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Powered by vegetables, fueled by a desire to do good

Tyler Dunham '09, left, with friends on their bus powered by vegetable oil
Tyler Dunham '09, left, with friends on their bus powered by vegetable oil

The Connecticut College community has long known that Tyler Dunham ’09 has a strong sense of purpose.

He was instrumental in the launch of the energy-saving initiative "Concert from Conservation" and other awareness events, helped start a campus composting system, worked with the College's Environmental Model Committee and was president of the Renewable Energy Club. For those and other efforts, he received the 2006-07 Student Environmental Leadership Award from the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment.

Leaving the inspirational environment of Connecticut College didn’t diminish Dunham's concerns for the world around him. He and two friends from childhood, Corey McLean and Seth Brown, have embarked on a journey for good in a bright green, vegetable oil-powered former school bus they’ve dubbed “Love, the Bus.”

The three men from Lincolnville, Maine, are traveling across the country raising awareness and money for causes in the towns they visit. They learn about organizations from people who post to their website,, and who occasionally present challenges for the men to undertake.

For example, in New York City, they were challenged to cross Manhattan strapped to each other at the legs — a four-legged race, so to speak. For every person who joined them, they donated $10 to Rocking the Boat, an organization that uses boating to help young New Yorkers facing economic, educational and social disadvantages.

They're also raising awareness about the environment and making a mark on America. They want the people they meet to join their journey figuratively and think outside the box.

“The idea is to rally people around a cause that’s in need, bring some attention, raise some funds and, in the end, have some fun,” McLean explained in one of the videos they’re producing and posting online to document their trip. Brown studied film in college and it’s a hobby for Dunham and McLean.

Not a hobby? Carpentry and engine repair. But the three friends had enough skills in those areas — and enough donated goods — to convert the used school bus into an airy, comfortable motor home-like vehicle, complete with a sitting room, sleeping berths, built-in cabinets and a desk, a deck and a kitchen with cooktop, refrigerator and sink. The battery charges the refrigerator and stove while they drive, while propane powers them if they’re parked long enough for the charge to wear down.

“We have every amenity except a bathroom and shower,” said Brown. “So we have to stop somewhere to bathe.”

The trio will spend some time in Los Angeles, then head back to Maine some time in late fall or early in 2012. But after that, the future of Love, the Bus is uncertain: They’re calling their journey a “pilot season.”



October 28, 2011