Teaching… Using Biodiesel Buses

John Davis

cleanairclubbusA Chicago school bus company owner, who was the first in the country to switch 90 percent of his 2,000 bus fleet to biodiesel, is using a modified version of the green-fueled kid-hauler to spread the gospel of biodiesel.

John Benish is the parent of four young children and the owner of the largest privately-held school bus company in the country – Cook-Illinois. He converted one of his buses into a traveling museum to teach kids about alternative fuels and created a website for kids to encourage them to get directly involved in protecting their environment. He says his motivation is to help reduce the rising incidence of asthma among school-age kids:

Exhaust is a major contributor, especially in urban environments. Biodiesel burns cleaner, thereby reducing air pollution kids breathe near school buses. As a parent, he understands his responsibility includes keeping the environment clean for future generations and encouraging his kids to do their part, too.

In addition to switching the buses to biodiesel, and to further his cause, John created the Clean Air Club (www.cleanairclub.net) and “recycled” one of his school buses into a “museum on wheels” that travels around the Chicago area to elementary schools educating children about the environment and alternative energy. The Clean Air Club includes a website and quarterly newsletter that teaches kids fun facts about the environment and what they can do to help. The Clean Air Club bus contains museum-quality exhibits teaching kids about renewable fuels, air pollution and things kids can do at home to reduce air pollutants. John and his employees take the bus to schools all over the Chicago area and kids everywhere give it rave reviews.

More than 1,100 students so far have toured the bus, which is available free-of-charge to Chicago area schools, libraries and community events, and will continue traveling around the metropolitan area throughout 2009. Benish even created an alternative fuels “teacher” packet to assist the elementary school science teachers in incorporating the information into their science curriculum.

Benish has plans to create another Clean Air Club bus this summer for middle and high school kids.