Today the Bus took a complete tour of the San Francisco Bay Area! Leaving from Corte Madera in the North Bay we headed over the Golden Gate Bridge into the city. We stopped off by San Francisco City Hall to see Bill Zeller, manager of Clean Vehicle Programs for the City’s Department of the Environment. We’re very impressed by their push for biodiesel and electric vehicles and they’ve made great strides in improving their fleet.
After the Bus’s diesel tank running completely dry last night we decided it was an opportune time to head over to Dogpatch Biofuels, the city of San Francisco’s only public biodiesel station. We were excited to check it out, but happened to run into a pumping truck outside emblazoned with “SF Greasecycle” and our favourite sight of cubees full of veg! Bill Zeller had actually been in touch with them so we jumped on the opportunity to head over to their plant. We had time to pump a few cubees, meanwhile checking out their incredible settling and filtering system. Think of the Bus’s filtration system…and scale it up 250 times! Five ten-thousand gallon tanks purify veg to the extent that it can be sold to four local biodiesel companies as their clean raw material. My favourite part of the system was that the impurities collected in their settling tanks are tapped off and fed to the microorganisms in their wastewater treatment facility. This ups the efficiency of methane production by 60% – energy which can then be used to power the veg filtration! It’s a zero waste system and beautifully designed. It’s incredible that a city is doing this. As Erik says, New Hampshire has snow ploughs and California has greasecycling!
From the city we rushed down south to Mountain View and the Googleplex. Pulling in the first thing we saw was the multi-colored custom Google bikes for employees to get round ‘campus’. Meegan says she has never liked a bike so much in her life. We tested them out (before security told us to stop) and they sure ride nice.. but we were later warned: “We better not see one of these little guys on that bike rack of yours.” Warning taken! But yeah Google sustainability goes way further than 1,000 tiny bikes. Our host for the day was Craig Rubens BGB’05, so one of the original bussers! He says he first visited Google when aboard the Bus and now is working there as part of their Green Team, working hard to advance green initiatives. We went up onto the roof of one building to see part of their four-year-old 1.6 MW solar installation. At the time it was the largest private installation in the country. Next they really knew what would impress us… and brought round their Google buses. To increase employee productivity they saw the advantage a few years ago of providing a shuttle to get people to and from work. Fast-forward and a 73 strong fleet of custom 2011 VanHool coaches now shuttle up to 2800 employees every day. The coaches run on B5 and have the latest and greatest of emissions technology. But the real magic is the number of cars they take off the road, noticeably increasing air quality in the region, and mitigating literally thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions.
Google’s investment in vehicle technology goes far beyond coach buses. Google.org, the organization’s charitable arm, is the number one investor in energy start-ups aside from the US Department of Energy. They’re particularly invested in advancing plug-in electric vehicles. They previously modified Priuses to be plug in, but are now running a fleet of Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs, with 120 Level-3 charging stations on campus. Employees can use the cars after having taken the shuttle to work, passing a landfill on their way which provides methane to the campus’s three co-gen plants. I particularly liked the seeming pervasiveness of Google’s sustainability efforts. Beyond these huge statement projects they have signs about local food in their cafeterias, compost and recycle around campus and have done numerous energy efficiency retrofits. In 2007 they even patented the idea of floating data-centres that generate electricity from the movement of the waves beneath them. They aim to be a model for corporate sustainability worldwide and seem to be doing a good job!
From Google in the South Bay we sped up (well, Bus speed) to Annie’s new offices in Berkeley. We were greeted by a group of employees excited to check out the Bus their company has so kindly been sponsoring for a few years now! We showed them the whole shebang, complete with the Annie’s logo on the side of the Bus. We then got to check out their swanky offices, which had a near homely (Brit: (of a place or surroundings) simple but cozy and comfortable, as in one’s own home : a modern hotel with a homely atmosphere…wow being English just failed me bad) feel to them after the vastness of Googleplex! Bernie the bunny graphics shake tails round every corner and photographs of organic farming decorate the walls. Sarah our resident artist added a cheeky bunny to their chalkboard declaring ‘Bernie <3’s BGB!’ Thanks so much to everyone at Annie’s for the awesome (reusable!) goodie bags they sent us away with (yay bunny fruit snacks!) and for all their support over the years. We’re proud to show their brand off around the country. Joey even declared it the best looking logo on the Bus.
We didn’t feel our day had been quite busy enough.. so we drove a few miles through Berkeley to reach Biofuel Oasis, a beautiful biodiesel station on a main intersection. They’ve been going for eight years and have a great vibe at the station. The pumps are solar-powered and they sell a lot of useful things inside for the biodiesel or veg enthusiast. We were excited to pick up some merch including stickers declaring “Biodiesel: This Car is a Vegetarian” and a license plate frame saying “Powered by Vegetable Oil.” It’ll cover up New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die slogan but we’re OK with that to share the veg love! We drove away with one hundred gallons of B99.9 in our tanks, and made it safely back to the North Bay after another successful day of scurrying around in our beloved Bus.