Pick Up America is the nation's first coast-to-coast roadside litter pick-up. Our youth-inspired initiative encourages environmental stewardship and zero-waste through art, education, and community outreach. Pick Up America is the inaugural project of The Harvest Collective, Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit organization.
We envision a resilient network of individuals, commuities, and organizations interacting with each other and the land with an "I thrive when you thrive" ethic. This vision will flourish within closed loop resource systems and the active stewardship of local and global resources.
We basically started our own tour across the country. With the help of friends, strangers who become friends, and some good luck, we’ve got a full-time crew of four professional volunteers to pick up trash across this beautiful nation. Along the way, we co-host community events, hangout with the locals, play music, and make art. It’s pretty much the coolest road-trip ever.
In 2012, the plan is to:
- Pick-up across Utah and Nevada (the desert) in March, April and May.
- Then, we'll backtrack to pick-up through Colorado (the mountains) in June, July, and August.
- Finally, we'll finish our trek through California in September and October.
We have to cover the desert first and mountains second, because we can't reasonably pick up trash across the desert in the summer and we can't reasonably pick up trash over the mountains in the spring. You can see our general route on the home page; just follow the colorful tabs. In 2010 and 2011, we picked up 145,390 pounds of litter across 2,053 miles from Maryland to Colorado.
Big, beautiful, and blue
We call our bus Due West (or D-Dubs, for short)... because we’re headed in that general direction. It’s no ordinary bus though; it’s home for us and it’s our office too. Because we have a fairly large permanent crew, we needed a vehicle that would have a few beds and a kitchen. Thanks to our board member Dan, we got a good deal on one of his diesel buses. Then began the waste vegetable oil conversion and the transformation of the interior.
We run our bus on both diesel and waste vegetable oil. Why? The answer is easy -- we don’t want to rely solely on fossil fuels. In fact, we want to transition away from non-renewable sources of energy whenever possible. And it just so happens that fryer grease is chemically similar to diesel fuel. So if waste veggie oil from restaurants is being carted off to be recycled somewhere far away, why not use it as a local source of fuel? It burns cleaner than diesel, smells nice, and it’s right up our zero waste alley.
One of the big differences between diesel and waste veggie oil is the viscosity (the thickness of the liquid). So before it’s injected into the engine, we have to find a way to heat the veggie oil to 170 degrees. That’s when the veggie oil becomes more similar to diesel in viscosity. To heat up the veggie oil, we take advantage of wasted heat from the engine and also the temperature of the coolant. Using various heat exchanges within hoses and small devices, waste veggie oil can be used as fuel for our bus. So, we’ve taken a “waste oil” and found an end use for it. A warm special thank you to Adam Schwartz of Greenguild Biodiesel Co-op, Winston Hoy of Curiouser Creative Studio, and Rosedale Products, Inc., for their contributed time and resources.
Our bus was originally used by the Naval Academy, so it was kept in tip-top condition. The only major work we put in was on the interior. Yep -- we took out all the school bus chairs except for two, put in a couch, counter-top, sink, lockers, and built six bunks. A lot of the materials were just random things we found from our friends’ homes. We also got some donated second-hand appliances from Community Forklift, a store that sells surplus, salvaged and green building materials. Our friends KJ Donahue and Dave Eisler basically built our home from the ground up. Thank you :)
The outside of our bus is a community art project. The base coat was sprayed on by Greg Noel in Columbus, Ind. Then, we drove up to Bloomington, Ind., where local artists used the bus as a canvas. One side boasts the Pick Up America route from Maryland to California. It even has the Pacific Plastic Bottle and Bag Trash Gyre Monster. Our roof is symbolically the most important part. Artist Laurel Caldie painted a tree on that expresses our community support. Everywhere we go, we invite people to sign a leaf on top of the bus, and it reminds us that we only push on with the support of communities.
Pick Up America is the inaugural project of The Harvest Collective, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 80-0547273