Here's the article, for anyone who might be interested. Happy trails!
Light load on the road
A little oval trailer that's part office, part headquarters for Project Porchlight, wheels through neighbourhoods, dispensing 200,000 energy-efficient light bulbs
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, October 21, 2006
CREDIT: Rod MacIvor, The Ottawa Citizen
Suzy Fraser, left, and Stuart Hickox got help to turn their tired '70s Boler camper to funky new office on wheels. Laurie Hurrell painted a tranquil sky with fluffy white clouds on the ceiling and curving partway down the walls. Interior decorator Lori Steeves was the mastermind behind the transformation.
When Stuart Hickox and Suzy Fraser went hunting for the perfect headquarters for Project Porchlight, the couple never expected to find it in the form of a smelly 31-year-old travel trailer sitting in the middle of a yard near Mississippi Lake.
In spite of the mouldy brown plaid seat cushions, too much wood grain Mac-Tac, and vile green pom-pom curtains, the little 1975 Boler trailer captured their hearts and offered a practical solution for delivering energy-smart light bulbs to households across the city.
"It was love at first sight," says Hickox, who is the founder of Project Porchlight and a dedicated environmentalist who puts theory into action.
First produced in 1968, the distinctive egg-shaped Boler trailer was the brainchild of Canadian Ray Olecko, who named his invention after the bowler hat. Popular with 1970s camping enthusiasts, the trailer's lightweight fibreglass body made it attractive to owners of compact cars, and its tiny but well-planned interior could accommodate four people.
The Boler's Canadian pedigree, fuel-friendly 400-kilogram weight
and unique look made it the ideal choice for Project Porchlight, an Ottawa-based grassroots energy conservation campaign led by Hickox, staff, volunteers and the financial backing of Hydro Ottawa. To date, Hydro
Ottawa has given $800,000 to Project Porchlight.
Project Porchlight is well on its way to delivering 200,000 energy-efficient compact-fluorescent light bulbs to households this fall
, thanks in part to the restored Boler, which acts as a bulb transporter, mobile office and community gathering place.
"It's the ultimate in recycling," says Fraser, who is communications manager for Project Porchlight. "It's light, it's portable and it's practical."
It's also a low-key way to get the energy conservation message across.
"No one is going to be intimidated by our presence -- not inside or out," says Hickox.
Since taking to the roads this September, the spunky little oval trailer with the eye-catching green and blue shrink-wrapped exterior has visited numerous Ottawa neighbourhoods, dispensing more than 70,000 bulbs and attracting thousands of people ranging from low-income seniors to leather-clad bikers eager to take a peek inside.
"It's very whimsical. It's fun," says interior decorator Lori Steeves, the mastermind behind the Boler's transformation from tired '70s camper to funky new-millennium office on wheels.
"I knew I could make the interior really cool," she says. "The sky above came to me first. The rest of it followed from there."
Steeves contacted mural artist Laurie Hurrell to bring make her vision a reality. Keeping with the natural blue and green theme, Hurrell painted a tranquil sky complete with fluffy white clouds on the Boler's ceiling and curving partway down the walls. Tall green grass meets the horizon in the camper's dinette, while the opposite wall is home to rolling green hills dotted with trees and wind turbines.
Then Steeves placed artificial grass behind the kitchen sink and stove, and across the back of the fold-down dining table.
It adds texture and is also a great natural stress buster, says Fraser. She and Hickox frequently pat the grass, although Hickox also jokingly admits to de-stressing by hugging the small stuffed toy monkey sitting on the stove.
To match the new interior and make the camper comfy for volunteers and visitors, Steeves replaced the original mouldy plaid cushions with smooth microfibre cushions in cool wasabi green.
"I didn't want to compromise the Boler as a camping trailer," says Steeves. "It's really important to keep that functionality."
To that end, the Boler's dinette area still converts into a double bed, and the chesterfield converts into bunk beds. The trailer's stove, sink, fridge
, cupboards and closet remain intact, although they have been refinished in a neutral cream colour.
"It's sleek and very comfortable," says Fraser. "It's become an environmental message on its own."
It's also a place where volunteers can have lunch and relax over a board game at the end of the day. Hickox
uses the Boler as a travelling office, thanks to a laptop computer and high-speed wireless Internet run on a solar-powered charger.
Fitting with the porch theme, the Boler also has a pair of retro green and blue basket chairs out front for passers-by who want to sit and chat about the campaign, or about the Boler.
"It's a great community hub," Fraser says of the decked-out trailer.
"It's Project Porchlight's mobile porch," adds Hickox. "This makes our campaign personal and approachable."
For more information on Project Porchlight, visit the One Change website at www.onechange.org
or call (613) 260-7362.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006