September 17, 2013 12:49 am
We are excited to share with you the culminating project of our summer. The Big Green Bus is very proud to present The Calm of the Storm, our 40-minute movie that highlights some of the stories we learned this summer. We took all off the footage, edited the film, and made all of the music ourselves! We are excited to share our movie with everyone we possibly can, so please watch it with family and friends, send it to whoever you think might be interested. After you watch, we would love to hear what you think. Hope you enjoy it, and thanks for being a part of our adventures this summer! It was a fun ride.
Here is the link: http://vimeo.com/74066261
August 29, 2013 10:50 pm
Crazy, but true: yesterday was our last official event on The Big Green Bus! Caesar’s—our main corporate sponsor—facilitated the organization of an exciting environmental expo. Various environmentally-focused organizations from the Windsor, Canada area gathered in the same parking lot. It created an ideal setting for like-minded people to exchange ideas and garner motivation to continue doing what they’re doing within the community. It was my favorite “park and talk” event of the trip!
One of the many wonderful people that I talked to was Wendy Paquette, who started her own company called GoGo GreenDeals. She sells all kinds of “green” products online at a discount. My favorite was a solar-powered bowling ball-sized charging station that has several cords stemming from the same port so that you can plug in all of your devices. Another cool one was a play train kit for children, in which you can use old newspaper to construct the train tracks. Or how about a doll that overtime grows hair made of real grass?! Wendy even makes some eco-friendly products herself, including an organic hemp and recycled metal bracelet that she gave to me as a present! Browse her products on greendeals.com.
Another exciting company was Unconquered Sun, a business that among many solar technology innovations, makes solar-powered golf carts and busses. The company purchases vehicles, and then retrofits them by putting a few lightweight PV panels on the roof that are 16.2% efficient. Sean Moore, the founder and CEO, let me drive around his cushy tram cart around the lot. What a blast! Check out his site for more info at unconqueredsun.com.
Another man named Kelly Flaming—founder of Log Home Body Soap—makes chemical-free soaps, laundry detergents, deodorants, and body butters himself. He researches the source, quality, and sustainability of each natural and/or organic ingredient that he uses. He handcrafts his soaps in the “old traditional” cold processed method, which requires no external heat and naturally maximizes glycerin retention through the saponification process—lye reacting with the oil and butters. Though the most interesting product to me were not his soaps, but his natural laundry solutions. Laundry detergents are filled with harsh chemicals, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which gradually strip the color and quality of fabrics (and also ruin your septic system!). Instead, Kelly sells soap nuts, which are actually a berry picked from Sapindus Mukorossi trees in the Himalayas. The berries’ shells are coated with hardened saponin, which produces suds when it comes in contact with water. So you can stick five soap nuts in a porous bag and throw it in your washing machine to naturally clean and soften your clothing! Learn more about soap nuts at http://www.naturalmoisturizingsoap.com/laundry!
The people at the expo were super friendly, interesting, and passionate. We should’ve spent more time in Canada! After the expo, Caesar’s great engineering crew helped us fill up our water tank with a nearby hose and we fed our composting worms some delicious food scraps. Thank goodness American border patrol let our happy worms and nutrient-rich soil back into the homeland at 6am this morning.
August 29, 2013 10:43 pm
Today, we met with Mike Score and Josh Woodby with Hantz Farms LLC. Mike, the leader of this group, has been tasked by John Hantz, a wealthy Detroit financial pioneer, to lead this group. Its mission is to help reclaim plots of land in Detroit, still owned by the city, that due to budgetary troubles, the city can no longer provide a decent level of upkeep. Some of these properties are vacant lots while others have abandoned or hazardous structures on them.
Due to the city’s current financial woes, they have not provided services to help mow overgrown grass, cut down thistles, unweed the soil, clean up trash, and trim trees. Besides making the city look aesthetically displeasing and wild, this overgrown bush has also caused a safety risk in the city. The city already cannot provide adequate law enforcement and has also been unreliable in terms of providing street lighting. This wild growth provides a safe haven for would be thieves, gangsters, packs of wild dogs, and whatever else one could imagine. As Josh Woodby, one of the aids to this project, even said, “you guys are fine here during the day, for the most part, but at night I wouldn’t even dare come down here, you don’t know what could be hiding around here”.
