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.