Reflections on how the trip turned out:


I have spent the last two months traveling the country in a bus powered by waste vegetable oil (WVO). With fourteen close friends, I have traveled over 10,000 miles in this bus; I have been hosted in the homes of over thirty kind friends, alums, family members and strangers; I have spoken with or presented to well over 1,000 people about alternative fuels and lifestyles; we showed about 500 kids how to throw a frisbee; we played in four major tournaments, and won one of them; we made new friends, and solidified old friendships; we drove through beautiful landscapes, and watched the sun rise and set against all sorts of pink skies.

In the end, back in Hanover, as the experience only begins to sink in, I can’t quite measure the impact of this trip. I know I impacted others, and I know the trip will carry meaning for me well into the future, but its effects on me are ongoing. I do know though that, above all else, I feel fortunate, and I feel grateful.

Read all of Brooking's thoughts here in her follow-up Tucker Foundation Fellowship report.



We claimed to be on a mission to change the world through small steps and raising awareness. . . and while I hope that we made some people think twice or alter their behavior, I know the trip has changed my attitudes and actions. I've re-friended everyone who rode on the bus, and a hundred people we met on the way, but I also feel that we are brought together by what we accomplished, and our strongest accomplishment was being brought together.



At some point during a lighthearted conversation while we were rolling through New England, I made some unimportant joking comment. I turns out it flat out wasn't funny. All the bussers just kind of looked at me--a nice long awkward pause. Then someone heckled me and we continued on with the topic at hand. I think that's when I realized the role that the bus folks have filled for me. Who knows all of your most annoying habits and still hangs out with you anyway? Who will fight with you, and five minutes later, laugh with you? Who forgets your bad jokes and knows when and how to support you when you need it? Siblings, man. I think that's what families are for.

Thanks y'all.



I feel both like I just took a survey course in North America and an upper-level course in biofuels and conservation politics, my last two courses at Dartmouth. I see now both how much there is to see in this great continent and how important it is to take great measures to protect it. I really want to get my own schoolbus, run it on grease and continue travelling, really spending some time in rural and natural areas. I basically don't want to own a vehicle unless I can run it on vegetable oil. I'm both excited by the prospects of the ideas and enthusiasm that abounds on the subject of the energy crisis and scared by how necessary these changes are and how few people realize it. I do feel like I have a good head start and I will always remember the experiences I had with 14 of my dearest friends this summer.



We've all been wondering what kind of impact our trip this summer has had. What has the response to our trip been? Have the time and energy of people across the country made any difference? It's a difficult question to answer, because there's no good way to measure how many people were affected and in what ways.

It happened a couple of times on the trip that at the end of a conversation about our project someone would either have a tear welling up in their eye or say, "thanks for what you're doing." And I'd often be slightly confused and embarrassed, because I thought that the scope of our project was comparatively small, that we reached too small an audience, that we didn't do everything we could to further the cause of alternative fuels ,and just hadn't had a great enough impact to justify feelings of gratitude or admiration.

I still think that we had a relatively small impact on the world of alternative fuels. But if there's been any success on this trip, it's that the project actually happened, that fifteen friends came together and did something they wanted to do. For me, that's what all this talk about change comes down to. Change is discovering what you want to do, and what you think should be done (they’re often one in the same) and then doing it.

Because anyways, it was just a silly idea to ride an oil-powered bus around the continent. But if we've had any impact, hopefully it was in showing that doing what you want to do and what you should do isn't always impossible.



Was this trip worth it? I don't know. I know it was a great way to spend a summer for myself, but was the trip worth the time, energy and money of all the people who supported us? I think we reached some people, but too often we were only preaching to the choir. For example, I felt ineffective when we stopped to talk to the community outside St. Louis already trying to set up a sustainability committee. Similarly, the group of teachers meeting to discuss how to best teach environmental issues to their students probably had very little to learn from our presentation. Are these people going to change anything they do because they saw The Big Green Bus? While we probably inspired some people either to change their light bulbs or to start their own environmental movement, I think The Big Green Bus will only really be a worthwhile trip if it goes on to better things in following years. I hope the bus will reach people who will be moved by its message, and not those people who already preach environmentalism in their own communities. But I probably won’t be involved in future trips, which makes me wonder if I did anything as worthwhile as all the enthusiastic people we talked to think I did.