To reclaim the city he loves, John Hantz proposed to the city that he would buy up excess plots and maintain them. He would mow the grass, trim the trees, and make sure the areas would be well kept while even tearing down existing structures on plots that are abandoned or dangerous, as they typically detract from the neighborhoods and are used by squatters, all at his own expense. The city, with its backward political system still in place and reeling from corruption and poor business structures that have left it crippled, was hesitant to agree but after four years is allowing John and Mike to pilot their program on a square mile’s worth of Detroit’s 130 square miles land.
So, we came down to Fairview Street in Detroit to help clean up to vacant plots. The area, surrounded by blight, had some rays of hope with a technology and science high school on the block, several well maintained houses, and a thriving apartment complex. However, all around us, remained evidence of Detroit’s hardships. Many houses were boarded up, others were burned out, others were simply falling apart, and trash littered the ground everywhere, with graffiti on many of the buildings still in the area. Yet, that did not dissuade us and we quickly went to work removing garbage, weeding the area, and using loppers to cuts large weeds and small trees that have grown in the area. Mike went to work mowing and by the time we left the two plots we had worked on looked good as new, and very well kept. People in the area seemed legitimately happy with our work smiling as they walked by, which apparently isn’t uncommon, as Mike described having received popsicles, water, even hugs for his work.
“People want to see Detroit looking better”, Mike said, “people legitimately care about their community and their city and want to have pride again, that’s why John started the whole thing anyways”. Yet, some in the city see John as trying to make money and scheming to take advantage of an already hard hit town, since on many of the abandoned plots he plans on starting projects such as hardwood farms, orchards, and other projects of that nature. He then plans on harvesting those goods and selling them for profit, though he will incur all the upkeep expenses. This project if allowed to continue with future buy ups, should have John breaking even some 60 years down the road.
Personally, I think John is doing a great thing. This business is beyond a businessman’s scheming endeavors, as he is using his own money, money he has earned in finance, to kickstart a program he legitimately cares about that will in the end benefit the entire community. He is showing who he really is behind all of his wealth. As a businessman in a capitalist society, he has every right to make profits and a new business, so long as he does so responsibly. Additionally, who’s to say what will happen down the road, and although he currently intends to keep the plots he buys, perhaps he will, with time, return them to the community, if it, indeed, seems fiscally and economically wise to do so. I admire and applaud John’s sacrifice and wisdom on this matter and hope more people with the capital and power enact programs of this benefit and magnitude.
August 29, 2013 1:38 pm
The BGB has now arrived in Detroit U.S.A./ Windsor Canada and we are staying at Caesars in Windsor courtesy of our generous sponsor! Over the past few days we have had some interesting experiences crossing the border through the tunnel that connects the two cities. Turns out the U.S. Border Patrol are bullies. They have consistently been curt and rude, searched us with drug sniffing dogs, confiscated our American farm stand produce and even threw out Ari’s mint garden!!! Turns out you can’t take dirt back across the border even if it is originally U.S. dirt, even if it made it into the U.S. the day before and even if the Canadians didn’t mind us bringing it in in the first place. Thankfully the Canadian Border Patrol are super chill. They already treat us like old friends, indulging us by stamping our passports, giving us candy and nicely poking fun of the bus (haha just kidding, no candy). So we have all decided to emigrate. Nah – but we have thought about it because we all like to say “Eh”.
Monday morning after an unpleasant border crossing into the U.S., we were fortunate to meet up with Charles, Noelle and Molly from the organization DWEJ, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. DWEJ definitely lives up to their mission and is working on many levels to address the environmental and social problems of their city. They certainly have their work cut out for them in Detroit.
