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Not Your Father's Auto Club

Travel + Leisure, August 2002
By Jane Bills

Members of the Better World Travelers Club can see the world and save it, too. The company, based in Portland, Oregon, and launched on Earth Day this April, offers the roadside assistance and travel services of traditional auto clubs, such as AAA. But Better World (1.866.238.1137; www.betterworldclub.com; $50 a year) is out to change more than just tires. It invests a minimum of $11 from each airline ticket purchased through its travel agency towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and spends 1 percent of its annual revenue on fighting fossil fuel usage and global warming. Members are encouraged to stay at the club's affiliated eco-lodge properties worldwide, and receive discounts on electric and hybrid car rentals.

Though they claim not to be anti-AAA, cofounders Todd Silberman and Mitch Rofsky want to improve the environmental record of the country's oldest auto club, which has opposed new rules for cleaner car-exhaust systems, contested EPA-required reductions of smog and soot levels, and supported the construction of new bridges and highways. Spokesman Mantill Williams denies that AAA is anti-environment, drawing attention to recently sponsored programs to reduce auto emissions, recycle used batteries, and protect scenic roadside landscapes. But Michael Replogle, transportation director for the nonprofit Environmental Defense, says that despite such recent steps, AAA has a long history of opposing green legislation - and a long way to go on this road. If Better World has its way, there won't be any detours.