I am standing on a point of transition right now. I know that I have been skating along the surface of it for some time. The Bus trip to some extent was an escape from the pressures of the future, but over the course of it my environmental goals solidified. The most clear moment of realization occurred as we drove into the Canadian Rockies at sunrise. I was sitting towards the front of the Bus, and the land began to materialize as much grander than the small illuminated patch in front of the headlights. We were backlit by the rising sun, driving west into the mountains, and the first things I noticed with the new day were the jagged peaks and the slowly spinning wind turbines dotting the slopes leading up to the mountain range. It was a pleasing juxtaposition - majestic, enduring geography and cutting-edge, renewable energy technology. The land emodied in a concrete way what I am looking to do with my life - develop and disseminate the latter to conserve and preserve the former.



At the very least, we all learned a lot. We learned how to be The Big Green Bus. We learned that we could have invested in a better bus and saved money on repairs, and that we vastly underestimated how quickly an oil filter could clog. We learned how to arrange, re-arrange, push forward, and (mostly) push back meetings with our contacts while on the road. We learned a lot about how a bus engine works. We learned how many people were eager to open their minds to our message, and we learned how to live with each other in close quarters on little sleep and lots of coffee.

So now that we're done, we have to wonder how we can make all that learning worthwhile. For me, and (I think) for all of us, the bus was worth everything we put into it -- we came out of the journey changed, experienced, matured but still utterly goofy, giddy with the realization that we actually made this idea a reality.

But why stop there? I don't think we'll do our learning justice until we apply it to future Big Green Bus projects. I will always have memories of this summer, but if I look back years from now and see the the project has endured and grown in its effort to reach people and inspire them to change, I'll know that we really did have an impact.



I think we always knew that it was going to be good. A summer road trip with a group of close friends. A worthy mission and a packed schedule. A chance to see the country and maybe even change the world...just a little bit. But I don't think any of us anticipated the caliber of the experience it turned out to be.

Parents tell children that the world is at their fingertips- that they can save the planet, make a difference, be successful, be happy. We are taught to believe that hard work and belief are the only components of a life well lived. Somewhere along the line we lose that confidence- we compromise, we give in to "reality".

In the end, that's what the trip was about, although I don't think I realized that at the beginning. It was about calling each other's bluff, it was about seizing the moment and doing something we believed in, it was about defining the reality that we are forced to accept, even if only for a summer. This echoed throughout every level of the message we tried to convey- that we do not have to accept that which we are given, that we can reach, we can dream, and, in the end, we can achieve.

We all honestly believe that we reached some people, that at least a few (or a few hundred) heard our message. And what if no one did? Well, then it was one hell of a summer and I wouldn't give up those memories for all the veggie oil in America.



This trip was the most exciting, unbelievable, illuminating, and hardest thing I have ever done. I learned an amazing amount about myself, my friends, and my country, along with how to live an environmentally friendly life.

I never realized how much I didn't know about myself. Suprise, I'm a picky eater! What, I actually enjoy cleaning the bus? I had never even had a roommate share the same room as me, much less share a bus with 14 other people, and this trip taught me that I needed to be a much better bus-mate. I learned how to compromise, apologize, and become less self-centered by living on this bus. Also, the travel time game me a chance to analyze my life, goals, dreams, and the future; I feel much more confident about my chosen path in life and I am ready to take the next steps in my journey.

Before the trip, I knew I had some really cool friends, but only now do I realize how incredibly special they all are. These are the people who would honestly tell me things I didn't want to hear about myself, but in the next breath tell me they will always be there to support me. Even though I wasn't the easiest person to live with on a bus, they dealt with me and always made me feel accepted and liked. We now share an incredible bond, forged over 7 weeks, 10,000 miles, and hundreds of hours of conversation. I will definitely use the lessons I learned from my friends through the next stages of my life.

This country that we live in is an amazing place. The scenery and natural beauty of our land is breathtaking and indescribable. The people that we call fellow Americans are unpredicatable, helpful, excited, stubborn, and always unique. From the White Mountains to the Pacific coast and back, we met thousands of individuals who helped us on our trip or learned a fact or two from our message. I can't estimate how much of an impact we had on our world, but we certainly did something to change it. I personally believe that we had an impact and enriched our country in a small but extremely important way through spreading the message of alternative fuels.

I know that wherever I head from here, I will try to live my life in a more environmentally friendly way, because this will help save our beautiful world and is also a tribute to the Big Green Bus and the 15 friends who made this crazy scheme into a reality.