As most people know, Detroit, once an automotive powerhouse, over the past 50 years has seen a huge decline in the city’s population and economy. When this financial crisis started to set in, there was a mass exodus to the suburbs, drastically altering the racial demographics and leaving vacancies across the city. Detroit, now plagued with crime and violence, is famous for its urban blight. Its decline is continuing to this day and in March of this year the city declared an economic emergency and brought in an emergency financial manager. While Detroit has serious issues, there are still many residents who care deeply about the city and like DWEJ are working hard to revitalize the area.
Courtesy of Charles, the Big Green Bus was able to get a glimpse of both the environmental failures and triumphs of the city through our “Toxic Tour” around the city. The Toxic Tour was not a venture created for the Big Green Bus’ visit. DWEJ often facilitates these tours in an effort to increase awareness of the multitude of justice issues in their city. The views on our route included an incinerator with toxic emissions, countless brownfield sites, industry that was actively polluting, a blatant instance of illegal construction from a government contractor and thousands of vacancies (abandoned homes, offices, schools, shops and more).
One stop that blew my mind was the Packard Plant, a luxury vehicle factory that went belly up in the 50s. During its prime it had 40,000 workers, a grocery, 2 schools and a department store all within its 35,000 acre ground. Today it is the largest abandoned building in the world and Detroit’s most famous symbol of urban blight.
With its prestigious title, the Packard Plant has attracted quite a lot of attention. As we pulled the bus to the side of the road, Charles mentioned that he was surprised there were not more cars parked along the street. It turns out the Packard Plant is quite the destination for tourists. These individuals are called “urban explorers” or “urban spelunkers”, and they enjoy exploring abandoned and squalid post-industrial areas. An interesting and problematic past time, no?
Have you ever seen a beautiful black and white picture of a run down factory? Or a photograph of an abandoned brick building tagged in vibrant spray paint? Well, courtesy of Charles I have learned a new name for that genre of photography – “blight porn” (presumably a favorite pastime of the urban explorers). While I am not surprised that this type of photography has a label, after hearing its name I am struck by the blatant social justice implications of this art and urban spelunking. Personally, I find this kind of photography fascinating and beautiful, and I know that, like some of the other bus members, I had a strong urge to hop off the bus and explore Packard Plant. Yet when I expressed this to Charles, he said that the demolition and reclamation of the plant was a huge priority of DMEJ and Detroit communities. Charles asked us how someone from this community could walk by the plant every day and not feel powerless and hopeless to create change in his or her life. Charles is right, yet I still think there is beauty in this view. Isn’t this photography a way for these local communities to take back their landscape and find beauty in their environment? Is there a bittersweet community pride for these spaces? I believe in a way it is a source of twisted pride, yet the emergence of the urban tourist has managed to co-opt and steal the community ownership of this beauty. The urban tourists action of creating an activity and art form out of the architectural byproduct of a marginalized community is quite disturbing. Recently, the Packard Plant was the film site for the Transformer movie series. The fact that this place – a symbol of the turmoil of a community and the deterioration of a city – can be used for the profit of a blockbuster film is quite tragic. After thinking about this situation, I don’t blame the communities for wanting the space to go, although when it does, it will be loosing a complex history of beauty and tragedy.
Focusing back on the rest of the tour, another upsetting stop was the Delray Community center. If you have read Katie’s essay on her visits to West Virginia in our Issues We Care About Section, you will have heard about Marsh Fork elementary school and the imminent danger of the dammed coal slurry and the environmental toxins. The Delray Community center is a different state, different industry, different substance, yet the same story. In the summer the Marathon plant is not as visible behind the bushes, yet in the winter when the leaves are gone from the trees, the proximity of the tar sands refinery to the community gathering place and the youth soccer fields is shocking. While the air smelled foul (which unfortunately is the norm), I was shocked as we exited the bus how heavy and abrasive the air felt. I usually steer clear of making these sort of concrete judgments of environmental hazards because environmental issues are frequently not tangible or visible to the naked eye. In this case it was physically apparent. Charles spoke to toxic tour participants getting headaches or shortness of breath after being in the community for less then an hour and his own personal sickness while shooting a documentary of the area. While we had the privilege to be able to drive away the residents of the Delray community don’t have that option and there are extremely high rates of asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses in the area.
