Jonathan J. Halperin
Jonathan J. Halperin
Designing Research, Communications
and Strategies for Sustainability

Buses and Sustainability

I have buses on my mind – lots and lots of school buses sitting in parking lots all over the world. In the United States about 480,000 yellow school buses take kids to and from school, and on fields trips. And are then parked.

What I have come to like about buses is that they are a form of sharing. Whether in public or private use, buses embody the notion of a shared need – a common route. They are thus aggregators, of commuters or students, or in innovative settings much more. But in aggregating, they also preserve an individuals particular need.

Verizon, for example, now uses buses to deploy technicians in New York City, in addition to individual trucks and vans. The buses are packed with equipment, some mobile and some fixed, and drop technical staff where they are needed to address customer problems and then pick them up when they are done. Saves a lot of time (looking for parking spaces, fuel, vehicle maintenance and so forth). In retrospect, seems like a no-brainer.



In the national capitol region around Washington, DC, another bus has been repurposed as a green market. Run by Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, it also follows a set route but this repurposed bus collects fresh produce and meats from area farmers and delivers them to underserved neighborhoods. Customers can use government SNAP, WIC, and SFMNP funds to buy healthy, local, fresh food. Another no-brainer, in hindsight.


Mobile Market


As I head to the CERES conference “Igniting Innovation, Scaling Sustainability”, I wonder how we can more effectively use such underutilized assets: school buses that spend more than half their useful lives parked, offices that are empty for as many hours as they are occupied, and school kitchens and lunch rooms deserted after students go home.

When I began to unhook from SustainAbility in 2008, after 20+ years, to co-found Volans, Jonathan was working with the US end of SustainAbility — and sent the London end of the Volans team a large cardboard box of multi-colored felt rocks, which initially I couldn't make head nor tail of. I thought he was mad, or overly American.

But I have to say that, over time, those felt rocks have become a central feature of the Volans culture, thrown by team members at other team members (or guests) on the slightest provocation. That aside, he's a consummate professional, creative collaborator, skilled communicator, and keen intellect—and I am delighted both to have had Jonathan as a colleague and to now count him as a friend.

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