Tag Archives: environmental impact

Exploring Why Used Cars Are a Better Buy for You and The Environment.

Over spring break my father and I took my 1994 BMW 325is to Rennsport, our favorite local mechanic in my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had Rennsport put on some new Bilstein shocks, and replace about half a dozen less significant parts on my car, which now has over 213,000 miles on it. Most people would have bought a new car long ago, the idea being that a new car would get significantly better mileage, that it would be better for the environment, and that the overall experience would be better. For the most part this idea is false.

When most people think of the impact that cars have on the environment they only look at the impact in the present tense, that is they only think of the emissions of the car. However, the greatest environmental impact related to a car is it’s production and disposal. Cars take a great deal of materials to be built and there are many byproducts of both the production of the vehicle and the materials it is made of. Think of Rolls Royce, for example (an EXTREME example), who uses 17 to 18 bull hides for the leather in a single vehicle. That’s 18 bulls that have been bred, fed, and processed. Cars also use a lot of complex synthetic materials whose components can be toxic when handled or disposed of improperly. Metals that make up our cars are also mined and go through many processes (many of which involve dangerous toxic substances) before ending up as a shiny new car on a dealership’s showroom floor.

Unfortunately many Americans have this idea in their head that a car is simply worthless after an arbitrary number of miles. Say 100,000 miles, for example. This is the main fallacy that needs to be confronted in terms of how we regard cars in our country. In Europe it is quite normal to meet someone who owns a Renault or Mercedes that has been driven half a million miles and is on its second engine or transmission and they never stop bragging about it. They simply love their car. It’s like an elderly couple telling you that they’ve been married for fifty years. The key is to find a car you love and stick with it.

You might argue that it’s cheaper to buy a new car, particularly because a new car is more economical with its fuel consumption (certainly not much more efficient than anything else made in the last 30 years) or that it’s too expense to maintain  used cars. While this is a lovely justification for purchasing a new car, it doesn’t hold much water. Say that you buy a new car that gets 30 miles per gallon over a used car that gets 20 miles per gallon, the payments (and the most likely higher insurance rates) on the new car will far exceed the savings of it being more fuel efficient than the used car. Furthermore, if you are the kind of person who just has to have a new car, you’ll probably move on to another car shortly after you finish paying off the new car.

Maintaining a used car is also significantly cheaper than buying a new car. Firstly because even new cars end up needing maintenance and even break down at times. My mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, which she purchased new, had a major transmission repair before it even reached 50,000 miles, not to mention the fact that the brakes have had to be replaced about every 20,000 miles. While those particular problems may be specific to that model, every car has its issues.

Since buying my BMW for a mere $2,000 my father and I have probably spent another $4,000 replacing a slew of important parts that should allow the car to make it another 100,000 miles or so. Owning this car has also been a much better experience than I would have gotten if I had bought a new car. My father and I have done a lot of the work on the car ourselves and it was a great opportunity to spend time together.

As for the work we’ve had Rennsport do, I’ve heard of very few people receiving the same level of service that we’ve gotten by taking their car to a dealership. Many dealers are becoming less oriented towards servicing cars and more oriented towards selling news ones. Mechanics, on the other hand, almost exclusively service cars and therefore must give you a high level of service if they want to stay in business. When we took my car to Rennsport for the work I mentioned earlier they did the work in less than a day. They also gave us a list of other things that they suggested we fix next and discussed what they thought we could do ourselves, what we should probably have them do, and when we should have those tasks completed. They even offered to sell us a discounted copy of the same repair manual they use when working on my car. I remember the first time we took my car there and discovered that four of the car’s five previous owners had taken it there, and one of them was even a mechanic at the shop. They even printed out service records, for me, of everything they had ever done to my car.

Service like this is great for sustaining your car, your local economy, and for giving you a good experience with your car. For me, personally, it goes a long way toward boosting my faith in the humanity of the car industry, particularly after some repeated horrible experiences with the two car dealerships where my parents got their current cars.

So the next time you are in the market for a new car, stop and think about it. Ask yourself some questions. Do you really need a new car? Can you get a used one instead? Is there a cute little convertible, a big SUV, or a sporty hatchback that you’ve always wanted? Do a little research on the major things that go wrong with that particular car and what they cost to fix. Who knows? Maybe buying that sports car you’ve always wanted used can make it affordable and you’ll enjoy it just as much.

