To hell with the ego-tourists. This is the real way forward. Stop thinking you’re all that for using acidic batteries in your car to increase your mileage per gallon – although that is better than carbon credits, but so is cycling.
It’s this kind of thinking which will really drastically reduce your carbon footprint. For scientific proof (although with the recent fervor around biofuels, it’s clear no one cares about that anymore), check out the time-tested laws of force and work, both of which are directly proportional to mass – the unchanging weight, if you will.
Briefly, work is directly related to energy (what we all need, and what we’ll never get more of) by: ΔE = W, or the change in energy (which produces things like life, your light turning on, and your car moving forward) is equal to the amount of work done to change that energy. Work is defined, in terms of kinetic energy (energy in action) as:
W = ΔEk = Ek2 – Ek1 = (1/2)mΔ(v2), or the amount of work done is equal to the change in kinetic energy (say, 0 to 60 in 4 seconds?) which is equal to one-half the mass of the object times the velocity squared. Fundamentally, what affects how much energy we use is how much mass an object has (speaking practically, how much it weighs) and how fast it goes. Since we’re not figuring out instantaneous wormholes anytime soon, the only way to make the work go down is to decrease the (…Bueller?) mass!
If you’re still not convinced, another equation for work is W= Fd, or work is equal to the force times the distance exacted upon an object. That one’s simple: you can push against a wall all day but not have done any work because your force does not happen over a distance, but if you were to run your car in park and gas the engine for a minute, you would have done quite a bit of work because of the distance the pistons in your engine would have traveled. Don’t do that though because that’s against the spirit of this post. Force, in its turn, is related by F = ma, or the force is equal to the mass times the acceleration of an object. This is why you don’t really feel any force against you when you’re in a train or plane or car moving at a constant speed, because it’s not accelerating, and so there is no force on your body relative to the earth / vehicle. However, your pistons are changing their acceleration at an amazing rate, constantly reversing direction, which represents a double acceleration change. Once again, this one is most fundamentally only changed by reducing the mass of the object in question, but not gunning your engine at a red-to-green light change is another way to be smart about it.
In short, a fabric car body can be a great sustainability milestone. Since the car will weigh less, it will require less energy (and therefore less fuel) to make it go the same distance as before, and lighter cars are also less lethal weapons to innocent bystanders.