What I Learned From 2,000 Miles On The Road With The Sustainable World Tour

Jan. 23, 2018

I was on interstate 70, 500 miles from home, when an SUV full of Buckeye football fans recognized the block-O printed on the back of the Sustainable World Tour van. They honked, waved, and exclaimed, “Go Bucks!” into the frigid wind from the open window of their car as they passed. Although I was far from Columbus, I was able to make a connection with strangers who have common interests to my own. That’s the idea behind the Consortium for Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Education (CABLE). Benefitting from a grant from The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ohio State and 19 other institutions across the country have teamed up to create this consortium that features one student from each institution.

The collective goal is to advance the bioeconomy as well as to promote sustainable lifestyles. Humans consume an overwhelming amount of petroleum-based products; thanks to modern agricultural practices, scientific advancement, and new processing technologies, manufacturers are able to produce many of the same products, fuels, and chemicals from plants, rather than petroleum. Because plant materials are so renewable, choosing biobased products is a good, sustainable solution to many of our environmental concerns. Although there are thousands of biobased products on store shelves, many consumers do not realize they are available or the positive impact the bioindustry has on the planet and the economy. OBIC has developed the Sustainable World Tour, an education and outreach program designed to teach consumers about the bioeconomy and the availability of bioproducts.

As the Buckeye football fans passed, I was on my way to St. Louis, Missouri to pick up PhD student and CABLE Student Delegate from the University of Arizona, Matthew Katterman. Matthew and I were to conduct education and outreach programs in multiple cities across the country while driving the Sustainable World Tour van to Phoenix, Arizona where Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center (OBIC) Director, Dennis Hall, would continue the tour on the west coast in the following weeks.

Once I picked up Matthew, we set our navigation and headed for Columbia, Missouri to meet with CABLE Faculty Mentor, Dr. Leon Schumacher, at the University of Missouri. Dr. Schumacher offered us a tour of their recently renovated Agricultural Engineering department in addition to a presentation he prepared about Mizzou’s wood fire power plant.

Leaving Missouri, we headed south to Dallas, Texas where we would meet up with Dennis Hall to participate in some of the Cotton Bowl pre-game festivities. We displayed the van near a park in uptown Dallas where the Battle of the Bands, a competition between Ohio State’s marching band and the University of Southern California’s marching band, was hosted. Later that day, we attended the Buckeye Bash, an event hosted by the Alumni Association. We were fortunate to be able to catch up with university faculty, alumni, and Ohio State President, Dr. Michael Drake. After we watched the Buckeyes defeat the USC, we started the last leg of our trip, heading west.

Matthew and I explored western Texas on our way to New Mexico. After taking a detour to Roswell for some E.T. inspired cuisine, we checked into our hotel in Las Cruces. When we finally reached Tucson, Arizona the next morning, Matthew and I said farewell as he returned to his desert home and I pushed onward to Phoenix, my last stop. It was 70 degrees and sunny when I reached Dennis Hall in Phoenix and he was quick to remind me of the blizzard conditions in Ohio.

I had the next couple of days to update Dennis and reflect on the Sustainable World Tour program before flying back to Columbus. There are many effective programs developed to teach consumers about bioproducts and I have found that the general audience is mostly receptive to having casual conversations about the bioeconomy. Going forward, we will use the experience and skills we gained on this cross country outreach program to adjust and tune our programs in the future. As the biobased industry continues to grow, so will our education, outreach, and data collection efforts, in pursuit of a Sustainable World.

This article was written by OBIC Student Employee, Brad Collins. Follow him on Twitter at @CollinsFarmOH.