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AUGUST 15, 2008   More below: EUROPE TRIP UPDATES

Green stuff

Student standing next to Big Green Bus giving thumbs up signWalking into the Dave's parking lot on my way to buy coffee and eggs it was hard to miss the big green school bus parked in the back. It was, I found out, The Big Green Bus—powered by vegetable oil—on an 11-week trip with 12 students from Dartmouth College.

According to John, who graciously talked with me while his 11 comrades headed over to Great Lakes Brewing for lunch, the goal of this student-run project is to educate both themselves and others about sustainability.

I mentioned that I'd read in today's paper that in some parts of the countries thieves are stealing used vegetable oil from behind restaurants, an oddly positive bit of news. It means that the idea of running vehicles on used oil has caught on enough that there's profit in it for thieves. He told me that they'd had some difficulty finding used oil for their bus in California because most of it had already been spoken for. A black market on used vegetable oil—who'da thunk it?

Dave's receipt for one tube of toothpasteI was puzzled to see the Dave's receipt for one tube of Crest toothpaste taped to the door of the bus. It seemed like an odd sort of souvenir. As I walked home it hit me: the parking lot is clearly marked "For Dave's Customers Only." The students on the Big Green Bus were just providing evidence that they belonged in the lot.

I left feeling better about the state of our country, knowing that a group of students was devoting this much time and energy into working on sustainability. Maybe there's hope for us after all.

It's not easy buying green

Shelf with four different kinds of organic eggsThe Organic egg section at Dave's—a fairly small supermarket—was the latest challenge to my new-found interest in buying organic and/or local food.

First I had to overcome my years of thrifty upbringing (sorry mom & dad, you tried) and try not to notice that these eggs cost more than three times what "regular" eggs cost. But I've decided that for health and social reason I'll spend the extra money as long as I have it.

First I picked up a box of Organic Valley Organic Large Brown Eggs. They were Cage Free! and free-range. Reading the small print on the label, it seemed that they came from a coop in Oregon—a long way from Ohio. More oil used to transport them.

I moved on to Sauder's Organic Cage-Free Eggs. Hmm... cage-free, but not free range. What does that mean? These eggs were Jumbo size, significantly bigger, and cost less. Sauder's was in Pennsylvania, a neighboring state. Seemed like the best choice, but what about that cage-free/free range issue?

I didn't bother with Green Field Farms Certified Organic, because they were neither cage-free nor free range. And Land O Lakes brand, the cheapest of all, seemed way too corporate to consider.

After about ten minutes of reading labels I went with the mid-priced Sauder's because of their jumbo size, meaning more egg for your money. I'm hoping that cage-free is a good thing, as good as free range. A recent article about Sauder's makes me think I made the right choice.

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