If you absolutely must buy a new car, you need to buy it with the understanding that to own a new car should be a long term relationship. And while you should factor things like good fuel economy, utility, and practicality into your decision, the most important factor should be how much you love your car. If you love the car that you buy, then you will take good care of it and it will last longer and you will have less impact not the environment in your lifetime . You wouldn’t get married to someone who you didn’t really like or get a pet that you don’t want so why would you buy a car that doesn’t make you happy? If you are one of those people who must have a new car, you could consider leasing (if that’s financially viable for you) or ,at the very least, make sure that the person you sell your car to when you’re done with it is someone who will love it.


FRESH reveals bleak reality

Following the viewing of the documentary FRESH, a panel of local food gurus addressed questions from the audience pertaining to issues with the industrialized food system. From Left: Tim Gibbons of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, John Ikerd of the University of Missouri, Jake Davis of The Root Cellar.

Picture the fast-food hamburger you ate for lunch yesterday afternoon. Chances are that beef came from a major industrialized food producer, not a locally owned and operated farm. That label on the wrapper that reads “100% pure beef” does not say anything about the amount of antibiotics fed to the cattle. Nor does it boast any information about the conditions the animals were raised in, or the exploitation of the farmer whose livelihood depends on equitable treatment by industrial food businesses.

This lack of awareness and honesty is the current reality of our food system; something I learned on Monday night after viewing the documentary FRESH. The film, directed and produced by Ana Joanes, was shown at an event hosted by Sustain Mizzou as a part of National Food Day.

Before watching the documentary I did not really consider the sources of my food in great depth. Like many consumers I realized that something unnatural was occurring within the food system. I accepted that fresh, farm-raised poultry and beef taste significantly better than frozen, mass-produced foods, but I was not willing to go out of my way to procure them. I was not truly bothered enough by this reality to overhaul the way I eat, or to consider the other factors that come into play when producing meat in the industrialized food system.

FRESH opens with a scene of the type of farm I would like to envision my food coming from. Joel Salatin, a third-generation farmer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is the owner and operator of a farm called Polyface, Inc. A utopia settled in an area so rural that GPS and cell-phone coverage do not extend to their acreage. As Salatin takes viewers on a tour of his farm, explaining his methodologies and principles in an almost poetic manner, he details what he means when he says he is a “steward of the earth.” With the collaboration of other family members, and a commitment to sustainable farming, Salatin has implemented farming techniques that boast success on a large scale without the help of antibiotics, seeds, plows or synthetic fertilizers. Polyface, Inc. serves as a sustainable model for what can be the reality of the food system, if consumers would only take a participatory role in the local food movement and make greater demands of the industrialized food system.

In stark contrast to Salatin’s farming philosophy was the portrayal of industrialized food production. When juxtaposed with Polyface, Inc., the description of an industrialized chicken house is enough to put viewers off their lunch, quite literally. While watching the documentary, I was struck by the ­­images of pig houses that shelter hundreds of pigs at a time. Within these houses, animals are fed an unnatural diet chocked full of antibiotics to combat rampant disease outbreaks, and hormones to promote rapid growth at an unorthodox rate.

Another farmer profiled in FRESH, Russ Kremer of Osage County, Missouri told his compelling story on-screen. After making the transition to industrial pig farming techniques in the 1980s, including keeping hundreds of pigs inside concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)- essentially metal crates, Kremer sustained a life-threatening injury while handling one of his boars.

The boar speared Kremer in the kneecap with one of its tusks, resulting in a serious infection in Kremer’s leg. After countless indeterminate tests and ineffectual rounds of standard antibiotics, doctors concluded that Kremer was fighting a drug-resistant form of strep bacteria- the exact same bacteria he fought to ward off in his pig herd. The bacteria had mutated to become drug-resistant as a result of the massive amounts of antibiotics that he fed his pigs, and posed a serious risk to human health.

After his brush with drug-resistant bacteria, Kremer returned to his farm and exterminated his herd. He made a commitment to overhauling his farming practices, deciding not to use any industrial techniques, ruling out the use of antibiotics or confinement. According to Kremer, in his first year of traditional farming he saved $14,000 without drug expenses or veterinary bills. Kremer went on to found the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative and Heritage Acres label, a coalition of more than 50 family farmers raising pig herds sustainably; and notably, with monetary success.