While we saw some extreme degradation and suffering in Detroit, we did see initiatives that gave us hope. Those included the Russell bazaar and artist lofts – a reclaimed brown field site, Bell Isle – a beautiful, recently cleaned up city park that hosts many community events – and the Brightmoor Farmway – a series of community gardens and farms in a historically poor and crime ridden community. These sites give DWEJ and the BGB bussers hope for Detroit and it’s communities. Our stop was incredibly eye-opening and we appreciate that Charles, Noelle and Molly took time out of their day to share the positive and negative aspects of their city.
August 28, 2013 2:36 am
This past Friday, the Bus crew visited Brightflower Farm in Stockton, Illinois. Jeanie McKewan, founder of Brightflower Farm introduced us to her beautiful small farm and organic flower nursery. The bright fuschia and deep maroon dahlias that Jeanie was growing were the most vibrant and delicately formed flowers I had ever seen. Jeanie’s partner Michael, who is an exquisite chef and instructor in food science at a Chicago university, uses his fine sense of taste to select fruits and vegetables grown on Jeanie’s farm for his exquisite culinary creations.
Although Jeanie showed us the beauty and excitement of starting your own farm and business, she also shared the difficulties of the labor as well as the logistical business aspects to her farm. Jeanie sells some of her flowers to several Whole Foods vendors in the Chicago metropolitan area under the “Local” and/or “Organic” label that source conscious consumers so desperately seek.
The most curious aspect to Jeanie’s small farm is that it’s surrounded on four sides by a huge monoculture, genetically modified crop: Bt corn. The location of her farm is particularly precarious because there is a high risk of GMO corn contaminating her land, which could cause her to lose the organic certification she annually pays for. In addition, fungicide is frequently used for the GMO crops in Stockton. Because of the location of Jeannie’s farm, the low flying planes could easily imprecisely spray onto Jeannie’s crops which could cause damage to her crops and business reputation – not to mention the health effects of having fungicide spray periodically over her home!
Later in the day, bussers attended a town meeting in downtown Warren, Illinois. A number of locals and long time residents – farmers, bankers, small business owners – showed up and engaged in local environmental and social issues in small discussion groups with bussers. In my group I learned about a woman, Beth, who lives in the town over. Beth, who has a background in geology, is worried about the effects of traditional farming practices on the groundwater system that several communities share and benefit from. The geology of this region in Illinois isn’t too well known by federal agencies or local agencies. But, certain situations that have transpired in the recent past have shown that certain areas of Warren allow for the chemical fertilizers to leach into the already low-quality, high mineral saturation water. Beth decided to do something about the environmental injustice and natural resource risk she observed; Beth sought out a grant from the EPA to use sensors to understand how the fertilizers used in locations of traditional farming practices have been impacting the groundwater system. In the process she and her team are mapping out the region and the contamination levels of the groundwater in order to have some concrete data that can be used to show local officials how and where the water resources are being impacted. This was just one example of what concerned local citizens were doing to better the environment and protect the health of those within their community.
August 25, 2013 9:30 pm
After a sad morning in Chicago of saying goodbye to Jo, who had to leave the bus yesterday to start work, we picked up some biodiesel and headed to Fair Oaks, Indiana to learn about big scale dairy farms. I have to say it was one of the more bizarre experiences of this whole trip… maybe of my life… There were hundreds of visitors who came to the farm to see the cows and pigs, learn about where their dairy comes from, jump on the moon bounces and buy some ice cream. The whole thing had been turned into a sort of amusement park. We took a bus (it was covered in cow spots) and drove through barns of “happy cows” who were never allowed to leave their stall and past mountains of “nutritious feed”… Piles upon piles of ground corn feed and vitamin additives; no grazing allowed, thats for sure. All of the female cows get artificially inseminated about five times in their lifespan in order to birth more calves and continue producing milk. The milking parlor was pretty wild– we watched from behind a glass window the efficiency of this whole milking operation. It was remarkable.
