Driving from Australia to Norway without stopping for gas

Four men plan to drive from Australia to Norway on biodiesel alone. Four Aussie men are preparing to make an epic road trip that will see them drive from their home in Australia all the way to Norway. That, in and of itself, should make for quite an adventure, but they’ll also make the journey without stopping at a single gas station along the way. Instead, they’ll use biodiesel to power their vehicle and they’ll gas up by collecting cooking oil and animal fat from restaurants and pubs, which they’ll convert into fuel instead.

The journey has been labeled The Green Way Up and it will get underway in March. The drive will start in Hobart, Australia, the southernmost point on that continent and will end more than 28,000 miles later in the northernmost part of Norway. Along the way, the team will pass through 30 different countries, spotlighting the use of alternative fuels on a local level along the way.

In fact, the focus of the entire trip is to bring the use of alternative fuels to the attention of the general public, placing an emphasis on their importance to the environment and the future of energy for the planet. The team is so committed to using biodiesel for instance, that they’ve built their own special processor to create the fuel they’ll use along the way, and their putting the final touches on a biodiesel-powered boat that will carry them from Darwin, Australia to Singapore, with stops on the islands in East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia along as well.

To find out more about this expedition, visit the official website and check out the video below. Anyone else feel inspired to go on a big road trip now?

[Photo credit: The Green Way Up]


Green Way Up from Jo Melling on Vimeo.

Chicago City Provisions organic farm dinners

It’s Green Travel Month here at Gadling, so to get into the green spirit, I booked a special dinner with Chicago’s City Provisions Catering and Events, an eco-friendly catering company. City Provisions works with local farmers and suppliers, sends its organic waste back to farmers for composting, and sources all of its ingredients from organic and sustainable providers. The company offers catering services both off-site and at its city space, and is in the process of opening up a deli. It also hosts a monthly supperclub. In winter, dinners are held at the storefront location, but in the warmer months the meal is served out on a local farm, using fresh ingredients grown on-site. August’s dinner was held at Heritage Prairie Farm, about an hour north of Chicago. Heritage Prairie also does its owns farm dinners, but drinks and transportation are not included, as they are with City Provisions.

At 1 p.m., my husband and I arrived at the City Provisions location in Chicago. While we checked in, we were offered soft drinks – served in 100% compostable glasses – and light snacks. Then we, and the 38 other diners, boarded the biodiesel bus for the ride out to the farm. Along the way, we were introduced to Cleetus, the mastermind behind City Provisions. We enjoyed some BLT sandwiches, tomato gazpacho, and Great Lakes Brewing beers, and prepared ourselves for the upcoming feast.

Once at the farm, we met the owners and the farmers who work the land. They led us on a tour of the small property and explained the sustainable practices they employ to make the farm as efficient as possible. While Heritage Prairie is not a certified organic farm, the methods they use, such as allowing weeds to grow in certain areas rather than using pesticides, are green and eco-friendly. One of the most unique features of the farm is the three movable greenhouses, which allow the farmers to engaging in a practice known as “four-season farming”. The greenhouses are on tracks and can be moved up and down the length of the field, covering different sections as needed. This allows the farm to harvest some crops as late as January, long past the time when most other farms have halted their efforts for the year.

The tour took us through one of the smaller greenhouses, where we saw the wooden growing beds where seeds were left to germinate. Due to the farm’s small size, it’s very important that it be as efficient as possible. To ensure that every inch of the field is productive, the soil beds in the growing greenhouse are cut up into smaller squares, and only the successful ones are moved to the field. In this way, no field space is wasted. After exploring the grounds, we browsed through the farm’s market for honey made on-site and fresh produce and herbs grown at the farm.

By 5 p.m., we were sitting down to dinner at an elegantly-dressed table in the field. As we helped ourselves to baby eggplant baba ganouj with pita chips, servers began pouring the beer that would accompany each course. Provided by Great Lakes Brewing, one of the most environmentally-responsible brewers in the US, the beer was paired according to each course, and many of the dishes utilized the beer for their sauces.

Over the next three hours, we enjoyed five courses of delicious, fresh-from-the-farm food expertly prepared by the City Provisions chefs, who were all decked out in organic cotton chef’s jackets that had buttons made from nuts rather than plastic. Between each course, we had the chance to mingle with fellow diners and we learned about the process of brewing beer and about the sustainable practices at Great Lakes Brewing from owner Pat Conway.

