My great (vegan) car dilemma

How what we drive is influenced by what we believe.

I’m in the market for a new car, not completely by choice.  Since I have a very long commute and need to drive fairly far to family and friends, I put loads of miles on my car (about 30k a year).  I’ve been trying to reconcile the environmental impact of my driving so much, so about 5 years back I decided to buy a Vokswagen TDI (“clean” diesel).  This car was fantastic! It was great on gas, relatively affordable, tons of room, and had all the little options that made my commuting comfortable. I thought I found a responsible way to drive as much as I do and not completely destroy the environment. Win-win, right? Wrong! Lo and behold- it turns out that this “clean” diesel was not clean at all!  VW had installed software that cheated the emissions tests and my “clean” car was spewing toxic chemicals into the environment every time I drove it.  I was outraged…and deceived. I felt terribly guilty and didn’t want to drive my car one more day. VW willingly sold a product they knew would be damaging to the environment at the expense of us all. When they finally sent out the recall notice, I chose the “buyback” option and vowed never again to support a company that puts corporate greed above all else.

So, I’m in the market for a new car- and facing a new dilemma.  Although vegetarian at the time of my VW purchase, I opted for the faux leather seating but turned a blind eye to the leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift.  I guess part of me thought I was doing a greater good by buying this environmentally friendly car and that it somehow made up for the leather steering wheel.  In all fairness, there weren’t any non-leather options offered.  There are still very few.

My car requirements remain pretty much the same.  It needs to be fuel efficient (I drive too far for an electric car), have good cargo capacity, and all wheel drive (I added AWD to the list after driving on some rough winter roads while praying the entire way). I heard that Tesla now offers an all vegan car, so I figured the car industry was evolving and was excited to see all of my new options.  But, here’s the thing- unless you buy the base model (think no power seats, no power mirrors etc), most cars still come with a leather wrapped steering wheel! This holds true even for even the less expensive models.  I briefly looked at the luxury brands, but other than Tesla, none of them offer a completely leather free interior.  Some, like BMW, offer faux leather seating (they call it Sensatec), but the steering wheel is still leather. Leather it seems, is still viewed by our society as being luxurious- a status symbol of wealth.

I thought about my options, how important is it for me to have power seats anyhow?  I decided that I would go with a base model Subaru Outback – no leather. As if the universe was offering its support of my decision, that very same day one of my vegan friends posted a gruesome photo to her FB wall.  It showed a large cow being skinned alive, laying on the ground after all of its legs had been chopped off so it couldn’t escape.  I couldn’t get the image out of my mind.  In 2017 humanity is still creating extraordinary ways to brutalize other species for a profit.  That solidified my decision- leather is NOT an option!

My car is being given back to VW next month (on the morning of my 40th birthday).  I am disheartened that there is no true vegan car yet and flabbergasted that the options for vegan materials in cars is so extremely limited.  If all goes well, I will be purchasing a Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium.  It was the only AWD car I found to have a completely non leather interior while offering nice add-ons such as a moonroof and power lift gate.

Back to Ahimsa. It is a guide and a teacher.  When I search for what is true, what aligns with my beliefs, it is informed by ahimsa.  My car dilemma is just one example.  Throughout the day we are bombarded by images/thoughts/experiences that cause harm or violence to other beings, each other and ourselves… but every time you can bring ahimsa into practice, you are connecting to a greater all-knowing infinity. Ahimsa, I’ve learned, is applicable everywhere ….and yes, even when I am buying a car.




Ahimsa: an introduction

I’m starting to learn a few things about myself and this life.  I’m learning that life’s mysteries need not be so scary; that when I become still and listen, I can tune in to a stillness inside myself that guides and comforts me and I now know that my sensitive spirit needs space to nurture itself and feed my soul. I’ve also learned that this term Ahimsa, one I started intimately knowing many years ago- means way more than I ever knew possible and is more relevant now than ever. I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon the term Ahimsa;  it feels like it’s been a part of me my whole life, but growing up in an Irish/Italian Catholic family, I know Ahimsa somehow found its way to me, and it stuck.

In its simplest sense, ahimsa is a yogic term meaning to live your life causing the least amount of harm to others as possible.  As a vegan, I relate to the concept of ahimsa in a very intimate and profound way. Ahimsa is the foundational concept of living a compassionate life, to seeing the inherent worth in all beings and believing that all beings are sacred and divine. Ahimsa influences what I eat, how I spend my free time, how I treat both friends and strangers, and what I buy.

I was called to create this space to share how this thread of ahimsa inspires me each day and connects me to you and all of us together as one. In a world that sometimes feels like divisiveness and insults are becoming the norm, the warmth and love from living a life guided by Ahimsa is a call back to my own heart.