Throughout the documentary, it became clear that the industrialized food system is currently in a dire situation, and needs the attention of the public to affect change. But there is hope.

Retired University of Missouri Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics John Ikerd was featured in the film, as well as during a panel discussion following the viewing on Monday night. Ikerd shared his unique opinions concerning the food system as it is now. As a man who lived during the year the first supermarket was introduced, Ikerd remembers a time when his family received all of the food from farms no more than 60 miles from his home.

Ikerd presented his conception of the big picture of the industrialized food system, and how to reconcile that with the local food movement. He called for a paradigm shift involving three steps. “People need to conclude that the current changes to the food system are not working- that it is not healthy and that there are still hungry people in this country. There also needs to be some concept of what changes will work; and finally, people need to believe that it is possible to make the transition to a healthier system,” Ikerd said.

For additional information about FRESH and the local food movement, check out the website below.


Dining Services strives to offset environmental impact

Within the Bradford Learning and Extension five acres of land have been designated for growing vegetables using composted food waste. The vegetables will be cared for largely by student volunteers and then transported to be used in dining halls.

Campus Dining Services (CDS) estimates that a total of 250 tons of food waste is produced within the dining halls each year. That figure breaks down to about 4.5 ounces of food waste per student per meal everyday.

CDS has sought proactive steps to restrict the amount of food that is leftover and ultimately wasted at the end of the day, said Campus Dining Services Marketing Manager Michael Wuest.

For example, many of the raw fruits and vegetables featured on the salad bar one day may be repurposed for use in a soup the next.

However, some foods are subject to specific guidelines and cannot be repurposed for additional meals, or may only be reheated one time. For this reason, most meals are made to order, with chefs preparing only 10 to 20 portions at one time.

CDS has transitioned to this procedure in the last few years in order to cut back on the amount of food that is prepared, and the amount of leftovers and food waste produced.

“It’s the right thing to do. We strive in everything that CDS does to preserve and conserve the natural resources that we have in order to limit the impact we have on the environment,” said Wuest.

At each of the 21 dining locations on campus, there is an overall focus on encouraging students to be conscientious about the amount of food they put on their plates each trip back to the buffet line.

“As a student eating in the dining halls, I like to get smaller portions of various foods in multiple dishes. That way I can sample a lot of different things like salad or cereal without overeating, or potentially wasting a large portion of my meal,” freshman Lee Banov said.

CDS firmly believes in providing students with a vast array of meal options, while also maintaining a focus on limiting food waste. Students are provided with sundry opportunities to construct the meal of their choice, but are encouraged to only take as much food as they will eat.

The composting system pictured here should be fully operational in October after the walls and roof are constructed. Each of the structure's four bays will hold a week's worth of food waste to be composted during a month-long process.

Beginning in October, much of the food waste will travel a few short miles east of Columbia to the Bradford Research and Extension Center to be composted. Superintendent of the Bradford Center, Tim Reinbott has excitedly begun work on a project termed “Composting in a Zero Carbon Footprint Production System,” now in the final stages of construction at the Bradford Center.

Reinbott will collaborate with University of Missouri students to create and run a closed-loop composting system.

Food waste from the campus will be composted at the center through a process called aerated static pile in which food scraps are mixed with other ingredients including horse bedding, manure and saw dust, heated, and then aerated. The month-long process will intake a total of 250 tons of food waste each year and produce about 170 tons of nutrient-rich compost.

Compost will be used in soil to grow vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and sweet corn, which will then be sent back to the dining halls to be consumed by students.

The university is among a select few in the nation to experiment with composting food waste produced on campus, and the only school to do so through an entirely closed-loop.

In the future, Reinbott hopes to utilize leftover vegetable oil from the dining halls to manufacture biodiesel to power transport trucks to and from the Bradford Center, as well as tractors and other machinery used on the farm.

“We’ll be the first in the nation to have a complete system like this. We can be an example for other schools, including Columbia public schools, and universities who serve more meals per day than MU does. We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint in whatever we do, and this is a great way to produce vegetables while reducing our environmental impact,” Reinbott said.

Reinbott encourages student participation in the project, from experimenting with composting techniques on the farm, to marketing the environmentally conscious image on campus.

Limiting the impact CDS has on the environment has increasingly moved into the limelight. New programs are implemented each year in order to subvert these effects by limiting the amount of food produced and sustainably manage waste at the end of the day.