Then to the pigs! We walked inside one of the pig farms which consisted of rooms upon rooms filled with pigs. There was the growing room where the pigs were sleeping and eating, sleeping and eating. There was the gestation room for the female pigs who had been artificially inseminated, were waiting for the piglets to mature. Then there was the birthing area where the momma pigs gave birth and the piglets could nurse. The caretakers clearly cared a lot about the pigs and did a good job of keeping everything clean and healthy, and the pigs seemed content, though they weren’t able to move around very much. The whole thing was a sort of museum where we could spectate from behind a glass window and remark on how cute the little piglets were. They were very very cute. But never did they mention the fact that all of these pigs were going to the slaughterhouse, that that was the whole point of this whole operation.
We also went into a big room with stadium seating and watched a cow give birth to a baby calf. It made me never want to have babies… but was also pretty awesome to watch. It was kind of weird that, again we watched form behind a big glass wall and couldn’t hear any of the sounds. It felt oddly sterile and quite like an invasion of privacy.
We spent the day taking this tour and all of us were thinking critically about how all of the information was being presented to us. On one hand, I have some understanding of how or why this whole system is in place. We have a high demand for food, there is an enormous population to feed, and efficiency is the key. We did get to see their enormous biogas system and I thought that was really amazing. I also trust that the people running this whole farm are really intelligent, very hard-working and kind people who are trying to meet the demands of our population. We demand dairy and we demand meat, and these big scale farmers are just doing their jobs and trying to provide for the ever-growing population.
Yet I also left Indiana thinking about my part in this whole puzzle. I think the issue of food is really interesting because that is one aspect of my life as a college student where I do have quite a bit of agency as a consumer. Regarding energy, I can’t just throw a solar panel up on the house that I’m renting. With fuel, I can choose not to travel but I don’t have a personal car and thus don’t have the choice of running biodiesel or some other fuel that I’m most willing to support. I think the two biggest arenas that I can affect are 1) What field I chose to work in and who I chose to work for and 2) the products that I chose to buy. When I buy something, I’m giving money to an industry and essentially telling them to keep doing what they are doing. Well in college, I don’t buy much else other than food and that is something I can definitely choose more wisely in the future. Furthermore, going to school in a place like Hanover, I am lucky enough to have opportunities to go to farmers markets, get CSA shares, choose wisely at the Co-op, etc. Often the more “environmentally responsible” choice is also the more expensive one. I acknowledge that I am in a really fortunate position to be able to choose what food I want to buy in the first place, there is no doubt about that. I also think that if there is anything worth spending my money on, its good food that supports good practices.
Food is wrapped up in energy, politics, water, social systems, culture, and everything else. And as we start to wrap up our summer on the bus and I think of things that I can do in my personal life, food is definitely something I could be more aware of.
Thanks for reading and happy eating,
August 23, 2013 4:35 am
Today we were able to see a different side of the oil boom in North Dakota. Williston gave the impression that oil and gas development was giving certain counties of North Dakota seemingly unlimited economic opportunity. It is true the money flowing into the region is quite substantial and huge growth in the region is occurring. Despite these facts, such gifts don’t come without a cost — and for some that cost is not worth the reward.
Brenda and Richard Jorgensons’, owners of a substantial area of farmland in Tioga, shared with us their story of battling an oil company to prevent them from installing a 2200 PSI gas pipeline through the middle of their farmable land. It seems resistance against the corporate giants controlling the region is futile — if you don’t take their initial offer they will claim eminent domain, which gives companies a right to use private land if public need demands it. The sleeping “bomb” (as they described it) lying underneath their land isn’t the only impact this boom has had upon the Jorgensons — an oil rig was installed a few hundred feet off of their property on their neighbors land, a “horse head” and accompanying flare marring the idyllic view. Brenda told us the hazards of when the flare goes out and gasses coming from thousands of feet underground spill onto her property and fill her home. She often must check the direction of the wind before heading outdoors in fear for her health. The Jorgensons’ realize the necessity oil plays in our national economy, but they expressed their wish that development could be done in a way that was respectful of those directly impacted by the extraction process.
