Most people don’t realize that manufacturing a new vehicle generates a huge amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, that ubiquitous gas largely associated with global warming and climate change.
The most accurate set of calculations, as worked out by the Guardian (a news source operating in the United Kingdom, or UK), is 720 kilograms (kg; or 1,587 pounds) for each £1,000 ($1,587) spent.
Extrapolating from that equation, your new car – costing on average $26,000 – has a built-in, coal-generation carbon footprint of 18,720 kg, or very nearly a short ton (which is 20.6 kg). By comparison, even Big Foot comes off looking less like a shaggy hermit and more like Tinker Bell.
How can you help reduce your carbon footprint, which just expanded exponentially with the purchase of your new vehicle (and is now almost double the average American’s footprint of slightly more than 28 tons)?
As our UK reporter notes, auto manufacture – more than any other type of consumer product – has tentacles that reach into every sector of the U.S. economy. Measured as input-output, this metric should startle the average new-car buyer into considering if he (or she) can afford a dual burden – a loan lasting at least five years and at a rather high interest rate, and a footprint to rival that of Yao Ming, who wears a custom-made size 18 shoe.
If you, as the new-car buyer, are determined to buy that 2013 floor model Toyota, choose the Toyota Camry hybrid over the standard model Camry. Better yet, go for the Prius, about the same price but with a remarkable mpg (miles-per-gallon) rating of 44/40. That is, 44 mpg freeway driving, and 40 mpg around town, and the 2013 Prius also comes in a totally “green” plug-in model electric vehicle (EV). This model is specifically designed for city dwellers who find themselves jaunting only a few miles from the grocer to the nearest Target retail store, and from there to the Winery for a bottle of Chablis.
On the other hand, if you can resist that new-car smell but still have a little money to burn, consider converting your older (classic?) car to an EV. At a shop, the transformation will likely cost you about $17,500 on average. Do it yourself and costs drop to about $7,500, while delivering a fully ecofriendly vehicle that gives you a range up to 80 miles at a maximum speed of 90 miles per hour with good to excellent acceleration and somewhere between 6 and 12 hours charging time.
A Bottle of Wine for Good Measure
If that doesn’t work, think about buying a gently used older car, says Wired Magazine’s Matt Power. By sacrificing the new-car smell of a Prius hybrid (which uses 113 million BTUs of energy before reaching the sales floor), you can afford several bottles of wine. At 1,214 kg per bottle – and with most of the footprint tied up in the bottle and packaging – you could even throw a wine-tasting party.
This conversion strategy is great for those who realize that buying the Prius – even if it is fully electric – delivers enough up-front carbon emissions to make keeping your old car an environmentally safe strategy. If your old car is close to becoming a classic (e.g., 25 years old), you not only have a vintage working vehicle but close to a negative carbon footprint, which you burnt off during the first ten years of the car’s life. Of course, there is no footprint going forward.
Once you’ve rescued your classic car from the anonymity of the garage, enjoy! On the other hand, if your pride and joy is involved in an accident you have every reason to cry. Just repeat these accident terms after me – actual cash value, burden of proof, joint fault, liability, negligence and settlement of a total loss – until you feel more grounded and less likely to engage the other driver in fisticuffs.
Converting your car into an eco-friendly machine is well worth the effort. Just make sure that you keep your eyes on the road and not at all the people starring at your new “refab” ride.