Sep 082002
Authors: Christin Nirschl

Imagine a world where houses are made out of straw and cars are fueled by vegetable oil.

These forms of alternative technology are not imaginary at all; they are only a few of the renewable energy designs displayed at the third annual Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association fair Sunday at the Lincoln Center.

Many people came to the festival to enjoy live music and food, while also learning more about renewable energy.

Devoted to educating the public about sustainable living, RMSLA had several displays and discussions about natural-building construction, sustainable agriculture, biodiesel, alternative vehicles and alternative energy sources.

“The Veggie Car” was one of the most popular displays. It demonstrated biodesiel technology by using frying oil for fuel. Although the frying oil is modified before it is used as a fuel, it still retains the smell of greasy French fries.

Some advantages of biodesiel fuel are emission reductions and less dependency on foreign oil. For more information, visit

Electric and hybrid cars were also on display. The 2002 Toyota Prius demonstrated the hybrid technology of using electricity and gasoline for fuel. The technology is less harmful to the environment and more energy efficient than regular vehicles.

The downside of investing in energy efficient cars or renewable sources is the high price. For example, most electric cars cost about twice as much as a gasoline-fueled car. Installing renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels in houses are also costly. Depending on the size of the house, it could take about $20,000 to install these energy sources.

“I am spending the money on sustainable living because I want to be independent of big factories and the technology is cool,” said Wally Beck, an associate of Burnham-Beck & Sun.

Using renewable energy sources helps to decrease the carbon dioxide emitted by coal factories and reduce destruction from coal mining.

The innovative technology of straw-constructed houses is one way to be more energy efficient without spending a fortune. The straw provides thick insulation, which helps maintain a constant temperature throughout the house and cuts down on the use of heaters and air-conditioners.

“Unfortunately, people won’t change until something slaps them in the face,” said Andrew Vogt, who played saxophone at the event.

Although people have been developing alternative forms of energy for at least thirty years, acceptance has been gradual. The lack of government support and the power of energy companies have contributed to the slow process.

“Renewable energy will not become popular until enough people and the government come together,” Beck said. “Grassroots movements like this one are a good start.”

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