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Old 01-22-2012, 09:25 AM   #1
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Used trailers: More righteous than new?

Hi all- it has recently been pointed out to me that used trailers and tow vehicles come with none of the baggage associated with brand-new ones, that baggage being the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, natural resources used, pollution/toxins generated, plus the impact of hauling the whole set-up into the woods, or to the beach, whenever we want to go "camping". I had always assumed I was no different from the owners of the new models, that I had decided in favor of comfort, styling, and fun over a more "green", sustainable, and frugal form of recreation. Like, I dunno, staying home and reading a book. I just assumed I could no longer take the high, politically-correct ground while taking up 45' of the highways and campgrounds, and I was ok with that.
What do you think- is owning a used luxury travel trailer (Airstream, for example) and the necessary hydrocarbon-spewing tow vehicle (used!) somehow more righteous than buying new ones? I sure hope so, as this black-and-white view of the world really appeals to me, and would help my standing in the Boulder, Co. area.

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Old 01-22-2012, 09:29 AM   #2
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I think it's not worrying about righteousness that's a problem -- it's just working at appearing righteous. That only works at making one look a bit of a prig, really.

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

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Old 01-22-2012, 09:32 AM   #3
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Didn't you just post about dumping your greywater? You must be feeling the heat from the greenies in Boulder.

I think buying a used trailer does help the environment a bit. They are not making a new one for you so all of the materials and construction by product has already taken place. But....there will be no escape from your impact on the environment when you start hauling this thing down the road. Your used TV will be burning just as much (maybe even more) fuel as a new one.

While I try to be aware of my impact, there are some things you just need to do regardless of what others might say. To make myself feel better about all of this I just look around at all those huge fifth wheelers that I see on the road as well as those very big box trailers. At least, I am ahead of this group.
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Old 01-22-2012, 09:40 AM   #4
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no, I do not think buying used is "more righteousness". ( I have 2 used trailers. I did it because they were a lot cheaper than new ones). I do not think that individual awareness is really the soultion to many of the earth's problems either. Makes people feel good, I guess.
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Old 01-22-2012, 10:49 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
I do not think that individual awareness is really the soultion to many of the earth's problems either. Makes people feel good, I guess.
Well, certainly individual awareness that littering is a bad thing helps keeps neat... so an important part of preserving the environment is having people aware of the impact of their choices. We used to dump used motor oil along the fences to kill weeds when we were kids - now we wouldn't dream of doing that.

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Old 01-22-2012, 11:01 AM   #6
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Buy what you want, If it is new rationalize that you are creating jobs, and as for the fuel used by the tow vehicle, keep in mind you energy consuming house is in near shut down mode when you are on the road. Of course since we boondock we are not using any campground electric etc most of the time. We are not about to fret over the energy used to make our solar panels in the first place.
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Old 01-22-2012, 12:06 PM   #7
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If one is trying to make a "green" statement in the selection of a trailer, I would think the statement would have firmer standing if couched in terms of material longevity. Our aluminum trailers will outlast several SOB's thus being "greener" There is a ready market for both used (less expensive, or resto-modable), and new Airstreams with the economic benefits to the builders and supply chain people.

Everything we do is going to require energy and thus have "green" considerations. Solar panels have to manufactured somewhere; oil needs to be refined; natural gas has fracing questions; and nuclear has waste issues. Whatever we do has some impact on the world around us. The choice (which is highly individual) is how and what type of impact that we be.

Personally, I have no problem hitching up our Airstream and heading out with my family camping. I am actually looking forward to the day when we can do some trips outside the Southeast and see more of our country! I would love to do so with the latest and most efficient new Airstream, however, that is not in our financial picture. Instead it will be with our 1997 which we have lovingly restored and modified to fit our wants/needs.
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Old 01-22-2012, 01:37 PM   #8
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Never even came into my thought when I bought New. Still doesn't.

Buy what makes you happy and what you feel will help you make an intelligent decision., you. NOT what others think, or think of you.

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Old 01-22-2012, 02:02 PM   #9
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I think it's six of one and half a dozen of the other, actually. Buying used is a form of recycling, which is green and great...but one can end up expending energies and materials in bring it back to road worthiness or modernization.

