Removing the Waste from School Bus Operations


This month, Thomas Built Buses announced it was presumably the first school bus manufacturer to achieve “Zero-Waste-to-Landfill” operations status.

It’s a “visionary goal,” according to the Zero Waste Alliance, a program under the International Sustainable Development Foundation, that is designed to achieve zero waste of resources, zero emissions, zero solid waste, zero hazardous waste, and zero toxics.

It’s just one example of manufacturing striving to do better by the environment and by its employees. In the July 2010 magazine issue, we profiled the latest happenings at schools in Virginia and North Carolina and how they are reducing their carbon footprint. This coming summer, we will profile a similar effort at Houston ISD.

Mark Swackhamer, the district’s senior manager of fleet operations, called me today with an update on how Houston is going in greenings its yellow bus operations. The district has about 1,000 diesel-powered school buses that all run on a 5-percent blend of biodiesel. To bring down its total of 1.9 million gallons of diesel used each school year, Houston ISD is starting to go the propane route, as it is purchasing 25 of these alternative-fuel buses this year. (In all, the buses currently run about 13 million miles a year.)

Swackhamer also said the “waste stream is next to nothing” when it comes to his garage operations. This includes recycling all oil and tires. About the only things that aren’t reused are oily shop rags.

And the rest of the operations are just as green. All the school buses are equipped with GPS, which monitors all routes for increased efficiency and produces idle-time reports.

How does what Houston ISD mesh with your school district’s “green” operations?