A bright green 1989 MCI Coach bus sits parallel to Sunset Boulevard in the public lot just east of La Cienega with windows propped open. Inside are 12 Dartmouth College undergraduates who are seeking to educate West Hollywood residents about sustainable living and debunk environmental myths.
The students stand inside and outside what they've dubbed a vehicle for change, prepared to field questions about exactly how this Big Green Bus runs on vegetable oil procured from fast food restaurants along their route this summer.
The team was invited to park in West Hollywood on Saturday by Dartmouth alumnus and city Transportation Commissioner David Eichman, who had heard about the tour through the Dartmouth Club of Los Angeles. "I saw it [as] something that the city of West Hollywood would be interested in, because I know that the city is very forward thinking in terms of clean energy and general [environmental] awareness," Eichman said.
Among the bus' green materials and construction are solar panels, deep cycle batteries, an inverter and an FSC standards-compliant bamboo floor. In the bus' cabin, information stations feature poster boards with strategies to live green. (Watch the accompanying video about sustainable eating.)
"Every station demonstrates one of our seven pillars of sustainability," explained Rebecca Niemiec, who learned about the Big Green Bus while she was still in high school in Palos Verdes and later enrolled at Dartmouth with the intention of getting involved.
Niemiec and the rest of the team spend their days in the bus and nights in the homes of family, friends and Dartmouth alumni seeking to support the group's educational mission. The cabin is organized with large cubes in the back to separate the students' belongings. Some have brought along bikes. There is no restroom, forcing many daily stops.
Standing at the entry to the bus, Niemiec said the biggest myths she's busted this summer are that individuals can't make an impact and that small changes in daily habits don't matter. "It's everyday stuff, keeping mindful, small lifestyle changes," she said.
The Big Green Bus' predecessor was a yellow school bus, purchased for Dartmouth students to get to Frisbee tournaments. They felt an obligation to go green, and got a huge response. The idea for a sustainability demonstration on wheels was born, and the first Big Green Bus toured in 2005.
City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath stopped by Saturday to commend the bus crew on its commitment to sustainability and recalled her own introduction to conservation. In elementary school, Horvath read 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, which greatly affected her thinking and behavior. "What you're doing is sort of that on wheels, telling people: 'This is how you can make an impact,' " she said. "Thank you for what you are doing."
To see a tour schedule and meet the 2010 crew, visit Big Green Bus or follow the Big Green Bus on Facebook and Twitter.