The Big Green Bus
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D.C. Day 2!

June 29, 2010 3:47 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

We awoke to our second day in DC with much excitement and anticipation! We would be parking under the Capitol and talking to members of Congress all day long.  With clean energy and climate bills at the forefront of our legislators’ minds, there was definitely a palpable feeling of opportunity in the city.

We started out the day with a meeting with Dr. Manik Roy, Vice President of Federal Government Outreach at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Unfortunately, only five of us made it.  Due to a bus snafu about a mile from the Pew Offices, we left Mechanic Rob and Captains B-Co and Betsy with the mothership, and briskly walked the last mile.  We arrived to Pew in tact, albeit a bit sweaty and harried.  But by the end of the meeting, we were completely recharged.  Dr. Roy grilled us on the various facets of the different energy and climate bills, and we gained some insight into the “inside baseball” of various cap-and-trade and cap-and-dividend structures.

Next stop?  Capitol Hill!  We parked the bus on the National Mall, and a steady stream of tourists and curious passersby led to one of our most successful events yet.  We had a few crew members sneak away throughout the day to meetings set up with the offices of Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Collins (R-ME), and Senator Shaheen (D-NH), and we were lucky enough to have Congressmen Adler (D-NJ) come aboard our bus.

I met with Morgan Cashwell, legislative correspondent for Senator Collins, who has been doing a lot of work on the CLEAR act.  This is a cap-and-dividend program that gives 75% of the revenue generated back to the consumer.  Feel free to watch this video for more information.

We ended the day with a Dartmouth Green Alumni event at the Hawk ‘n Dove.  After an exciting, busy and at times overwhelming day, it was nice to sit down and chat with some Dartmouth alums working in various green fields such as policy, lobbying, consulting, and technology.  No place in America is really quite like Washington D.C.; however, we still found a welcoming and friendly group of Dartmouth alums to offer stories, advice and support.

We concluded the day with a nighttime stroll past the monuments. The cool night breeze was welcome relief after this hot, sweaty and humid day.  We marveled at the stoic grandeur of the Washington Monument, the respectful beauty of the World War II monument, and the dignified majesty of the Lincoln Memorial.  As we sat in silence for a few moments on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking upon the reflecting pool, we all were contented, exhausted, and oh so happy to be alive.

What did we learn during our day on the Hill? We learned that while political gaming makes progressive environmental legislation difficult, it’s still possible. We realized people in D.C. are really self-important, but sometimes for good reason. And we realized that all you need is leisurely walk down the Mall to recharge your patriotic spirit (except for Chingy…he’s Canadian.)

Its been real, DC!

-Ann Elise

First Day at the Capitol

June 28, 2010 3:17 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Into the capitol city! After hours of navigating the bus through narrow streets and road construction, we were finally able to park the bus behind a McDonalds and walk to our meeting with Sean Garren ’07 at Environment America. Sean, who works on federal energy and climate policy, was able to give us an update on the status of energy policy on the Hill and offer some tips on basic lobbying that we could use for our meetings with senators and staffers the next day.

We then were able to park the bus out in front of the Department of Energy, thanks to the rising organization started by University of Central Florida students called I.D.E.A.S. I.D.E.A.S, or Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (clever, huh?), is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability on campuses through research, action, and environmental awareness, and is now partnering with the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (kind of a big deal…). They do everything from performing research on algae biofuels and mitigation technology to planning “Off-the-Grid” activities with schools.

The event was incredibly successful, as DOE interns and employees all came out to check out the bus and share their own work on energy and environmental issues. Check out the photos posted on I.D.E.A.S.’s facebook page.

Our final stop of the day was a BBQ at the house of Cody Taylor and Andrew Chang, who both work for the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sector. We talked about what it was like to work on the hill while munching on Tofurkey.

Overall, a great start  to our stay at our nation’s capitol!


Oil spill video feed

June 27, 2010 5:54 pm Published by 1 Comment

Not sure how many of you guys have seen this. PBS has a live streaming video of the oil spill. It’s really incredible, or maybe just tragic, to watch.

Live TV : Ustream
I am aware that the politics behind changing our environmental policies are often perverse and difficult. But how can we let this continue? Why do we accept the blatant political maneuvering by pols in D.C.? Why do we accept the ill-informed and pallid attempts by BP to solve this problem?

What I’ve realized already on this short trip is that policies rarely solve problems, people do. And if anything that is the point I hope to get across to everyone I talk to this summer on the Bus. If we want a future that will sustain us, then we need to take individual ownership of the world around us.

So let’s stop accepting mediocrity from our public officials and business owners and start demanding thoughtful and inspiring leadership. Demand it by calling your local officials and telling them what you care about. Demand it by persuading your friends and family. And perhaps most importantly, demand it by changing your habits. Consume less. Live simply. Eat locally. Live a life that will sustain our world; live a life that will inspire the leadership we all need.


