If you’re keeping an old machine running, you’re saving the planet. There are better ways of doing it, but here’s to the gearheads like us who reduce, reuse, and recycle cars and parts.

March 18th is Global Recycling Day. Consider this an invitation to join us in yet another trip to the local salvage yard for those odds and ends missing from the daily driver.

Cars and trucks get a bad rap.

img: Todd

We know carbon emissions are bad, but are our daily drivers really to blame? According to the US EPA, transportation is the fourth largest contributor to global greenhouse emissions. Our daily drivers—combined with all road, rail, air, and marine transportation—are responsible for 14% of all global greenhouse emissions.

Industry, which likely includes vehicle manufacturing, comes in third, at 21%. Agriculture—here’s looking at you, corporate mega farm industry—is second, at 24%, and all those coal-/oil-/gas-fired power plants are number 1, at 25%.

Note: It’s worth mentioning that, while our daily drivers might emit far less pollution than, say, jet airliners or container ships, there are far more of us than there are of them. Diving deeper into that EPA link above reveals that passenger cars represent half the emissions in the transportation segment.

We could whine about how our daily drivers, then, really only contribute about 7% of all global greenhouse gas and we should be left alone because cars are really somewhere between “Buildings” (6%) and “Other sources” (10%) on the EPA pie chart.

We could pass the buck to Big Oil and Big Ag, with their billions in revenue and subsidies, demanding they do more about the problem since, combined, they’re responsible for 49% of total emissions.

We could even revisit the tired—and repeatedly proven false—debate around the environmental impact of electric vehicles and fossil fuel power generation.

Or we could just keep it real.

It’s easier to just dust off the old House of Pain CD and keep it real.

“The time has come for everyone to clean up their own backyards before they go knockin’ on their neighbor’s door.”

Anyone can complain. Anyone can blame others for their problems. That’s why so many people do it.

Solving problems takes real, actual effort. It takes personal responsibility. We don’t have to, individually, drop everything and save the world—even if doing such a thing would be pretty freaking noble. We just need to be a little more conscious of our actions in our daily lives.

A lot of individuals doing a little bit better over time translates into massive improvement, ya know?

Common sense really isn’t.

Common sense says we shouldn’t need the imminent threat of catastrophe to get our shit together. I mean, who cares what’s causing climate change? We all want clean air and water. It’s not rocket science. The less shit we put in the air and water, the better we all are.

Staying in our own lane, keeping our old, dino juice-burning machines running their best isn’t just good for us, it’s also better for the environment. A well-tuned engine makes more reliable power, is more fun to drive, and burns cleaner than a sloppy jalopy. A properly maintained machine is ready for mods, easier to work on, and doesn’t leak toxic chemicals everywhere it goes.

Besides, isn’t having a nice place to live and turn wrenches on a nice vehicle reason enough to clean up our act? But what’s a scrappy group of gearheads supposed to do make the world a better place?

What can gearheads like us do?

Beyond little things like cleaning up our garages (something many of us are build-threading in the forum, by the way) and making sure we dispose of automotive waste responsibly, keeping our machines running their best seems like a good idea. Fortunately, keeping existing cars on the road with recycled parts is a solid—and generally fun—thing we can do.

I recently discovered that March 18th is Global Recycling Day. Started by the Global Recycling Foundation in 2018, the mission of Global Recycling Day is twofold:

  1. To tell world leaders that recycling is simply too important not to be a global issue, and that a common, joined up approach to recycling is urgently needed.
  2. To ask people across the planet to think resource, not waste, when it comes to the goods around us – until this happens, we simply won’t award recycled goods the true value and repurpose they deserve.

Cars as natural resources?

Gone. Green. | img: Todd

Okay. Maybe not, but—one gearhead to another?—I’m pretty sure you get it. Just think about all the cool old cars being crushed in the face of all the new car appliances being sold each year. Built-not-bought gets tricky when there are no more shelf or used parts—when you have to build your own replacement parts from scratch.

Those of us who prefer older machines, like so many gearheads who came before us, know all too well that we rely on limited—and quickly disappearing—resources. If you haven’t yet experienced certain parts getting harder to find, ask your local OG. He’ll* have a list.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

We’ve all heard this before. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Sadly, a lot of our brothers and sisters out there have the wrong ideas in their heads and automatically tune out the minute the topic turns to climate change. Their loss—but also our loss. Especially considering how well we understand these concepts.

We can reduce the amount of pollution our vehicles generate by keeping emissions equipment in place and functional. (Honestly, removing it makes jack-funking-shit difference on the dyno and we all know it. That’s bush league, juvenile forum mod list stuff right there.) We can reduce the amount of time we spend idling in traffic by working from home. (Start demanding that shit.) We can reduce the amount of resources spent on making new cars by keeping our old cars on the road.

We can reuse parts. From factory upgrades mixed and matched between models and trims to used OEM parts, we can see to it we get maximum utilization out of already spent resources.

And we can recycle, too. We can make sure our used oils and tires and parts get disposed of responsibly. It’s not always the most convenient way of doing things, but you gotta admit, it feels pretty good to know you’re one of those next level types who makes sure you do things right.

You’re overdue for a trip to the pick & pull.

Fezzik’s new rear bumper.

How long has it been since you were out in the yard? Remember what you were looking for that day? Did you find it? Did you find everything on your list? Either way, consider this an excuse to get back out to the yard.

Throw your toolbox in the trunk, slide a buck or two across the counter, and go for a walk. Maybe you find something you need. Maybe you find something cool you don’t. Chances are, you’re going to have a good time.

Global Recycling Day is next week Wednesday. Let’s get out there and save a few bits from being wasted this week. Hit up your local pick and pull lot and tell me what you found. I’m @b.at.tgp on Instagram and Twitter, and I’d love to see I’m not the only doing trying to give gearheads like us a better reputation.

Let’s start showing the rest of the world that #gearheadsrecycletoo.

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