L.A. Bio Brigade Parades for Sustainability

On the Streets With the City's Most Ardent Biodiesel Advocates


  • The Veggie Van

    The Veggie Van

    The Veggie Van, with its eye-catching paint job, has served to inform people throughout the country about the benefits of biodiesel. | March 18, 2010

3 Photos

An American victory in the struggle to kick its oil addiction seems as likely as David taking down Goliath. But the members of the Los Angeles Biodiesel Co-op and the Veggie Van Organization hope that, as with David, a few good hits to the Big Oil giant will bring the whole thing crashing down. On August 25, these two organizations joined together for the first Los Angeles Bio Brigade Parade in a push to get 100 new biodiesel fueling stations constructed in Los Angeles by 2008.

The parade, designed to coincide with the opening of the "Do It Now: Live Green" exhibit at L.A.'s Otis College of Art and Design, consisted of a converted 1967 Camaro SS electric vehicle and 31 diesel cars running on B100 biodiesel, including the lead vehicle — the Veggie Van. Organization leader Josh Tickell drove his brightly painted Winnebago van more than 25,000 miles across the U.S. between 1997 and 1998 to educate people on the benefits of biodiesel. Though the Veggie Van has since been retired from travel duty, Josh still rolls it out for special events around the L.A. area.

The parade cars were an interesting mix of new and old Mercedes-Benzes and Volkswagens, with the exception of the aforementioned electrified American muscle car, a Jeep Liberty CDI and a Chevy Suburban diesel. The owners form a tight-knit group whose sense of close community reflects the spirit of the Los Angeles Biodiesel Co-op's membership.

Founded by environmental advocate Colette Brooks in January 2006 to supply L.A.'s biodiesel consumers with easy access to fuel, the co-op has since hosted L.A.-area biodiesel conferences. More notably, it's also been able to get biodiesel distributed at three gas stations on L.A.'s Westside by demonstrating that a viable market exists. The co-op now has mobile biodiesel stations in East Los Angeles, Torrance and Northern California's Big Sur. It has the same goal for these trailers at it had for those that were present in West L.A.: Its intention is to have the trailers eventually replaced with more permanent fueling stations.

In addition to the co-op, Brooks has created an environmentally minded marketing and communications firm called the Big Imagination Group. She's also the founder of BioBling, a company dedicated to giving its clients environmentally friendly cars replete with all the "bling" they desire, including custom exterior and interior modifications.

The parade route started at the Big Imagination Group's headquarters in Culver City and wound through Los Angeles' Southwestside to the Otis campus near Westchester. In a comical juxtaposition, a Hummer H2 was, at one point, forced by merging lanes to wedge in behind the Veggie Van. After the parade, the Veggie Van was escorted off for filming as part of a new documentary being released theatrically in 2008 titled Fields of Fuel. Meanwhile, parade participants enjoyed the new Otis exhibit, which illustrates how to create an environmentally sustainable modern home.

Recently, the planned construction of a new biodiesel plant in Northern California's Port of Stockton was announced. This plant would supply several wholesale distributors with biodiesel made from local feedstock. (First-year production will use feedstock from the Midwest.) Joe Gershen, vice president of sales and marketing for Tellurian Biodiesel, said that the new plant should be a big help in promoting the fuel across California, which is clamoring for high-quality biodiesel. Brooks was buoyed by the news, and feels that the Stockton plant will also help promote the construction of new biodiesel fueling stations. Getting these stations built is the co-op's main goal.

To find out more about the co-op and locate its fueling facilities, visit its Web site.

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