Thursday, March 18, 2010

We want COOL cars for a HOT planet

I have been contemplating another family car for quite awhile.  (My dream car is pictured left - the Tesla Roadster - Hawt!)

For 1.5yrs, we shared driving one car and did our best to make it work with both our schedules.  The reality is many of us are currently "trapped" in a system where we HAVE to use our cars to get around as it would be far less efficient (usually time-wise) or impossible otherwise.

I hummed and hawed for 5 months as I really didn't want to buy another GAS/PETROL burning car as at some foreseeable point in the future this commodity will either:
a) be so expensive that I cannot afford to drive because of increasing gas/petrol prices or
b) the emissions of my car will heavily taxed making it cost prohibitive OR

Options I considered were:
1) buy a small diesel vehicle and convert it to run on waste veggie oil
2) buy a Toyota import truck from Japan (they make diesel, light duty vehicles) and covert it run on waste veggie oil
3) Save up and buy a brand "new-to-me" (i.e. second hand) hybrid vehicle or SMART car
4) Wait until plug in electric (full/hybrids) become readily available

This is such a tough decision to know how to move in the most informed and best-for-the-planet direction. I found myself plagued with many questions:
  • Do the environmental costs of procuring materials for producing a new, hybrid vehicle outweigh the benefits that this technology contributes to the reduction of green house gases? 
  • Do I want to save the money to buy a new hybrid?
  • Will the costs of shipping over a diesel truck from Japan be balanced by running it on a renewable and "waste" material (i.e. Waste Veggie Oil)?
  • Can I find a vehicle that fits in my budget and is safe to convert to waste veggie oil?
  • Do I want to deal with also building my own infrastructure for collecting and processing the veggie oil? (As a friend of mine pointed out, "You don't appreciate how much 55 liters is until you have to collect, filter and pump it yourself!)
So many things to consider and I finally found an option that worked for me and our situation. I bought an old 1979 Mercedes Benz 300D that has a double tank system. It starts and ends on diesel but runs on waste veggie oil which we collect from my partner's workplace (they pay to have it taken away so were happy to donate). Yes it takes us some time, effort and is a bit messy to process but we enjoy doing it and the payoff is when I sit and idle in traffic, I smell like french fries! That is when I'm not walking or riding my bike!

So what CAN YOU DO? Options to consider:
  1. FIRST OFF - figure out ways to DRIVE LESS - the cheapest gallon/liter of fuel is the one you don't buy!!!
  2. Offset the carbon dioxide emissions of your car each year - As listed on the David Suzuki Foundation page on Carbon Neutrality, here are more resources for your perusal!  Guide to purchasing Carbon Offsets
  3. Burn Fat not Oil by riding my bike as much as possible
  4. Substitute walking for short car trips (think about places you would spend less than 10 mins to drive to)
  5. Keep searching for flexible options and start a savings account for whatever direction you decide is best for your family needs/values and driving needs.
Other resources that provide tips this topic:
The 20/20 Planner: A Practical Guide to Reduce Energy Use by 20% at home and on the road
US DOE Comparison of Vehicle Mileage & Tips for Reducing Vehicle Emissions
An Inconvenient Truth - Take Action
Greenpeace Canada - Energy Saving Tips
Sierra Club - Energy Saving Tips
Lick Global Warming
Cool Companies


  1. Hej Tracy,
    Great work here! That story about cars reminded me of a Canadian woman I've met in CPH last December. Check here visuals about the topic...

  2. Thanks Augusto!

    What a great website and so nice to see a creative woman out there working with people's "green conscience". I love her art - very inspiring!

    Tracy xo