The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News February 10, 2006

Eco-Friendly Truck up for Raffle
Hot (but not from oil fuel) truck: Obies raise eco-awareness through this prize truck.

Alternative energy organizations, such as the recently formed Full Circle Fuels and its nonprofit partner Oberlin Design Initiative, seem to fit naturally into Oberlin College’s eco-friendly attitude. These young organizations, however, aim to reach beyond Oberlin College students to the greater, diverse Oberlin community. Most recently, ODI has organized a raffle for a luxury truck that it hopes will attract a broader group of people to its cause, as well as help fund community-oriented projects.

The truck, a 2003 Dodge Ram 3500, as junior environmental studies major Cara Kritikos put it, is “an unlikely car for students to want.” Kritikos said that she became involved with FCF and ODI because she was intrigued by the for-profit FCF’s interest in addressing issues of community-wide sustainability.

“To me, it’s moving out of the realm of academic, hippie side of environmentalism and working with more everyday people,” she said.

“With biodiesel at Oberlin, it’s been interesting to watch the transition from flower power to ‘fireball’,” said active ODI member, Avery Brook ’04, referring to FCF’s move from its flower in a diesel can logo to a new, fiery design.

“It’s one example of FCF’s transition to being an innovative, cutting edge green entrepreneur,” he continued.

With the proceeds from the raffle, ODI plans to create an operating budget with which to fund its many community-oriented project ideas.

“The issue with ODI at this point is that it’s really tight on funds, and while it has a lot of great project ideas, it doesn’t have a lot to work with,” said Brook. “We needed to raise money, and we thought that raffling off this luxury truck was a really exciting way to do that. It attracts two crowds – those people that want to support sustainable development and those that are just excited about a really sweet truck.”

ODI is a nonprofit founded in 2002 by Oberlin alumni to address sustainable design issues. It plans to spend the next several years working specifically with FCF to promote biofuels and alternative energy.

“ODI wants to link student interest and academic work to community projects. [It’s] similar to what the Center for Service and Learning does, but with a tighter focus on sustainable development,” said Brook.

ODI has begun working with local schools to help them apply for grant money that would allow school buses to run on cleaner burning biodeisel.

“We’re also reaching out to local churches,” said Brook.

ODI met last week with Oberlin Area Cooperative Ministries, a collaboration of six local churches, to discuss ways to make alternative fuel options affordably available to church members. Possibilities include converting multiple passenger vans to run on Straight Vegetable Oil and the creation of no-interest loan funds by which lower-income members could convert their vehicles to SVO without any up-front cost.

ODI’s plans to educate and involve the larger community are intended to complement FCF’s, which include a bike co-op style auto repair shop and a downtown car-sharing program.

FCF, which only opened for business in December, has received a good deal of press in the last two months for its creatively integrated approach to alternative fuel sales and technology. Part of its mission is to work in partnership with nonprofit organizations such as ODI.

In fact, FCF’s founder, Oberlin alumni Sam Merrett ’05, is providing the truck for the ODI raffle.

“ODI can help Full Circle Fuels by looking at a lot of bigger-picture issues that a for-profit doesn’t have time to do, and [by bringing] them down and [focusing] them into projects that complement what Full Circle Fuels is already doing,” said Brook.

Brook emphasized that ODI and FCF were working on a community-level model. “We want to find issues that are going to have the broadest impact and will address the most issues at once,” he said.

The raffle, which will run until March 21, will sell 500 $100 tickets.


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