How do you make pickling, canning, and composting workshops fun? If you’re the Ecology Center, you take them on the road with a brightly colored double decker bus housing a prep kitchen and garden inside.
The Ecology Center calls this bus "Road Trip," and it’s been making appearances all over California. The “mobile ecological experience” hit the streets earlier this spring, making stops at schools and museums to educate families on sustainability, a subject the Ecology Center has been preaching for the past decade.
“We felt that with the bus we would be able to reach students and communities that may not be able to visit our home in San Juan Capistrano or our learning farm in Encinitas,” Jonathan Zaidman, the Ecology Center’s regional expansion director, told The Los Angeles Times.
“Our organizational vision is to live in a world that gives more than it takes,” founder and executive director Evan Marks added. “This inspires us to design experiences and model creative solutions that reach communities of all ages — especially children, our future leaders.”
So what’s on board the Road Trip? The first floor is decked out with a prep kitchen featuring a sink, stove, and walls of canned beans and other legumes. Small crates containing lemons and leafy greens sit just outside the windows, when the bus is parked.
Upstairs there’s a thriving garden with potted plants mounted all along the walls. Visitors can also examine small stations on natural dyeing, outfitted with mason jars containing the ingredients, or seeding, which includes seed packets, seed balls, and printed information.
The Ecology Center reps who travel with the Road Trip lead information seminars and interactive lessons, where students of all ages can learn how to grow their own food—and waste less of it. The topics range from planting newspaper pots to composting at home to pickling and canning. With the prep kitchen on hand, Ecology Center staffers have also cooked fresh meals with local ingredients for the audiences who gather around the bus.
“Access to green spaces or fresh foods can be limited in certain areas, so we hoped to create a mobile toolkit that would provide lessons on how to grow food, save seeds, divert waste and make natural art, all from the bus,” Zaidman told The Los Angeles Times.
Road Trip has already completed multi-day residences at a number of California schools, including Marblehead Elementary School and Buena Vista Elementary School, and hosted pop-up events at local children’s museums. It’s currently soliciting applications for visits in all sorts of locales, including restaurants, festivals, farmers markets, corporate events, college campuses, and film screenings.
But regardless of where the road takes this eco experience on wheels, the Ecology Center believes this engaging approach has the potential to spark real change.
“We hope the Road Trip inspires communities to implement simple solutions that make major impact,” Zaidman told The Los Angeles Times. “Our work highlights the benefits of these lifestyle choices — like a deeper connection to your food, where it comes from and who grew it.”