Our first course, a delicate micro-green salad, was topped with sun gold tomatoes and a vinaigrette made with Grassroots beer from Great Lakes and honey produced on the farm. Next came a colorful mix of seared rainbow chard, baby leeks, currants and pine nuts, with crispy pancetta served over brown rice with a balsamic sauce made from the accompanying Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

Course three – a zucchini cake topped with basil creme fraiche and served with baby carrots and more of the farm’s microgreens – was just as delightful. By the time course four rolled around, everyone at the table had become fast friends, and we traded stories while oohing and aahing over the grilled pork brat that was topped with grain mustard and served with potato salad and green beans in a browned-butter sauce.

Just when we thought our tummies had been filled to bursting, the final course was brought out. A light-as-air pavlova was topped with caramel-honey cream and fresh peaches and was served alongside a rich Glockenspiel beer. As we licked the last of the cream from our forks and tilted back our glasses to catch the last drops of beer, the chefs were busy setting up another surprise. While dinner had ended, the evening was far from over, and as we stood from the table, we saw that a bonfire had been started, more beer was ready to be consumed, and the ingredients for classic s’mores were laid out nearby. We drank, ate, and relaxed while enjoying the searing colors of the sun setting over the fields.

At 10 p.m., it was time to re-board the bus and return to our city lives. Our indulgent dinner may not have single-handedly saved the planet, but our support of farmers and producers who use sustainable methods may help encourage other restaurants and farmers to take a step in a greener direction too.

Can’t make it to Chicago to book a farm dinner with City Provisions? Here are some other green-focused farm dinners around the country.

Austin, Texas – Dai Due Supper Club
Portland, Oregon – Plate & Pitchfork Farm Dinners
Old Lyme, Connecticut – Dinners at the Farm
Ashville, North Carolina – Maverick Farms
Boulder, Colorado – Meadow Lark Farm Dinners
Point Arena, California – Oz Farm
Various locations – Outstanding in the Field

Hydrogen fueling station coming to San Francisco Airport

If you drive a fuel cell vehicle, you’ll be able to recharge at San Francisco International Airport. The hydrogen station that is planned will also be used for a fleet of airport shuttle buses and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority hybrid buses. This project has been funded in part by a $1.7 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

Linde North America, an engineering firm, has been engaged to design and install the system. “At the heart of the station is the Linde MaxFueler 90, a dispensing system whose fast-fill technology makes hydrogen fueling quick and easy, creating a similar experience to what motorists now get at their local service station,” says Mike McGowan, head of hydrogen solutions for Linde North America.

John L. Martin, San Francisco International Airport director, said, “The development and installation of a hydrogen fueling station at SFO is just a further extension of the Airport’s commitment to being a good steward of the environment. Whether it be the expansion of solar or wind energy systems, the continued use of CNG and biodiesel fueled vehicles, or being part of cutting-edge systems such as hydrogen fueling facilities, SFO is fully committed to reducing its carbon footprint in our community.”

The project is set for completion in early 2010.

Continental Airlines experiments with algae jet fuel mix

On Wednesday, Continental Airlines flew a Boeing 737 from Houston in a circle over the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing too special about that. Except that this flight was a test of a new 50/50 jet fuel/biofuel mixture, powering one of the engines.

The bio portion of the fuel was a mix of algae and jatropha oil, an alternative fuel that can be grown in poor soil, yet is able to produce more yields than soybean. The fuel was approved for aviation use last year, and meets or exceeds all requirements for a jet fuel.

The jet was not the first biofuel powered airplane. Early last year, Virgin Atlantic flew a 747 from London to Amsterdam powered partially by coconut oil.

Most experts agree that the aviation industry will have to invest heavily in finding alternative fuels, but given how much is at stake during these trials it is understandable that they take things kind of slow.

This trial was a huge success, and the test pilot called it “textbook”. Whether or not we’ll start flying in coconut and algae powered jets any time soon, will all depend on how quickly these new crops can be grown on a massive scale. The amount of biofuel required to become a really viable alternative is quite staggering.

(Via: BBC News)