For the most part I consider myself to be a pretty “green” gal. I think taking care of our world is imperative for the survival of future generations and so we can continue to have good lives on this planet as well. To that end, I am mindful of our utility usage, I compost, I recycle, I try to minimize consumption. And… I drive a big gas-guzzling Jeep...
Sometimes I feel a little guilty about my frequency at the pump… until I get in my rig. It’s so much fun to off-road, wheel, or just drive around town that I forget about the amount of gas used while I’m having a good time.
Here's one such good time after a recent snowstorm (on private property and with permission):
Therefore, in my quest to be a greener Jeeper, I've searched Jeep.com high and low for any indication that my ride might be a little more environmentally friendly than others. But alas, aside from having low emissions that won’t require annual testing until 2019, there’s not much green in my rig (except for the dollars I’ve put into it). So, what’s a Jeep-loving gal to do? Here are some ways we off-roaders can still drive our big rigs, yet care for the environment too.
Stay the trail.
Here in Colorado we’ve got an awesome concept called Stay The Trail, which encourages responsible off-roading for the preservation of natural ecosystems. The overall premise is simple: there are hundreds of designated off-road trails in Colorado, so stay on the trails instead of ripping it up just anywhere (which is not only bad for the environment, but illegal too). Staying on the trail ensures the natural habitat stays intact and wildlife is not affected even as we drive to great heights for awesome views and priceless adventures.
Leave no trace.
In addition to staying on the trail, if we venture further into the wilderness to camp or hike, leaving no trace ensures further preservation of our wild spaces. Each time our family camps we take note of how the camp area appears when we arrive, and we leave it just the same (or better) at the end of our trip. Here are some suggestions:
- If you’re camping or off-roading with pets, pick up after them.
- If you poop in the woods, do so properly (dig and cover, but pack out TP).
- Don’t cut down trees for firewood, don’t pick flowers or remove other natural items from the woods. If everyone who visited the area did this there’d be nothing left. So, leave the natural areas you visit as untouched as when you arrived. The birds, bees, and bears will thank you.
Part of leaving no trace is being prepared for hazards that could occur on the trail. Damage to your vehicle could result in hazardous spills that could easily devastate the environment and wildlife (think engine oil, transmission oil, gear oil, brake fluid, or radiator fluid). As part of your preparedness supplies, consider making your own Spill Kit. John Walters of JK cOlllllllOrado suggests the following easy DIY Spill Kit that will only cost a few bucks to put together.
Vacuum sealer (such as FoodSaver) – to seal your kit
5-lb. bag of Floor Dry (available at most auto parts stores)
2 – 55 gallon trash bags
A few oil absorbent pads (available at auto parts stores or home supply stores)
A couple pairs of Nitrile gloves
Step 1 – Pour half the bag of Floor Dry into one FoodSaver bag and vacuum seal. You may want to consider double-sealing to be safe.
Step 2 – Repeat with the other half bag of Floor Dry in another vacuum-sealed bag.
Step 3 – In a third bag, vacuum-seal the trash bags, absorbent pads, and gloves.
Step 4 - Store in your vehicle!
Finally, in addition to staying on the trail and leaving no trace in the woods and other wild areas, you might consider taking along an extra trash bag on your trail runs so you can pick up any trash left by others. This includes trash at dispersed camp areas or along the trail. Since trash is not part of the natural environment, we can do one better than leaving no trace by removing it!
Off-roading aside, sometimes a little more environmental focus in our personal lives or at home can help mitigate frequent trips to the gas station. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned.
Learn to recycle properly.
I’ve recycled for years, and it's always made me feel like I’m doing something good for Mother Earth as I threw everything I could in our city’s curbside recycling bin. All cardboard, plastic, bags, papers, junk mail, milk cartons, and more. But did you know not all these items can actually be recycled? I did not, until our son’s Kindergarten field trip to the local landfill (which is also known as the-time-Dawn-got-pooped-upon).
Yes… while entering the recycling building at the landfill a gust of wind blew some brownish water off the roof and it landed directly on me (just my luck). Once inside the building I thought, ‘Wow, it smells like dirty diapers in here,’ until I realized it was me. Yep, the brown water was poop and I had it all over me. Sigh.
Despite smelling like a Porta-Potty, I managed to pay enough attention during the recycling talk to learn I had not been recycling properly, which meant all the stuff I’d contaminated with non-recyclables over the years had ended up in the landfill (because the recycling center throws an entire batch of recyclables away if they find non-recyclables that can’t be easily hand-picked out). GASP!
So, after the field trip I did my homework and went to our garbage/recycling company’s website to find out exactly what should and should not go into our curbside bin. Turns out plastic bags are not allowed at all. Nor are bottle caps, coated cardboard (such as for storing frozen items), milk cartons, and more. As the instructor at the landfill noted, “If in doubt, it’s better to throw something away than put it in your recycling and risk contaminating a whole batch of recyclables.”
Recycling properly now has resulted in more stuff going into our trash bin, which then makes me question my purchases because if half of what I buy (packaging) is going straight to the landfill that makes me feel bad. So, by watching what I purchase in the first place I actually end up consuming less, which keeps more green in my wallet. Everybody wins!
If you’ve got several errands to run around town, group them into as few trips as possible. This not only saves gas (more green in your wallet!) but time as well. Another all-around win.
How do you care for the environment while driving an off-road rig? Thanks for reading and leave your comments below!