By Mary Pritchard
Shrewsbury – Hannah Iaccarino, Shrewsbury resident and Dartmouth College student, is one of a 13-member crew spending summer vacation traveling across the country in the seventh annual Big Green Bus tour. In 10 weeks, the bus will travel 11,000 miles through 40 states, along both coasts, and return to Dartmouth, in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Since April, the crew has spent countless hours converting the bus. Donated by Greyhound, the coach bus is described by crew members as “very used” when it was given to the Big Green Bus program. According to the crew, each “green” bus is used for a few years and because this is the first tour for this bus, the crew prepared the bus from scratch.
Although the group has an advisor at school, Iaccarino explained that the students do everything on their own.
“We'se removed seats and the whole interior, built cabinets, shelves, bunks and an entire new fuel line and fuel system,” she said. “We'se placed solar panels on the roof to provide power for lighting, computer, refrigerator, among other things. We'se done all of the work ourselves.”
The crew reports that they are often asked how they all sleep on the bus.
“We can all sleep on the bus if we need to, and we also have tents but most of the time, we stay with people along the trip,” Iaccarino said. “There's a strong Dartmouth alumni network as well as “bus” alumni who offer to put us up and feed us for a night.”
Erik Skarin, an engineering and environmental studies student from Sunapee, N.H., is one of the crew members who converted the bus to run on waste vegetable oil.
“We start the bus with diesel fuel,” he said. “Once it warms up to the right temperature, it switches automatically to use the vegetable oil.”
Iaccarino, who got her CDL Class B license and is one of five drivers on the trip, described a day on the bus.
“When we stop for the night, we'sl know what's broken or needs attention on the bus so we go to sleep dreaming about what's wrong and how to fix it, and get up the next day, fix it and go,” she said. “We'sl go to an event each day – many times hosted by our sponsors. We set up a table with educational materials and invite people to see the bus, our stationary bike that powers a light, and our computer which runs on our solar panel. We talk with people about sustainability and what we'se doing.”
Iaccarino will be entering her senior year at Dartmouth studying neuroscience and described the trip as her ultimate adventure.
“This is an adventure I'sl never have again,” she said. “I can see the country and at the same time be teaching others about something very important to me. I get to spend the summer with 12 awesome people. We'sl reach so many people – teaching, having discussions. We'sl learn so much from everyone we meet. We have a binder of “success stories” that we get from talking with people – we'se learning as we go and I'sl learn more than I could ever teach, which is good.”