A little while back, I became a member of Greener Photography, an organization of photographers dedicated to trying to improve the environment by using best practices.

Photographers probably aren’t the worst polluters in the world, but since photography is what I do and I want to leave this world in better shape for the next generation, it is important for me to do what I can.

There are a number of things that I currently do to try to be more environmentally friendly, such as working out of a home office which recycles, uses low energy compact fluorescent lighting, is decorated with sustainable bamboo flooring, etc. I may blog more on this in the future, but what I’d like to discuss here is transportation.

As a photographer, particularly an event photographer, I often need to haul a lot of equipment around and thus my vehicle is a mid sized SUV. When I bought my car (an Acura MDX) I got it because it met the functional needs of my business and my family, was very flexible, and was likely the greenest vehicle of its kind, since it got better fuel mileage than the competition and was, I believe the first ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle) SUV on the market.

My car has been great, but I’ve held onto it much longer than I have had any other car. Last year I started considering replacing the vehicle and was staggered to find that in the 7 or 8 years that I’ve had it there has essentially been zero improvements in terms of fuel mileage. Sure the new models have fancier electronics, new styling, and some other gizmos, but in terms of MPG, my car is equal, or better than any other vehicle of its size.

I looked at some slightly smaller cars, such as the Toyota Highlander hybrid, but its mileage rating is maybe 20% better than what I currently get and the car is smaller (which is a real problem as when I fill my car up, I REALLY fill it up with equipment). Unfortunately, most hybrid cars seem to work best at slow and go traffic when the battery can kick in. Given the kind of driving I do this is more the exception, than the rule (thankfully!) When comparing highway mileage ratings, the fuel consumption figures of the hybrids are even closer to my current rate.

This both amazes me – that there has been no significant improvement in the last 7-8 years – and leaves me in a quandary. In thinking about what the best thing to do is – for my business, for the environment, I’m left with a few options:
a. Buy another vehicle of similar size that I know will meet my functional needs, plus give me some new safety and comfort features, but more or less continue the same fuel consumption and pollution of my current vehicle.
b. Buy a smaller vehicle which may get somewhat better mileage. But what to do about when I need to move lots of stuff? A roof rack is impractical, but a trailer might work. Of course, I would have to find room to store it and have the cost of the trailer to contend with.
c. Hope for some new, better options to come on the market soon. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem very likely. Plug in hybrids, which may be the best option, are still a few years away, even for passenger cars, let alone SUVs or light trucks.
d. Keep my current vehicle and try to extend its life as much as possible.

At the moment, d. is my strategy by default. Of course this could change any time if the vehicle becomes unreliable or has other problems.

If you have other thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *