Archive for November, 2008

Old Car + (re)New(able) Fuel = Great Idea!

Who says you can’t teach an old dog a new trick?  Ok, so it’s a car, not a dog, but you get my drift.  Recently I installed a kit on my 1997 Subaru Outback to convert it to run on E85.  So far, so good.  In fact, I think the ole Subie likes it, as it seems to have a renewed sense of vigor and runs a little smoother and quicker, IMHO.  Perhaps that’s because E85 is 100 octane, as opposed to the 85 octane level of the regular gas it had been running on for years. 

The process is a fairly simple one, and the kit took about 10-15 minutes to install.  Probably better to have someone install it who knows at least a little bit about cars and engines and such, but I probably could have done it myself had there been a shortage of mechanical talent in my house.  Fortunately that’s not an issue!  The kits can be found on the Internet, and I paid about $365.00 for mine.  It will pay for itself eventually, how long will depend upon the price difference between gas and E85 and how long it takes me to drive the required number of miles.

I made this change for several reasons, the primary reason being using a renewable fuel source rather than petroleum-based gas.  Along with that goes the whole ideal of supporting our local economy rather than a foreign economy.  I also hope that supporting the growing (no pun intended) biofuels industry will help it continue to invest in research and come up with the best way to make it.  I’ve heard of biofuel being made from some interesting non-food sources, two of my favorites being algae and used coffee grounds.

Using E85 rather than gas has some positive environmental effects as well.  The following is quoted from

“Because E85 is cleaner than conventional gasoline, it emits less hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. E85 reduces carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 70 percent — and less carbon monoxide helps reduce ozone formation and greenhouse gas levels. According to EPA, gasoline is the largest source of manmade carcinogens. Ethanol reduces overall toxic pollution by diluting harmful compounds found in gasoline such as benzene and other aromatics.”

Overall, this has been a decision I feel good about, and I would definitely recommend making the switch to anyone who is considering it.



Upcycling is a way to turn a used product into something useful again, such as shopping totes made from highway billboards, purses made from reclaimed seat belts, laptop cases made from soda bottle material, or glassware made from discarded wine bottles.  The potential (re)uses for items that would otherwise end up in a landfill are limited only by the imagination of those creative and resourceful enough to repurpose an item into something useful or beautiful.  Cottage industries are springing up all over the world, and there appears to be no end in sight to the products being upcycled.  It makes sense ecologically to reuse something rather than start from scratch.

For more information upcycling and recycling, visit or  There are lots of ideas to help get you started with upcycling.  We can all do a better job of helping to stop the rampant spread of waste and creation of unnecessary garbage, and upcycling and recycling are a great way to start.