WILLIAMSBURG — Poking their heads out the windows of their veggie-powered bus that's equipped with a kitchen, a dog named Jefe, tents, art supplies and a rooftop stage, Charlie Gonzalez and Anne Rittany Welling smiled at an old acquaintance outside.
"I always have a good experience when I see this bus," said the passerby Aaron Burnett when he spotted The Green Bus. "It's the root of my hippie nature."
The hard-to-miss converted school bus — that's painted leaf-green for the heart chakra representing consciousness and love — has just returned to its springtime base at the edge of McCarren Park, where it's kicking off its fourth year of collaborative art creations, drum circles, camping trips, music festivals, community meals and more.
"We're making a participatory culture," Gonzalez, the founder of the Green Bus, explained.
Gonzalez, 32, said he graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering but left the corporate world to find "sustainable happiness."
Everyone is welcome aboard his roaming refuge, he said.
"I don't know the boundary between where my nose ends and the air begins, so I don't know any boundary of where the community ends," said Gonzalez, who also practices the natural healing forms of Ayurveda and herbalism.
The eco-conscious bus, which was converted to run on vegetable oil, is prepping for its first spring trip this weekend to the Mama Strawberry Jam festival in upstate New York. When they aren't on the bus, Gonzalez and his girlfriend and "co-collaborator" Welling live in an apartment in Williamsburg.
"We'll be building a healing sanctuary there that's not any one religion...with a pop-up tent, and people can put whatever's sacred in there for them," said Gonzalez, noting that there might also be performances on the stage that's built on top of their bus.
There might also be a mural project, a jam session — and plenty of other unplanned events, since anyone is welcome to initiate a project, he said.
"We're transitioning from Burning Man to 'Building Man,'" said Gonzalez, referring to the famous arts festival in the desert that ends with all participants setting fire to their work. "Burning Man reflects the nature of impermanence, which is beautiful...But here and now we can put our energy into things we believe in that we want to continue."
Rittany Welling said that since December 2012 had passed — without the end of the world predicted by the Mayan calendar — it is now time to enter "a new dimension" of creativity.
Gonzalez, a Staten Island native who recalls wanting to "design a roller coaster when [he] was a kid," journeyed around the country by motorcycle and studied yoga and Buddhism before returning to New York to create The Green Bus.
"The journey always has to return to where you began," he said with a grin, adding that his travels enabled him to have a new relationship with the city.
Rittany Welling — a certified holistic health counselor from Manhattan's Institute for Integrative Nutrition, who is trained in permaculture (sustainable agriculture) and herbalism — said if New Yorkers could learn to be environmentally friendly and communal they would lead the rest of the world by example.
"Participatory art is a tangible way for people to understand how they can create as a community. Take a look at the world and imagine: What can we create here?" she said.
The vehicle treks all throughout the U.S., but Gonzalez said he'd found the perfect base near McCarren Park.
"Here in Williamsburg we have a more like-minded community, people are open to these kinds of things," he said.
The Green Bus is still accepting participants for Mama Strawberry Jam, which costs $60 for the festival entrance and a $55 suggested donation to the bus. More details can be found on the event's Facebook page or on the Green Bus' website.