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Improve your car-ma

by Rick Dubrow

Cascadia Weekly

YES, I drive a car. While my default rig is my bicycle, I still spend time in either my Honda Insight (two-seat hybrid with the highest gas mileage of any production vehicle) or Cindi's VW Passat (in which we burn 99 percent biodiesel). As avid hikers, we choose to drive to the wilderness to spend the majority of our free time, and long ago decided to buy roadside assistance...just in case. Shit happens.

For years I was a member of the American Automobile Association (AAA), assuming it was the dominant player and the only game in town.

Wrong.

In 2003 I changed my ways and now I hope to change yours.

You don't have to sell your soul for roadside assistance. Better World Club (betterworldclub.com) is a Portland, Ore.-based company that offers the same type of services as AAA but with a twist: they are the nation’s only environmentally friendly auto club. Besides donating 1 percent of revenues (not 1 percent of profits) to environmental cleanup and advocacy, membership includes bicycle roadside assistance, eco-travel services, discounts on hybrid cars, actions to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with travel, as well as the services typical of AAA: towing, free maps, insurance services, and auto maintenance discounts.

Consider visiting BWC's website and look at the section on member benefits. See the comparison to AAA. The core services are essentially the same. For example, the actual towing service providers that AAA and BWC call upon are the same, no matter what network you're with. But while their core services may look the same, their hearts travel on very different arterials. An early player in America's Good Roads movement, AAA is now a major force in pushing for more highway spending, fewer pollution controls and less money for mass transit. As investigative journalist Michael Rivlin has written, the 43-million-member-strong organization "is on the record against virtually every proposal for cutting automobile pollution." This isn't exactly common knowledge. Even Tom Magliozzi, the co-host of NPR's "Car Talk," confessed that he "had no idea that part of our AAA dues were being spent on lobbyists who oppose just about everything having to do with public transportation. If AAA thinks that it's a good idea for every single person to get to work in 3,000 pounds of iron, we sure don’t want to help support such a silly idea."

Consider, instead, some of Better World Club’s agenda:

· They are not part of the Highway Lobby.

· They support the McCain Lieberman Act to fight global warming.

· They support California’s effort to regulate automobiles to fight global warming.

· They support higher fuel economy standards.

· They support the use of highway tax dollars for mass transit.

· They don’t fight bike paths.

Which value set is aligned with yours: AAA or BWC? Study the options and then, perhaps, consider aligning your actions with your values.

Yes, shit happens, but so does change.

Read this article as it appeared in the Cascadia Weekly (page 41)