Marvin Baker, an owner of an organic farm in Carpio, shared with us his frustration of the unfettered development in the region. Again, he isn’t inherently against oil, but he believes the growth must be regulated and kept in check by state government — which currently isn’t the case. He doesn’t own the mineral rights to his land, and when asked what he would do if eminent domain forced an oil rig on his property, he said he would simply leave. He expressed his concerns for the growth in crime and loss of the sense of community that accompanies the large amount of people transiently passing through the region looking for a quick buck.
Every issue we encounter has multiple stories and multiple sides — however a common trend we have seen is that outside corporations controlling extraction of natural resources of an area often overlook the wishes and concerns of those being directly impacted.
August 22, 2013 2:01 am
When our crew sat down in the fall to choose our route, we tried to select stops where we could have the greatest impact and see the most innovative solutions in sustainability. We chose mostly cities, where we felt like we could engage with large groups of people.
A month into our trip, we reevaluated our mission and our goals for the summer. We discovered that the most meaningful parts of our trip so far had involved learning about environmental issues and how communities engage with those issues: West Virginia with coal mining and Key West with sea level rise. Thus, we decided to cancel one of our last stops – Chicago – and instead go see the oil boom in North Dakota and big agriculture (“Big Ag”) in the Midwest.
Yesterday, we made our way into Williston, North Dakota, where an oil boom started in 2005. The discovery of oil in the area has brought an influx of jobs and people. In 2000, the population of Williston was 12,000. Today, the population is around 30,000. By 2025, there is expected to be a minimum of 130,000 people living in the town. These numbers account only for registered citizens, not the thousands of people camping, living out of their cars, or residing in “man camps”.
This rapid influx of people has caused a massive housing crisis. Because the oil jobs pay so well, landlords are able to charge preposterous amounts for rent. An individual will pay around $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. While some claim greed as the cause of these steep rates, the entire town is seeing an increase in wealth and thus, higher prices across the board.
To learn about the fascinating changes occurring in the region, we met with two journalists from the Williston Herald and a representative from the jobs office. They told us about the unbelievable wages available at Walmart ($18/hour for a newly hired cashier) and McDonalds ($12/hour minimum). Those who work for oil companies will start out making $18 per hour if they come in with no experience, but anyone with technical training can start out anywhere from $25 to $45 per hour. Many large businesses, some oil companies included, also provide housing for their employees.
The town has responded in a number of ways to the growing economy and population. An old elementary school reopened and set up trailers to fit all the students. (The real issue, however, lies in finding teachers. People do not want to work as low-paid teachers when there is so much more money to be made in oil.) New housing developments are going up. Five new restaurants have opened in the last three months. Right by the train station, two strip clubs draw in newcomers and locals alike. Local churches see the boom as an opportunity to impact many people. One church actually opened up its basement as a space for people to live temporarily. The boom is impacting every sector and every industry in Williston.
As an environmental advocacy group, we tried to learn about the environmental impacts of the oil industry in this area. Yet, this is not the topic on people’s minds. One of the journalists explained that no one really knows the long-term effects of drilling and the rise in fracking.
Social justice issues are apparent in the area. Driving around, we saw countless flares burning methane being released from the oil wells. Methane, which is far worse for the environment than CO2, is burned and thus enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (still a powerful greenhouse gas). These glowing flares are located on people’s personal property and in Indian reservations. According to the law, many local farmers own their land but not the, “mineral rights”. Whoever owns those rights is at liberty to go into the land and drill. On the reservations, the tribal leaders realize that bringing in oil drilling is one of the best ways to keep their people out of poverty.