Better late than never – Garrison School!

June 27, 2010 4:40 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I figured there’d be no better way to start my blog entries than to write about our visit to the Garrison School, where I was able to see my cousin and her classmates for a brief, but fun, stop before we went to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust.  We pulled up to the school around 2:30pm, just before the kids got out for the day, and had all of the middle schoolers – 150 in all! – come outside and hear about our project.  It was a really fun event, albeit impromptu, and I’m glad we were able to make it.  We introduced ourselves and gave a brief description about what we were doing this summer, and how we fueled and powered our bus, and then opened it up into a discussion with the kids about things that they can do to be more sustainable and reduce their impact on the environment.  I was impressed with their ideas – everything from using metal water bottles instead of the disposable plastic ones, to turning down the heat and “just putting on a sweater”, something I heard countless times growing up.  We took the kids on tours of the inside of the bus and they seemed to be pretty impressed by the solar panels, and the fact that we had wireless wherever we went!  We also showed them how the bus worked, talking about the vegetable oil system, filtering the oil from dumpsters and then putting it into our engine.  I think that got them really excited — I can only imagine what I would have thought if I was in their shoes!  All in all, I thought it was a great success.  I felt like we were really able to connect with the kids, and later at the Land Trust we had some amazing conversations with the artists and people involved with the conservation projects.

We’re now in Baltimore, and soon heading to D.C.!  Stay tuned for more soon…

– Betsy

Baltimore Museum of Industry

June 27, 2010 1:45 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

We had a great event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on the 26th. During our event, Mike Shealy, the director of the museum’s technology education center, was gracious enough to give us a tour of the museum. This museum was an engineer’s dream come true.

We learned a lot of the industrial history of Baltimore and got to play with a lot of fun machines. Mike showed us a working can elevator that was used in an 1865 oyster cannery. The best was getting to play with a machine shop from the early 1900s. After the lathes and mills, we visited printers who work in the museum. They have been setting type and printing as a profession for over 60 years. We got to see a series of different types of printing presses, and then got to try out a lot of them ourselves. The most fun was getting to use a linotype to make a line of type (hence name lin-o-type) out of molten lead that would be used for printing. We are now the proud owners of three lead lines of type that say “The Big Green Bus 2010″!

The museum does programs for high school and middle school students called engineering challenges where students are presented an industrial engineering task. These range from barges, to planes, and windmills. The projects these students made were incredible.

We had a total blast at the BMI for the day, both at our event and touring the museum. Hope we can make it back there next year.


USDA Releases Roadmap Report for Renewable Fuels

June 26, 2010 4:55 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

USDA Releases Roadmap Report for Renewable Fuels

06/24/2010 News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released a report outlining both the current state of renewable transportation fuels efforts in America and a plan to develop regional strategies to increase the production, marketing and distribution of biofuels.

The report provides information on current production and consumption capacities as well as projections to meet the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) mandate to use 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year in America’s fuel supply by 2022.

In 2009, the United States produced 10.75 billion gallons (bg) of ethanol, primarily as corn-starch ethanol. The expectation for 2010 is for the U.S. to produce approximately 12.0 bg of ethanol and the U.S. will soon have the installed capacity to produce up to the 15.0 bg of corn-starch ethanol.

EPA expects the following feedstocks and the associated number of gallons by 2022:

Switchgrass (perennial grass): 7.9 bg
Soy biodiesel and corn oil: 1.34 bg
Crop residues (corn stover, includes bagasse): 5.5 bg
Woody biomass (forestry residue): 0.1 bg (data does not include short-term woody crops)
Corn ethanol: 15.0 bg
Other (municipal solid waste (MSW)): 2.6 bg
Animal fats and yellow grease: 0.38 bg
Algae: 0.1 bg
Imports: 2.2 bg

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said he is confident that the U.S. can meet the 36 bg goal by 2022.

The report also provides data on the impact the ethanol industry is expected to have on green jobs creation. It is estimated that as many as 40 direct jobs and additional indirect jobs are created with each 100-million-gallon ethanol facility built.

USDA plans to adopt regional strategies that allow the placement of biorefineries in areas of economic distress through the leveraging of regional resources for transportation, labor and feedstocks.

The report “A USDA Regional Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022″ is available at the link below.


