Can Vintage Be Bad For The Environment?

My eyes lit up when I saw Cambria Bold's post on Re-Nest regarding the dilemma we we have discussed often on TreeHugger: When Vintage Is Bad for the Environment

She, like me, loves old Beetles. (Image is the manual from my first car, a 1965 Beetle in very boring beige). Cambria asks so many important questions:

What is our responsibility as conscious consumers when vintage options are worse for the environment and/or our health?....where do we draw the line? When is using existing or vintage items worse than buying new? Are matters of personal health the defining factor on what we should use and what we should replace? How much do environmental factors (air pollution, natural resource depletion) come into play? And what do we make then of those items already in existence? Wouldn't it still be better in the long run to use them than to NOT use them?

It isn't an issue that is limited to old cars. As a heritage activist, I am often facing complaints that old buildings are energy sieves, full of asbestos, lead and other harmful materials. One then has to go through the debate about the energy that it takes to demolish and rebuild, the fact that there are new dangers in formaldehyde and vinyl.

And even with cars, it ain't necessarily bad to be old. My 21 year old Miata has to be emission tested every two years, and it still passes with flying colours, putting out way less than the limits. Being very light (no airbags or safety equipment) it still gets fabulous gas mileage. By Pablo's math in his post Should I Cash In On My Clunker?, there is no environmental gain in getting rid of something like that, and besides, it's so cute.

Cambria ends her post asking what her readers think, and got some interesting comments. What do you think?

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