I’ve always wondered about alternative modes of transportation. If I can go on a road trip and don’t drive and maybe take a train and maybe have an adult beverage, I am going to choose that option. But a lot of times trains are more expensive than the gas it would take to get somewhere, and they also take what seems like a million times longer. So what are my other options? What eco-friendly transportation options exist?
How do I travel while being eco-conscious, but not using public transportation? I took to the streets and mostly the internet to find out. Here are my findings!
4 eco-friendly transportation options
My first adventure was discovering the ELF vehicle. It’s technically a bike, and is about the size of a smart car. It’s powered by a pedal system, much like a bike, but also has a motor and solar panels to get it going. This is how cool I look driving it, by the way.
The ELF is probably the coolest thing since gluten-free sliced bread. It’s very easy to maneuver and I didn’t feel like it was going to fall apart when I went over speed bumps or when I inevitably veered into the grass during my test drive. That was my biggest curiosity before test driving the ELF; it looks like a giant Hot Wheels car – how safe could that be? Since I was thinking of it more as a small car, I was imagining driving on a 50 mph road and feeling like I could die at any moment. Although the ELF is street legal, it is still a bike. So if you take it onto city streets, you will need to stay in the right lane, or better yet, the bike lane. It can get up to 30 mph if you combine the motor and pedaling, so you’re not going to feel like you’re holding up traffic.
As far as the sustainable components, I was very impressed. Yes, there is the solar panel, but the ELF itself is made up of as many recycled products as possible. It also, obviously, gives off no emissions since it’s the most awesome bike ever. There are two options right now for the ELF designs: one seater or two-seater. So if you’re reading this and have a kid or a partner or that one friend who said they were just couch-surfing until they “found themselves” but it’s been over six months and they’re your free roommate now, you can opt for the two-seater. They also have used or new options, so if you don’t mind sitting where someone else has sat, you can save some money by going used.
This would be the perfect solution if you are tired of taking the public bus or biking with a normal bike like a heathen. All the cool kids are buying and riding ELFs, and I am half serious when I say I may start a crowdfunding campaign just to be able to afford one myself. I am so in love with these things.
Audrey’s Awesomeness Assessment
- Practicality: 4. Only because you can’t take it on the freeway or long distances, so this wouldn’t make sense for someone trying to replace their commuter or vacation car.
- Eco-friendliness: 5. Because there is practically no carbon footprint, besides the battery.
- Price: 5. ELF’s most expensive option is the brand-new double-seater that can start for about $9,000, but if you get a used one-seater, it can start at about $6,000.
- Total awesomeness: 14/15
Speaking of battery-powered vehicles, what about Tesla and hybrid options? Teslas are obviously a better option for emissions than a hybrid vehicle. Also, compared to the ELF, you could definitely drive long distances and it’s no different than driving a real car. You would save a lot of money on gas, but would all that gas money add up to equal a new car battery after 10 years? At the beginning of hybrid technology, that may have been true, but according to greencarreports.com, Prius’ batteries should last the lifetime of the vehicle.
So I looked into what happens after the battery is officially done. Both the Toyota Prius and Tesla are recycled by the same amazing company based out of Anaheim, California. The used batteries are broken down by material and recycled accordingly. If you buy a Prius or a Tesla, that battery will not end up in a landfill.
Audrey’s Awesomeness Assessment
- Practicality: 5. Obviously these are cars; transportation is completely normal. I would give them a 6 because you won’t be paying for gas much, but let’s not get crazy.
- Eco-friendliness: 4. Since the Prius still uses some gas, and even though the batteries from both cars are recycled, it still isn’t as clean, in my opinion, as the ELF.
- Price: 3. With a Tesla starting at about $70,000 and a Prius starting at around $25,000, this is pretty self-explanatory. In the grand scheme of buying a car, this isn’t insane, but I’m also not a millionaire – so there’s that.
