Friday, October 14, 2005

Elephant Grass and Car Parts

Engineers and farmers at the University of Warwick have devised a way to make bio-degradable plastic car parts out of elephant grass (miscanthus). Elephant grass requires little or no pesticides or fertilizers to grow, and is abundant, yielding 15 tonnes a hectare. Scientists have shown how elephant grass makes an excellent structural filler in wheel trims especially. The plastic car parts developed in this way will not degrade during the life of a vehicle but can be pushed into biodegrading if they are composted at the end of the vehicle's life.

In the Netherlands they have passed legislation stating that from 2006, 85% of car parts and materials must be recycled, and 95% will have to be recycled from 2015. This falls under the onus of the car manufacturer.

Here’s a cute little ad that hits the 16-24 demo square on the nose. Creative Wonders Link

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tires and the Socially-Conscious Consumer

As long as we all love our cars, which we do, we will need tires, and gasoline, and oil, and other things that are currently not being manufactured or disposed of in a sustainable way. Instead of putting the socially-conscious consumer in the uncomfortable position of rejecting a reality of their existence, a savvy part manufacturer can illustrate a way to create change for the better, be it through communicating advanced processes in manufacturing or illustrating the recycling options available.

When it comes to the environment, it seems as if tires have everything stacked against them. It takes 22 gallons of oil to produce one tire that in turn gets used for a few years before being tossed. Americans alone throw away 275 million tires a year, and three billion of them are sitting around in stockpiles, landfills and on roadsides as we speak. These piles can burst into uncontrollable toxic fires, and act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and vermin. But as long as people have cars in the way we know them now, people are going to be using tires. So, instead of focussing on the negatives of tires, and throwing up our arms and saying that driving is evil, why don’t we concentrate on a realistic way of dealing with the recycling of tires.

The most common method of recycling tires is a process called retreading. Retreading can bring an old tire back to life, and it uses only 30% of the energy required to make a new tire. The best tire retailers actively encourage retreading, but there are also better, more efficient uses of tires in the afterlife.

This issue is best juxtaposed with paper. Ideally, we would never need to chop down trees to make paper products. But until then, it is better to encourage the use of 50% recycled paper than the fresh stuff.

While we are on the topic, here is a great ad from Bangkok.

Creative Wonders Link

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Car

Like it or not, at this point in human existence we get around primarily by means of cars. And cars, admittedly, are not the best things on the environment, or even on our own short-term enjoyment of life. I’m not a big fan of smog, and poison in my water, air or land. However, we need cars to get to work, go to meetings, get groceries, take girls on dates and generally to put emphasis on something other than getting from place A to place B. Car enthusiasts will espouse how their automobile is an extension of them and in turn a symbol of their personal belief in individuality and freedom of expression. There’s nothing wrong with putting value on an artefact, per se, in fact that is a large part of our job, but when an artefact is damaging to the short and long-term enjoyment of life for oneself and others – then something needs to be done. For the next week or so, I am going to focus on what can be done about our beloved automobile to make it better. Tomorrow we will start with tires.

In the meantime, here is a charming look into the machines we hate to love Ode to the car