School Buses Turned Gardens are Popping up Everywhere

These repurposed school buses take youth on a different educational journey.

Jun 25, 2020

For years, kids in Salt Lake City Utah rode a bus to and from school completely unaware that one day plants would grow inside the vehicle where their feet once dangled. The vegetation growing inside the 35-foot school bus is not due to abandonment or negligence however, but rather has been carefully planted with precision and love.

That’s because this yellow school bus has been upcycled into a thriving mobile vegetable garden and educational center. 

Shawn Peterson built the bus while he was a college student, looking for space to grow vegetables in an urban environment. He later founded the non-profit The Green Urban Lunch Box to further his mission of empowering people to connect food and community while revitalizing urban spaces.

“Through some brainstorming, our ideas expanded from planting a garden in a small trailer to creating a large, mobile garden. We landed on the concept of cultivating vegetables inside a fully functional school bus.” Peterson said in the nonprofit’s blurb on state’s Utah’s Own website. The school bus is now the heart of the program.

“We hope to use The Green Urban Lunch Box and all of our programs to educate and motivate individuals regarding issues related to food production and healthy eating.” Peterson explained.  

The organization explained that the bus is fully equipped with a drip irrigation system, solar powered aquaponic system, and seeds to hand out when it travels to farmer’s markets, community events, festivals, and anywhere else that people (and especially youth) gather, striving to educate the public on the importance of urban agriculture, self-reliance, and sustainability. 

Since founding the mobile garden, the Green Urban Lunch Box has expanded to numerous other projects, including the Back-Farm program, which encourages seniors to get involved in community gardening. The organization has also developed a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program where residents can purchase fresh and organic vegetables directly from local farmers.

As upcycling has gained traction as a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method of repurposing unused goods, bus-to-garden initiatives have popped up throughout the world. Doni Rae Franklin of Alberta, Canada has also transformed two school buses into vegetable gardens according to Farm Show Magazine.

One bus she keeps mobile so that she can get to the local market to sell her vegetables, and the second one is stationary. She has also been experimenting with different designs to determine how they support different methods of agriculture. For example, one of her buses has a poly lined rooftop – similar to traditional greenhouses – which creates a heating effect, while the other bus has its original tin rooftop to help protect crops from frost and hail. 

“As I’ve been getting more and more into commercial gardening, I’ve realized that these greenhouses are the best way to achieve a reliable harvest, stopping things like frost and hail from taking a toll,” Franklin told Farm Show.

Upcycled school buses are becoming so popular throughout the world that entrepreneurs and community groups have begun to explore other ways to make use of this ample resource. A public school in Punjab India, for example, repurposed a 20-year-old bus into a pavilion that is used as an open-air theater, gallery, and play space according to Inhabit. 

The school decided to convert the bus into a multi-use space because it was part of their first fleet and therefore had sentimental value. The bus now provides school kids with a space for creative expression while also educating the community on the importance of the circular economy and recycling. 

Traditionally, school buses provide youth with a secure and consistent way to get to their educational facilities. By repurposing unused buses into spaces of sustainability and education, these innovators enable these vehicles to keep on providing knowledge, well-being, and growth to kids throughout the world. 

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.