- Overall Awesomeness: 12/15
My next adventure took me to watching hours of video footage about tiny homes. I know this isn’t a real mode of transportation per se, but I definitely think it makes a valid argument in the battle for being sustainably responsible. I understand most people aren’t taking their tiny homes across the country, but they are able to move like a car, if needed — so that’s why I included this minimalist option. In most of the videos I watched, the person behind the camera also was the person behind the tiny house — as in, they built it themselves. I found a couple of websites and companies that sell preloved tiny homes, or where you can order one to be built to your specifications, but they don’t seem that popular yet. I think part of the intrigue with tiny homes is having complete control and having that pride in knowing you did it yourself. I would love to be able to look at a baseboard or some ceiling panel and know that I did that. I would say that’s just me being weird, but it actually seems par for the course.
As far as sustainable materials go, it is definitely up to the builder/owner. I’ve seen some that are over 80 percent recycled materials. So, it’s definitely possible to be extremely eco-friendly when building a tiny house. Whether you are considering all the scraps and leftovers during that construction or not, using recycled materials is always going to be a better option.
The travel capability of a tiny home was also a lot easier than I had imagined. I was assuming it would be similar to towing a house, but maybe a little lighter? Nope. It’s basically the same as towing a U-haul trailer. Tiny homes are built on recycled trailer frames, so they’re meant for travel. The foundation is made in a way to handle swaying and weather. Yes, you will have to secure everything inside, but that definitely seems easier than packing all your stuff and loading up a separate trailer.
Audrey’s Awesomeness Assessment
- Practicality: 3. Although it travels extremely well, it’s not necessarily a vehicle. I think it’s a 5/5 for practicality when moving, but not if you’re just visiting your aunt a couple of hours away.
- Eco-friendliness: 5. Tiny homes save so much money and so much energy compared to the standard home. In the future I hope there are tiny home lots, similar to RV camps, to encourage people to transition to this amazing alternative.
- Price: 4. Some homes can start for as little as $10,000, but if you want luxury, can grow to about $50,000. Still less than a house, or even a Tesla. It’s not a 5 because, duh, I don’t have $10,000 lying around.
- Overall Awesomeness: 12/15
Last but not least, I wanted to talk about eco-pods. Since you do have to tow them, like the tiny house, it’s less about mode of transportation and more about mode of travel. These eco-capsules were designed by a Slovakian company called Nice Architects. They’re extremely new to the market, being released in 2016, so there isn’t much research on them in the real world yet. I am personally curious about them because they claim to be able to house two people for up to a year. They are completely self-sufficient, so it’s like forever camping minus the bugs. They have a water filtration system for running water by way of rainwater. There is a solar panel for electricity, and also a wind turbine. They come with a toilet and shower, kitchenette, and work area.
I realize these capsules are extremely expensive in their infancy, but imagine the possibilities. Similar to the tiny home park/RV park idea, I would love to see capsule farms become reality. People who are low-income, homeless or looking to save on housing would have an eco-friendly option — one that doubles as eco-friendly transportation, too!
Audrey’s awesomeness assessment
- Practicality: 4. At this point in time, they are almost unattainable, so the 4 was only for reach. If I could go pick this up right now, I would have rated it a 5.
- Eco-friendliness: 5. These capsules are almost completely zero waste and would definitely help shape a new understanding for the necessities in life.
- Price: 2. Right now, the preorders are going for about $90,000. I’m hoping this will diminish in the future when they become more common. This is definitely the most expensive option, and it’s not even a car — so that’s dumb.
- Overall Awesomeness: 11/15
All in all, there are so many great eco-friendly transportation alternatives out there that could match your personal needs. For me, I want the ELF, like, yesterday. I’m impressed with everything I have learned throughout researching this article. All the doubts and issues I had are practically gone, and I definitely can see how all of these options would make total sense, depending on your situation.
If you are reading this and have/live in any of the products reviewed, comment below! I’d love to talk further and get to know more about how awesome living sustainably is!
Feature image credit: treymaan