Buying a new Airstream has the manufacturing "footprint" (but then so did the used AS when it was built)... Newer models are potentially more efficient in some areas and will have more modern amenities that one might want to install in a used model... And then there's the positive impact on the economy that manufacturing makes.

So it's pretty much a wash in my head...we are making an impact no matter what purchase route we take. I do feel like owning an Airstream as opposed to other available brands of RV is "greener" in the sense that they LAST a long time...and that counts for a great deal in today's world...the fact that they CAN be recycled.
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Old 01-22-2012, 02:31 PM   #10
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I don't think a good argument can be made that any RV is a green selection, though some are better and some worse.

Any RV needs maintenance and some is pretty major, but at least the shell, frame and some of the interior will last for a long time, so I suppose used is a bit more green than new. Solar panels and boondocking are more green than campgrounds with hookups and plugging into the electrical grid. An Airstream has a better coefficient of drag than a big white box, so some fuel is saved.

But the big problem is the tow vehicle. You have 3 choices—gas, gas with turbo, and diesel. For improved gas mileage, none are very good towing, though the gas with turbo is substantially better when not towing (that's the Ford; there is a little known turbo option for Toyotas, but little is known to me about how it does while towing or not towing).

Airstreams have poor insulation and single pane windows. We waste a lot of heating and cooling fuel because of that (propane or electric: furnace, heat pump, plug in ceramic heaters, A/C).

If you boondock several miles from home, maybe you come out light, very light green. When you leave home do you turn off the water heater; in winter drain the pipes and turn off the heat?

RV's mean there will be fewer motel or hotel rooms built, so maybe that is a good trade off. Every RV means x number of lodging not built and maybe that is green.

I see a lot of trashed or unused RV's sitting in yards in rural America. Isn't there anyone who recycles these things? Recycling is less common in rural areas, so maybe there's a business opportunity for someone.

A friend of ours and I both at different times led a regional environmental group. No one ever called us on having RV's. I kind of wondered why. Some board members really wanted to see an Airstream. If I were more committed, I suppose I'd still use a tent or stay home (knees and back make it hard to backpack anymore). I'd have a little hybrid, but my back is screwed up and getting in and out of cars is very hard; trucks, the bigger the better, are much easier for me. Of course, I could stay home all the time.

I don't know how much RV's contribute to climate change. I think coal is far more a problem. There are other greenhouse gas creators that need to be dealt with first. We can get solar hot water (we have it) and photovoltaic for our houses and trailers. We can make houses air tight and improve insulation. We can encourage others to do the same and politicians to get a backbone. It is a balance and there are many ways to contribute.

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Old 01-22-2012, 02:45 PM   #11
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Another way of looking at it...

The old trailers were built before a lot of the emission and other environmental standards were put in place, so a new one might be greener

I bought used because: 1) It was cheaper than a new one and 2) If I am going to have to rebuild it to make it right I might as well start with an old one and get EXACTLY what I want.

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Old 01-22-2012, 03:09 PM   #12
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f you boondock several miles from home, maybe you come out light, very light green. When you leave home do you turn off the water heater; in winter drain the pipes and turn off the heat?
Actually we have 2 places to be concerned with. One I actually winterize like an RV with pink stuff and it is totally shut down. The other the water heater is off and the thermostat is set at fifty.. Since that is very little above the normal high the furnace runs very little but is there for freeze protection.. In our case the water system can not be shut down since some one has to come in and feed and water the horses.
Since the trailer is in a warm climate on these trips little heat is required and since we are boondocking we are usually off the grid. If we do run the generator we use about 2 gallons of gas a month,
Overall we are probably much greener when away from home although frankly it is not a factor in the travel decisions we make .
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:28 PM   #13
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Of the numerous major extinctions that have occured on this planet, none, I am happy to report have been caused by Airstreams. IMHO this whole green thing is a bunch hooey. We are more likely to be a short lived planet because of some major super volcano or asteroid collision. But again that is just my opinion and without sufficient evidence to the contrary, I am sticking to it.
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Old 01-22-2012, 03:48 PM   #14
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New or used, Airstreams seem to have a longer shelf life and are more desired for resell and are more recyclable than the plastic white box alternative. If you want to be green, backpack and get a tent.

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