Habitat for Artists

June 24, 2010 5:39 pm Published by 1 Comment

We had a planned event with the Hudson Highland Land Trust in Garrison, NY yesterday and like usual, we branched off on a tangent from the original event and ended up getting a tour of an awesome arts project behind the Land Trust office.  Simon Draper, a native from Wales, gave us a cordial introduction to his Habitat for Artists project.  He uses small 6′ x 6′ artist studios mostly made of recycled and reused materials as presentation material for art that stimulates interaction and discussion.  One project had a poetically constructed display of dried paint circles.  Another portrayed how camouflage no longer is used for it’s original purpose and how as time progresses context becomes diluted and can be lost.  My favorite part of the Habitat tour was when Simon emphasized that the project was not about being utopic and having an ideal perfect project but more about being heterotopic and possessing a vast array of ideas.

Every stop we’ve had so far has unexpectedly branched off to something awesome that both is coincidently relevant to the Bus and is an eye-opening experience for us.  Many thanks to Simon for the support.  Keep up the great work.

Check out his Habitat for Artists blog here.


The Other BP: Hudson Highlands Land Trust

June 24, 2010 5:15 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

We spent our afternoon yesterday visiting with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and the wonderful people who work there. After giving tours of the bus and engine room, I got the chance to learn a little more about their work. The HHLT is a community-based organization “devoted to protecting the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands in NY State’s Hudson Valley.” From what I understand, the organization works to secure land trusts in the surrounding area to prevent further development, ensuring that these beautiful and ecologically important lands will be protected for future generations. They also work to bring the community together to enjoy the outdoors in creative ways. For example, on June 29th, join environmental educator Cathy Bakker “for a series of six challenging, brisk-paced hikes along some of Philipstown’s most rigorous trails.” More info about the programs HHLT has to offer and about the organization in general can be found at

We also visited with Habitat for Artists, which our resident photographer Andrew Ching will hopefully write about later (get on that Chingy).

I’d also like to give a quick shout out to Professor Xun Shi, who taught the Introduction to GIS course that I took this spring. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure that the programs I was learning would ever re-enter my life in the future, but I was proven wrong yesterday. A very nice woman shared some of her current work for the Land Trust, which was all done using GIS programs to map various data in the lands that HHLT manages. And let me tell you, when she told me that she was buffering her roads, then overlaying and clipping, I was right with her. I still don’t know if learning various models of data storage on a computer will ever mean anything to me, but I was certainly glad to have taken the course by the end of our visit yesterday.

Keep checking out Chingy’s world class photos of our tour!

Thanks for tuning in

~Ben P

Oil & Urban Jungles

June 24, 2010 2:42 am Published by Leave your thoughts

I just checked one of my favorite photo blogs at the Boston Globe and came across these moving photos of the Gulf.  I was talking to one of our visitors on the bus a couple days ago and he mentioned how easy people can lose touch with issues around the world.  It’s so easy to lose context and not realize how significant things can be…in this case, the oil spill.  These photos helped me grasp the enormity of this disaster and it ultimately brings up questions of why it happened and what we can do to prevent it in the future.  These photos got me thinking more about my needs, my wants, and my energy consumption and the global consequences that stem from them.  I hope it does the same for you.

On a different note, I just came across this article about the High Line in New York City.  If you haven’t heard of it before, the High Line is an old abandoned elevated railroad in New York City that got retrofitted to become a walkway and park.  I checked it out last Summer and the space has successfully been activated and it was bustling with families, children and everyone in between.  The recent update is that it’s going to double in size next spring.  Brilliant!  It’s great to see concrete jungles become livened with greenery and nature.  It’s that balance of man and nature that makes this project so exciting.

Well, I’m off for now…got an early morning tomorrow.  We’re headed down to Seward Park in NYC for the day.  Come check us out if you get a chance.  We’ll be around ’til 4pm.


Our First Veg Stop on the road!!

June 24, 2010 2:20 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Before we left Hanover, Collis Café was kind enough to give us ample cubies of waste vegetable oil to start off our trip. Tuesday we had our first vegetable oil stop on the road on Western Ave in Allston, Massachusetts. We needed somewhere to eat breakfast and found a cute little diner called The Breakfast Club. After a delicious diner breakfast, we realized they had a big parking lot, and plenty of grease. The owner was happy to let us take the waste vegetable oil (WVO), and really curious about and supportive of what we’re doing.

We headed back later that afternoon after the diner had closed and backed into the parking lot to set up. Everyone nearby was really curious about why we were backing the Bus up to a dumpster behind a diner. We had several onlookers taking pictures, and even more just watching intently, a couple even got curious enough to leave their work at a gas station next door and come ask us about our project.

We started pumping and Rob asked a couple of us to watch different spots inside the engine for things spurting, which made me a little nervous, but thanks to Rob’s crazy mechanic skills, it worked perfectly! The grease container was pretty full, so it took us a bit to get it all pumped through the filters. Thanks to The Breakfast Club, we had a great breakfast and an incredibly successful first veg stop.

Check out the pictures!


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