Topsy Turvy Bus

Hi everyone! My name is Naomi Tamura and I have the honor of interning here at the Earth Day Network this fall. I am a freshman at American University planning to study international relations with a focus on the peace process in the Middle East. This past summer I worked at Camp Galil, a Jewish, labor Zionist summer camp in southeastern Pennsylvania. One of our main values at Galil is the idea of collective responsibility towards our environment. We manifest this concept through educational discussions, interactive group activities, and community service throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

In order to further educate on the importance of creating a healthy environment, campers and counselors at Galil were presented with an amazing opportunity. In late July, Teva’s Topsy Turvy Bus drove through the rural woods of Ottsville, PA and rolled right into our beautiful campsite for an educational, yet eco-friendly day of fun! The Topsy Turvy Bus travels around the country to empower young Jewish individuals through experiential learning of ecological and food sustainability. Composed of a standard yellow school bus with an identical counterpart flipped upside down on top of it, the Topsy Turvy Bus lead us on a mind-bending adventure to discover the power we have as individuals to fight global environmental damage and come up with our own creative ideas to change our world.

The day began with a short skit about how the earth came to be and the great impact it has on all of our lives. Following the skit, campers were sent to four different stations run by the bus leaders. The first station was the touring the Topsy Turvy Bus itself. Though it is fairly small, the influence it had on the campers was profound. The bus sleeps the 5 program leaders and is equipped with kitchen appliances, plenty of storage space, and most importantly, a system that converts old restaurant vegetable oil into usable vehicle fuel! I was amazed to hear that the bus has never bought gas at a standard station before. Instead, the bus stops at restaurants along the way, which will usually give them any leftover vegetable oil.

The next station was all about solar power. Through interactive demonstrations, the campers learned how vital the sun is as a renewable resource and were introduced to a solar oven. Comprised of a metal structure with a glass panel on the top so that the sun’s light rays can turn into heat, these ovens allowed the campers to watch cookies bake. The bus’s solar oven is usually placed on top of the bus so that food can cook while the leaders drive. One of the most interesting stations of the day introduced us to ways we can use our own body’s energy to create a healthy, sustainable environment. The campers made their own smoothies and pesto in a rotating blender attached to the rear of a stationary bicycle. Everyone had the chance to ride the bicycle while enjoying some delicious, homemade food! At the final station, campers learned the process of turning vegetable oil into useable fuel for vehicles like the Topsy Turvy Bus. Although a more time consuming process, using vegetable oil as a form of gas is less expensive, renewable, and most importantly, a clean burning alternative.

After running through each of the stations, we sat the campers down to discuss some of the interesting things they saw and learned. Many had never even heard of solar ovens, and most had no idea that something as simple as vegetable oil could turn into gas. Part of the reason the Topsy Turvy Bus came to Galil was to inspire the campers to bring all of the lessons and insights that they gained throughout the day to different communities around them. It was amazing to see how many campers felt a new responsibility towards eliminating food deserts and limiting the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. I, along with most of the campers, realized that we are living in a world exposed to severe pollution and unhealthy habits, and that we need that to be at the forefront of changing that. With positive, forward thinking, we can make simple changes to our everyday lives and make this vision of a healthy, livable world for all, a reality.

-Naomi Tamura, EDN Intern