A fascinating culture resides in Williston. While the area has received negative attention from the press, highlighting the increase in violent crime and overwhelming male to female ratio, the three women we engaged with told us otherwise. These women said that the classic Midwestern hospitality and ethic can be felt here. People do not flaunt their money and many still drive old pick up trucks around.
Of course, the reaction to the oil boom is mixed: some people resist change, others embrace it. Yet, as one reporter said, the region is turning a corner. Williston is quickly growing and developing, and there are job opportunities everywhere. Though the drilling side of oil will only last until 2017, the production side will be around for the next couple generations. As the woman at the jobs office told us, “It is no longer a boom. It’s an industry.”
August 21, 2013 11:50 pm
Today we got to check out one of our sponsors: Silver Bullet. Based in Denver, Silver Bullet is pushing the envelope on water purification technology, primarily focusing on improving water efficiency and quality in industrialized applications, such as cooling tower and livestock water supply. By implementing an ingenious new approach to water purification, they can eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in cooling towers and livestock water supplies, extending the utility and value of the water for both applications. It was awesome to meet with one of our sponsors and find out more about what they’re doing–especially because Silver Bullet is such an inspiring company! As we’ve said before, technological innovations aren’t the only thing necessary to develop a sustainable society, but they do play a vital role, so it’s exciting to see technological innovations that help make our civilization more sustainable.
August 20, 2013 12:52 am
Oh, what a wonderful day we had in Denver thanks to Jordan’s impeccable planning. For me the day started off somewhat badly when I took several wrong turns in the bus due to my own spaciness. Fortunately, Krystyna my trusty navigator was patient with me and, despite the fact that I still don’t know my right from my left, was able to direct me to the Denver Biodiesel Coop. The Denver Biodiesel Coop is a small company that sells both filtered waste veg and B99 from waste veg – the good stuff! While our tank was filling up, we went on a tour of the filtering room and got to spend some time chatting with Steve Patterson, the general manager, and Matt Robinson, a principal member.
After our fill up, we headed to Fort Carson, an army base in Colorado Springs where we met Anneleisa Barta, a sustainability contractor for the base. The majority of the BGB had never been on an army base, and personally I was blown away with Fort Carson’s size and facilities. It was a small city unto itself, complete with offices, residences, gas stations, restaurants and more. During our visit, we were able to tour the Fort Carson on the bus while Anneleisa pointed out the various green infrastructures around the base. Most of us were unaware that the U.S. military has made serious sustainability commitments. Fort Carson is attempting to become a Triple Net Zero base by 2027. While I had heard of Net Zero initiatives, I had never heard of a Triple Net Zero initiative and learned that it entails closed loop systems for energy, water and waste. While it is an ambitious endeavor, Anneleisa is optimistic that the base will reach their goal and from our tour it was clear that the base has already undertaken some serious steps in that direction with the installation of solar arrays, Leed certified buildings, water treatment and reclamation infrastructure and more.
After Fort Carson we headed back to the city and met up with the Denver alumni club at the Platte River Bar and Grill where we were treated to a tasty dinner and some fun conversations with alums. Many thanks to the alumni club especially Mike Miller who hosted the dinner and Julie and Bill Kaewert who hosted us at their home.
Another great thing about Saturday was it was actually my 23rd birthday (bus grandma, woot woot!). On the way back to the Kaewert’s there was a dance party in the bus to some of my favorite songs such as King of Africa and Sk8r Boi (Don’t worry parents. Katie was driving and remained focused on the road). Then back at the house the group, headed up by Jo, made me the ugliest, yet most tasty chocolate cake I have ever had. So delicious! (I then ate the rest the following day for breakfast and lunch). Katie, Lindsay and Krystyna also gave me a present – a Hawaiian, Greek/Roman goddess mumu. Wow! They know me too well. The day ended with a group cuddle on the Kaewert’s King sized guest bed while watching Pride and Prejudice. What a great birthday with the BGB!
-The Birthday Princess aka The Bus Grandma aka Gray