A Green Y perspective: The Green Way Up
“It started over beer and a little bit of discontent.”
These are the words of Oscar Peppitt, one-fourth of the Gen Y team who plan to travel the world using only biodiesel oil and elbow grease.
The all-under-25 foursome – made up of former banker Peppitt, engineer Bob Miles, DJ Justin Hancock and welder Chuck Anderson – quit their jobs and launched the Green Way Up, with only their savings and a bank loan each.
First item on the agenda? A 52,000-kilometre trip, spanning 30 countries over three continents, all without stopping at a single petrol station. In fact, the trip will be solely dependent on biodiesel fuel – in other words, regular fish-and-chip oil.
“We’re planning on driving from Australia to Norway on biodiesel using a processor we built ourselves and we use that trip as an excuse to go find all these cool stories around the world,” says Peppitt.
The worldwide adventure, however, is but one part of the overall plan.
“We’ve got this idea to be a bit of a marketing agency for the environment, try and find cool and interesting and fun stories from around the world that have a lot to do with making the world a bit of a better place. I know that sounds lame,” he says.
Making sustainability cool
How exactly did these four find themselves at a career crossroads, willing to quit and take up a green, nomadic search around the world? Was it fate that they were all in the right frame of mind at the right time? Well, if it is then it’s the same fate that’s affecting a lot of Gen Y, says Peppitt.
“I’d say there are a lot of people in our position. There are people who want to travel and are old enough to have a decent skill set but young enough to have a stupid ideal.”
“We are raising awareness, but we hate that term because everyone is already 'aware' of the issues facing our planet. All we want to do is bring a positive and entertaining perspective to what can traditionally be seen as a dry, exclusive or overly opinionated topic. If, through that, we can make people more interested in the content we cover, then that is a good day’s work,” he says.
However, he is quick to shy away from the much-derided stereotype that shadows eco-warriors – ‘hippie’.
“We wanted to avoid that sort of stigma that the environment collects – that you have to be an extremist to go to extreme lengths.” That label, he says, goes against the very foundation of their business philosophy – to prove that you don’t have to go to the ends of the earth like these four to go green. It can be fun and creative, and not necessarily involve chaining yourself to a tree.
“We’re having the time of our lives and seeing the world,” he says. “We’re doing the trip that 24-year-olds do but we’re doing it in a sustainable method just because we educated ourselves.
“The lesson would be to try and incorporate sustainability a little more in travel and into your day-to-day life and that’s one of the lessons that we’re trying to teach ourselves at the moment as well because we’re not traditional environmentalists by any means.”
Up and running… on biodiesel
The eco-quartet have just wrapped up the Australian leg of their trip – 12,000km from Hobart to Darwin – and are preparing to take the project all the way to Norway.
“We’ve finished the Australian training leg – basically we decided to have a bit of a mini test run of all the things that we’re building. These processes, while in many cases they’re not new, they’re new for us.”
From trucking across the Simpson Desert to swimming with freshwater crocodiles in the Kimberley to crossing the Bass Strait in a six-and-a-half-metre tinnie – built by Chuck in his spare time and completely powered by fish-and-chip-oil – the Green Way Up has already seen, and filmed, its fair share of adventure.
But how did they get the project off the ground and on the road?
“It was a bit of a ‘where do we start’ situation,” says Peppitt. “We gave up a lot and we sacrificed a lot, including money, and we’ve thrown a lot of money into this.”
This, he says, is the key – giving it your all, even if that means dollars out of your own pocket. With the help of Pozible, a crowdfunding platform, they’ve also managed to raise more than $20,000.
“If you’re going to start something up and you don’t want to spend any money on it, then you’re probably not prepared to take it all the way through.”
Then, the team sought advice and sponsors to help them with what they didn’t know.
“When you don’t know what you’re talking about, you need to bring in the people who do,” he says. “We met up with dozens of different people from different areas of expertise… We’ve got advice from lawyers, travelers, TV people, producers, directors, so everyone’s been more than willing to give up their advice if we just sat down and said thank you.”
Since the business began, the Green Way Up has found company with some high profile sponsors including Tourism Australia, Red Bull and Dick Smith. Acclaimed producer Jo Melling, who managed Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor, has also backed the boys, filming a documentary of their journey which will comprise a six to eight part series.
“Jo especially has given up more than anyone else and she got the team together to film the documentary that we’re trying to out together and she’s also trying to get it on-air at the moment.”
Social networking has also played an important role in building the business, something which Peppitt says is an essential for all businesses these days.
“It’s just another business school in the same way that Excel is and I think it’s great because it adds a lot of transparency and a lot of feeling to big business,” he says. “It definitely has made our job easier.”
With a two-thousand-strong social network (and growing), Peppitt has found it does more than simply spread awareness and support the brand – in fact, it has a far more practical application when on the road.
“We’ve genuinely been stuck and we’ve logged on and through our own communications with the people who’ve been following us, we’ve been able to solve the situation, whether it’s been finding more oil or getting across an impassable road,” he says. “Social media makes it easier to have a business that can leverage off that community voice to make their business better.
“People have just been genuinely tuning in via Facebook and Twitter and other forms of social media just to get in touch with us to offer suggestions for content along the way.”
Planning to set out for the international leg of their trip – all 40,000km of it – in December with their charity GWU Foundation Charity launching at the same time, the boys’ business is certainly trucking along nicely.
And while adventure is business, Peppitt still takes the time to step back and appreciate the big picture.
“There’s been all sorts of moments that I’ve just laid back and gone ‘this is really cool’,” he mulls. “That’s all been in Australia as well. I can’t imagine how it’s going to multiply when we go overseas!”
Published on: Tuesday, July 19, 2011