Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 5 : Mar 2006  > Columns  >  Eco Corner  >  Choices for Sustainable Lifestyles


Eco Corner

By Jake Reiner

Choices for Sustainable Lifestyles


Bio Diesel

Diesel engines are usually thought of as the big polluters—noisy, dirty trucks belching black smoke in your face as you wait on the corner for the light to change. But the truth is that diesel is one of the best eco options we have. Diesel engines are much more efficient than gasoline and, the original, developed by Rudolph Diesel in the 1890s, was run on peanut oil.

Modern diesel cars and trucks can actually run on straight vegetable oil. That means you can drive your Mercedes E-Series with a bottle of cooking oil from grandma’s kitchen! No Joke. Used cooking oil from your local McDonald’s or school cafeteria is basically free fuel if you don’t mind going around and asking. Conversion kits with filters and oil heaters are easy to install and sell for less than US $1,000.

The other upcoming fuel is bio-diesel, made from plant oil and increasingly available at gas stations. American music icon Willie Nelson has started a company doing just this.

Diesel cars are more available than you realize. All Japanese SUVs and many sedans and wagons are available with turbo-diesel engines. And those black exhaust fumes? Clean, green and smell like french fries.

Veggie Connections

Guys, have you had enough of the Shibuya ‘garu’ and hoping for someone a little more down-to-earth? Girls, wish you could find a guy whose idea of the great outdoors is not the smoking area at the office? Believe it or not, the net is full of eco-friendly dating sites.

I checked out a few sites and there are actually like-minded, lonely soul mates in Japan, waiting to hear from you. Veggie Connection is easy to sign up and has a lot of singles in Japan. Another good place for cyber match-making is Green Singles. Good luck, out there.

Village Life

One hundred years ago, we were a planet of small villages, but have you noticed these little self-sufficient, organic units are almost extinct? A village is the perfect solution to so many of the social and environmental problems plaguing our modern world.

The traditional village provided its people with health care, child care, housing, education, clean water, organic food, local products, and so on. “It takes a village to raise a child” is the mantra of eco-villages springing up across the globe.

Not just a bunch of hippies with chickens, these villages incorporate cutting edge eco technologies with businesses and offer housing alternatives and education opportunities for individuals and families.

In Australia, Crystal Waters is a socially and environmentally responsible, economically viable rural sub-division north of Brisbane. Started in 1987, it currently houses 200 people on more than 600 acres of land. Findhorn, in Scotland, is another well-established community. A number of similar projects are under development in Japan such as on Kobunaki, in Shiga Prefecture, and the Kasuga Project.

Organic Coffee

OK, so you try to go eco, but you’re hooked on coffee. Being green doesn’t have to mean no caffeine, but the huge coffee plantations around the world tend to demolish forests, displace indigenous populations, pollute streams with pesticides and channel money out of local communities and into corporate coffers.

Don’t despair! There are so many organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee producers that there’s no reason not to drink their brew. (Shade-grown means they grow under trees instead of clear cutting the forest.)

Go online and order from one of the many friendly farmers who will ship directly to your door. And if you still can’t help stopping in Starbuck’s or Tully’s, be sure to ask for organic every time. (“Mu no yaku kohi kudasai”) Sometimes they’ll have it but, if not, they just might the next time you show up.