Melissa Vernon

Pushing boundaries, exploring new dimensions of ourselves and realizing the power of teamwork—these define the journey of a sustainability advocate and the #bikegreenapple tour group.

As sustainability advocates, we continually see beyond the horizon and lead others to explore the world of restorative, healthy, inspiring, and resource efficient buildings. In regard to schools we push for innovative design and collaborate with new partners with the goal of creating better buildings for occupants and generations to come. And while more and more schools are building or renovating with a focus on sustainability, there are still tens of thousands in disrepair, lacking modern infrastructure and unable to finance the improvements needed to create sustainable learning environments.

So, on November 12, nine strangers arrived in Washington, D.C. prepared to spread the message of the US Green Building Council’s Green Apple program and the importance of sustainable schools. Our group included environmental advocates, an engineer, sustainable designers and architects, environmental studies majors, and me, Interface’s Green Apple champion.  The diversity of our backgrounds and experiences contributed to an immensely fulfilling journey with more laughs than I have had in a long time. Individual goals quickly evaporated and the success of the group became our shared responsibility. We were each heading into foreign territory – only one participant had ever participated in a multi-day bike ride and most had never visited WashingtonD.C., Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The distance we had to travel was not just a physical effort, but also a mental and emotional one. As we travelled we completed three service projects with schools in D.C. and Pennsylvania, Together, we upheld the higher purpose and 250 miles later, arrived in Philadelphia as a single unit. Physically, we arrived in one piece safely (no small feat for a bicyclist in an automobile-centric world). Emotionally, the journey showed us that we have the ability to accomplish great things when we’re willing to venture far beyond our comfort zone. We pushed boundaries and came out better people on the other side with a broader self-awareness.


During a stop in Gettysburg, PA, Harrisburg Area Community College President John “Ski” Sygielski, an avid cyclist and green schools champion, joined us for breakfast. As the president of a multi-campus community college system, he emphasized the importance of our journey and was grateful for our support of his schools. We volunteered with the environmental club at the HACC Lancaster campus cleaning up a stream and butterfly garden, and more importantly, created connections with people. Michael Walsh, HACC chief of staff and former deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reiterated that our mission has a ‘noble purpose’.

Cycling through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, reminded us of a simpler way of life—horse-drawn buggies, beautiful farms, no electricity, not even bicycles.  We spotted historic buildings dating from the 1700’s, crossed majestic rivers, and rode through National Parks.

The trip can be summed up in one phrase we discovered at GeorgeWashingtonCarverHigh School in Philadelphia—“think beyond yourself”. #bikegreenapple accomplished that and more.

The #bikegreenapple schedule:

Day 1, Nov. 12: Service Project in Washington, DC
Day 2, Nov. 13: Cycle Washington, DC to Frederick, MD (55 miles)
Day 3, Nov. 14: Cycle Frederick, MD to Gettysburg, PA (42 miles)
Day 4, Nov. 15: Cycle Gettysburg, PA to Lancaster, PA (57 miles)
Day 5, Nov. 16: Service Project in Lancaster, PA
Day 6, Nov. 17: Cycle Lancaster, PA to Royersford, PA (57 miles)
Day 7, Nov. 18: Cycle Royersford, PA to Philadelphia, PA (37 miles)
Day 8, Nov. 19: Service Project in Philadelphia, PA

Posted in Category Culture & Play, Greenbuild 2013 | 1 Comment

One Response to: #bikegreenapple

  1. Jeff Minnich says:

    Great post Melissa!!! I’m definitely having serious withdrawals from the trip. This really sums it up nicely. Thanks again for everything you’ve done for Green Apple

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *