Wednesday, 11 April 2007


One of my favourite places to visit in England is The Eden Project.
I made my second visit over the Easter weekend because they were hosting The Sexy Green Car show. I caught the train from Paddington to St Austell on Sunday and stayed at The Porth Avelon Hotel - a sort of posh Fawlty Towers. The hotel overlooked Carylon Bay and on Sunday evening I strolled along the cliff path and down to the sea. With the sun shining and spring well and truly in the air it was so beautiful....I was reminded of two things: The Camomile Lawn - the TV series about the family living in Cornwall during the Second World War and, believe it or not, Malibu Beach in California. The only thing that was different is the lack of development in Cornwall along the beach, although i saw that that is about to change.

I visited a welcome centre for THE BEACH at Carylon Bay that showed plans for a huge apartment and shopping complex very similar to the sort of buildings you see all along the coasts of the United States.
The Beach website claims to take the weight off city dwellers buying second homes in the area and boasts about the expected jobs they hope to create. There was a small mention of saving the coastline and helping stop erosion, but i saw no mention of any other sort of sustainability in the project itself. Here was a perfect opportunity to use solar voltaic panels and wind power to lower their carbon footprint and keep the dwellings energy bills to a minimum....none was mentioned.
I suspect it will be a conventional build with huge waste [they first have to pull down an old dance hall that has been a ruin since the seventies]. Bring on the new green building regs!! I suspect this complex will be in production before they are inforced. I see a disappointing missed opportunity on the part of the developers.

oh well...

On Monday morning I ate my obligatory cooked Cornish breakfast [Yum!] and made my way the The Eden Project which was surprisingly unbusy for a Bank Holiday - great for me though as I hate crowds!

The Project was bursting with tulips, the daffodils almost done, the smell of hyacynths overwhelming me as I passed... I got some great photos...look!

The number of cars at The Sexy Green Car Show was quite small. Volkswagon, SAAB, and GM were all there with a mix of cars fueled by biofuel [ made from plant or animal matter instead of mineral oil] biodiesal [made from vegetable or animal fats] and bioethanol [made from starchy grains like maize, wheat and potatoes]. Growing the crops for bioethanol can use as much energy as you get from it. They are making the process more efficiant all the time, in the meatime we have to be content with the 70-90% reduction in emissions.

SAAB's Biopower and Ford's flexible Fuel vehicles use a combination of bioethanol and petrol, so you can use regular petrol if a bioethanol pump is not available.

The other interesting tack they use in their literature is to encourage drivers to trade in an old banger for a newer [smaller!] and more efficiant car and not hang onto an old jalopy in the hope of using it til the last mile can be dragged out of it - I thought this was a saucy way to sell new cars, but they do have a point. All the cars being made now are so much cleaner and more efficiant than the ones our parents drove.

There was a gorgeous old 1920's Ford Model T at the show. An interesting fact is the Henry Ford created a biofuel car back in the 1920's. He predicted then that there would be a time when we would need a subsitute for petrol and actually produced the first vehicle to be run on grain alcohol. What a prophet he was?!

One of the problems I have found of hybrid and alternative fuel cars up to now is the fact that they have not been cheaper to buy. When we got our Prius three and a half years ago in Los Angeles, the price was above what you would expect to pay for another 'sexier' car. Because the demand was so high and the new technolgy so new, the dealers could ask what they wanted. The upside is that the car has held its value and could be sold for close to what was paid....but still, the money saved on using less fuel is not a trade off in this case. You are buying the car for its low emissions....well, alright.... it's for the smug self rightiousness that allows you to sneer at people driving Hummers!! Or worse!! We yell and make rude signs at them, I'm afraid! ;-/

If you have ever driven a Prius, the first thing you have to get used to is the way it stops - literally - at traffic lights. It feels like the engine has stalled. As you pull away the car silently moves forward until the petrol engine kicks in again. We play a game to see how long we can go without allowing the fuel engine to start up. This involves pulling away slowly and not going above 15 miles an hour until we absolutley have to - to the major annoyance of the peson behind you who invariably has some road rage brewing. It is Los Angeles I'm talking about, after all!!!

The hybrid car is a strange and wonderful thing. As I sit at a red light looking at all the cars around me and think of all the cars idling at all the traffic lights around the city, I think about how much less carbon monoxide would be put out into the air if this one small change was made to all the cars we drive.

The Toyota Prius was noticably absent from The Sexy Green Car Show. There was a lone Prius at the entrance, but it was the other manufacturers who had actually had a stand. I think Toyota think they have hit their mark. When I went back to Los Angeles in February after almost a year away in London, I was struck at how many more Prius' [is that the plural or is it Prii?] I saw on the roads. I would estimate one in every ten cars... It was great to see that there is now a choice of low emissions cars available. Looking forward to the USA catching up and selling a variety of cars that have a biofuel driven, for instance, the Mini Cooper - is anyone at BMW reading this and can pass it on? Please?

Oh Gosh, now I have to show you a crazy photo of a group of us with my Mini. Yes, we are all holding pugs. Yes, the registraion plate says: O 2 'love' A PUG. I'm crazy about quite a few things in life and top of the list is attaining a sustainable lifestyle in style.... and....PUGS....what can I say - another blog for another day. But I expect Humphrey, my pug, to feature heavily in future postings....see you soon!
The Eco Warrioress


Anonymous said...

The wonderful description of your Easter travels made me feel as if I were there. The pics are lovely! I liked the one of you in the mini. I recently returned from a visit to Spain. I noticed the lack of huge SUV's there-definitely in the minority! Many of the cars were Ford, Chevy, Nissan, etc...but they were not model names I'd ever heard/seen in America. Is this some type of conspiracy??!! Not to mention the abundance of scooters! Oh wait, I just did, didn't I?

Eco Warrioress said...

Yes. Europe has the choice of smaler more economical cars, based I think on the fact that petrol - and all other forms of energy - is so much more expensive than in the States. I chuckle when people in LA complain about gas going up to three dollars agallon. In th UK, it is about six dollars a gallon. The Europeans hav always paid more for their gas. This is why i think the bio fuel/ethanol car options are available here in a number of different cars - SAAB said they plan to have lower emissions options for all of thier models very soon...Here's what they say: Saab BioPower environmental cars can easily run on petrol alone or petrol and bioethanol in any proportion up to bioethanol E85 (85% bioethanol, 15% petrol) - no adjustments required.

Anonymous said...

With the plethora of 'how to' books regarding going green around the home, can you recommend some books/magazines that you've found to be useful?