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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Go Green, Be a Vandweller

I know. Sounds like a contradiction; driving a gas guzzlin' van, how could you even consider yourself an environmentalist. Hear me out.

From the forums, etc., it seems that most of us vandwellers drive older vans, which we have refurbished into useful and efficient machines. In other words, we have 'recycled' and are 'reusing', vehicles that were probably a few years away from the wreckers. By decreasing the need for another new vehicle to be produced, we eliminate the manufacturing, mining and all processes involved.

Although, we drive vehicles that don't have the best fuel economy, I find my driving routines allow me to just as 'green', as most auto commuters. Daily, the average car owner drives, around 17 miles to work, 17 miles back home, and maybe, an extra 6 miles for shopping, etc. That adds up to 40 miles driven per workday. Because I am mobile, and don't commute from a fixed place (suburban stick house, etc.), I can decrease my work commute, by simply changing my neighborhood. I get all my daily 'needs' within a 10 miles radius area, so my workday driving usually adds up to only 20 to 25 miles.

Man-made hothouse gases are considered the prime cause for global warming. Various hothouse gases are CO2, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, unburnt hydrocarbons and methane. I know they all contribute to the problem, but, CO2 is by far the major pollutant.

My understanding about vehicular sourced CO2 production goes something like this; if someone knows better, please correct me and I will edit or erase this premise. As long as your vehicle utilizes a catalytic converter, when you burn a gallon of gasoline, you create a specific amount of CO2 (approx. 20 lbs. per gallon). So, your resultant CO2 production is not based on how new your car is, or the MPG rating, but, how much volume of gas you burn daily, weekly, etc.

Because my personal driving routine involves less miles driven, I generally use the same or less gasoline than the average commuter, even though my MPG rating is lower. Hence, my CO2 production, is the same or significantly less. But, that's not the big payoff!

Since, I live in my van, I don't have a conventional home (house, condo, apartment...). For me, that home doesn't have to be built, or heated, resulting in a huge net personal reduction in hot house gases and natural resources. I don't have to fill a home with stuff (furniture etc.), again a net reduction of pollutants created. I have a simplified lifestyle, with less needs and less overall resultant pollution.

When I plug my numbers into carbon footprint calculators, I usually come out passing with flying colours. I realize that these calculators are not very accurate, generalizing a lot of factors. But, at least they all confirm, I create way less than the US per capita average of 40 tonnes of CO2 per year! I usually drive 13,000 miles per year; if I could reduce that figure, I would even be 'greener'.

Unfortunately, for vehicle engine systems, there doesn't seem to be any affordable alternatives available, so the basic 3R's still apply. Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Using internal combustion of fossil fuels, is a 'dinosaur' technology from the last century and should go the way of the dinosaur. As long as we resist change, there's only so much we can do.

Of all the new automobile advances, there is only one that makes sense to me. Check out: Google "the air car", and see the video on YouTube. It's a beginning!

ed.note - Some folks emailed me about this article, chiding me for inferring I was trying to be a 'no impact' man. All I'm trying to do, is be a 'lower impact' man.

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