Sustainability Starts with "U".... as in Underground !

When is a cave not a cave? Well, how about when it’s being used as a concert hall for musical performances?

That’s just one of the many adventures outlined in “Kicking Gas & Taking Charge!” a new book written by Duane Leffel who set a Guinness World Record in 2013 by driving a Nissan LEAF all-electric car (nicknamed “Green Lightning”) from Charleston, SC, to San Francisco, CA.

In the book, Duane describes driving his LEAF down into Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN, along with his fellow Ride the Future Tour members who rode electric bicycles, scooters and a motorcycle. The group drove down into the cave to make a point—that electric vehicles are not harmful to the environment. And since the LEAF isn’t harmful to the cave’s ecological system, cavern administrators actually use a LEAF similar to Duane’s to drive performing musicians down to a subterranean stage called the Volcano Room.

The acoustics in the Volcano Room are so good that it hosts an ongoing concert series called “Bluegrass Underground” (, a 13-time Emmy award-winning show on PBS. Top-name performers including Vince Gill, Chris Stapleton and Lee Ann Womack have performed there in front of enthusiastic crowds reaching over 500 at a time.

“Driving ‘Green Lightning’ down into the caverns was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It was such a unique experience,” says Duane. “Yet it was only one of a long list of interesting activities, challenges and people that we encountered during our trip across the country.”

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“Green Lightning” takes the narrow path down to the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee.

Members of the Ride the Future Tour and their guide pose with their vehicles in the Volcano Room.

Members of the Ride the Future Tour and their guide pose with their vehicles in the Volcano Room.

Other places the tour visited included the Lookout Mountain Incline Railroad, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. But the tour also visited a number of organizations that were focused on various aspects of sustainability, including Terrapin Brewery (Athens, GA), Southface Energy (Atlanta), Heifer International (Little Rock), the Grand Canyon National Park Service and Las Vegas Cyclery. Each of these locations had its own unique contribution to sustainability efforts.

“I started the tour wanting to do something for my kids to ensure the world was as beautiful as I’ve experienced it,” says Duane. “But I learned a lot during the tour and, after doing a little insightful research, decided to write a book about my experience and encourage everyone to get more personally involved in sustainability.”

After relating all the ups and downs of his once-in-a-lifetime adventure with behind-the-scenes reality and humor, Duane dedicates the final chapter of his book to explaining why everyone should care about sustainability, offering 25 achievable actions anyone can take to do their part to accelerate the sustainability movement.

Says Duane, “I’ve never been a ‘tree-hugger’ or activist on environmental issues, but when you consider that the US represents less than 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 18 percent of all energy and natural resource usage globally, it certainly motivates me to take action as a responsible citizen. In other words, sustainability starts with me and you, and simple things like recycling and electric vehicles can help us rebalance the equation. ”

If you’d like to learn more about Duane’s story, “Kicking Gas & Taking Charge!” is available online at Barnes & Noble bookstores and on Amazon. If you order it at Duane’s website, he’ll sign and personalize it for you and ship it to you free (use promo code “kickoff”).

“Kicking Gas & Taking Charge!” releases January 1, 2018.

#sustainability  #electricvehicles  #Cumberlandcaverns   #zeroemissions   #NissanLEAF