Energy Diet

Zen and the Art of Driving the Speed Limit

Confession time.

Every once and a while, I have the tendency to drive a little bit over the speed limit.

And by ‘every once and a while’ I mean always, and by ‘a little bit,’ I mean a lot.

I’m no adrenaline junkie. I don’t race for “pinks” on the weekends with my little Honda Accord. I just always seem to be running late.

When I was living in Spain, being late was almost part of the culture. People assume their friends and family will be late to events and showing up 10 to 15 minutes after the expected time is no big deal. However, in our ‘time is money’ society, punctuality is key and lateness will get you nowhere fast.

So, for the energy diet this week, I’ve been focusing on making my driving habits a little more…zen. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving (rapid acceleration and braking) can lower your fuel efficiency 5-33 percent depending on whether you’re street or highway driving. And, we all know that speeding heightens stress and anxiety, increases safety risks, and usually doesn’t get us to our destination any faster. So this week while on the road, I set off earlier, took some deep breaths, let other cars pass me by, and watched my fuel efficiency go up and my stress level go down.

And as I set this slow-down goal for myself this week, I thought about my own community in regards to transportation and energy use.

Situated 35 minutes from the closest city, many people in my hometown either make the long trek to work, or make a living on a farm or other specialty business located closer to home. Between the diesel required to plow fields, rake hay, and combine wheat, and the gas it takes to get to the city and back, our community uses a lot of fuel.

But local energy- and gas-conscious commuters are swapping their SUVs for sedans while a few farms are making the switch to biodiesel. According to an Impact Analysis released by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, the use of waste grease for the production of biodiesel results in an 86% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases as opposed to fossil fuels. However, with big rendering companies scooping up the waste vegetable oil from many local and corporate restaurants, single-family biodiesel producers are having trouble getting their hands on the grease.

When I asked a friend and farmer why he produces biodiesel, he said that, aside from the economic and environmental positives of running a farm on the renewable fuel source, there’s something very satisfying about taking part in a sustainable cycle of energy where you grow the crops that are made into oil, which eventually fuels the vehicles that help you to grow the crops again.

Is it just me, or does that sound a little zen-like to you, too?