Reprinted from the News-Register
Six McMinnville youths plan to head out of town on Monday, June 20, in a renovated school bus powered by waste vegetable oil. They've dubbed it The Self Express.
They are planning a summer filled with cross-country touring aimed at promoting sustainable ideas. In the process, they hope to learn how other Americans are implementing green innovations of their own.
The team describes itself as "a living-learning community of citizens engaged to cross-pollinate the grassroots sustainability movement by connecting networks and individuals working in solidarity to create a just, healthy and vibrant future for all."
The idea began to take root at the end of May. The six - David Kellner-Rode, Corina Torgeson, Lucas Cook, Katie Kann, Duncan Reid and Sean Sparks, a mix of continuing students and recent graduates mostly from Linfield College - have already put in more than 400 hours on the project.
Two of the participants were contemplating a summer road trip in a VW bus. From there it grew into a six-way mission.
The group bought the bus in Portland for $2,200. It was used to transport students in Minnesota as late as 2004, and was subsequently pressed into service by a band.
The renovation began with the floorboards. The students ground out the rust, applied a layer of Rustoleum, then topped that with layers of tarpaper, half-inch Styrofoam insulation and plywood.
The section immediately behind the cab will serve as a common living area, complete with sustainably-
Inside, paintings adorn the sides. The front section features a bright sun, the middle section blue sky and mountains, the back celestial images, including Earth cradled by a moon.
The paintings will evolve as the team travels.
"We're creating space for people to express themselves on the bus," said Kann, who just graduated from Linfield with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies. "To paint the vision they see for the world."
The bus will feature a roof rack on top for luggage, along with a solar panel.
The group has purchased a storage tank for recycled vegetable oil. It is partnering with Enviofuel of Corvallis, which is donating the labor to renovate the bus' diesel engine.
The students plan to camp in Corvallis while the engine project is under way. That will give them some insight into the bus' mechanical workings.
If all goes well, the students plan to leave first for Salt Lake City. There, they plan to join in support of Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist set for sentencing June 23 on federal felony convictions for disrupting an auction of Utah oil drilling leases.
The leases were approved by the Bush administration. However, that approval was revoked by the Obama administration.
"We want to go there and stand in solidarity with him and support him," said Kann. Following the sentencing, other activities are planned as well.
The group next intends to catch the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, then head to the East Coast.
"So far, we've had incredible support from this community," Kann said.
In addition to Cellar Ridge, the Community Plate and Dragon Gate restaurants have donated waste vegetable oil. And Thinkplanet and the McMinnville Public Market are lending a hand with fundraising.
The group plans to kick off its fundraising efforts Saturday, June 18, with an all-day bus-painting adventure capped with an evening potluck featuring entrees baked in the market's cob oven.
Kann hopes local children will pitch in on the painting. "Who doesn't look at a kid's painting and smile?" she said.
The team has developed a close sense of community it hopes to share with others. "We're going to explore how do we live sustainably in a very small space and have what we need," Kann said.
"We've all been blessed with the opportunity to go to college and receive that education," said Kellner-Rode, who just completed a degree in environmental policy. "I think we have an obligation to share what we've learned. It's a two-way transfer of knowledge - to learn from those we encounter and for them to learn from us."
The group has developed a wish list, including items such as cabinets, rearview mirrors, golf cart batteries and a portable outdoor shower. It has established a donation site at www.giveforward.com/
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