My SUV and Me Say Goodbye

by Franke James

My SUV and Me say Goodbye

franke james drawing of couch with weight on it

I go for a walk and think about my footprint

I look up at the sky and wonder about all the exhaust floating up...

I make myself brunch and burn the toast...

My breakfast looks so perfect the luscious strawberries. What a luxury to eat them in the winter...

SUV sales plummet. And I think, oh no we are too late...

reasons why we can go carless

we are going to determine the fate of the world

mythical green man

making the big decision to sell SUV

suv with bikes on top

reaction of family to news of selling SUV

reaction of family to news of selling SUV

do I look like a green headed monster

energy sucking beer fridge

unplugged beer fridge

Photographs, illustrations and writing by Franke James, MFA
My SUV and me say Goodbye copyright 2007 Franke James

97 Responses: 72 Comments and 25 Tweets

  • Anna says:

    Franke, I love your artwork. Truly inspiring- a part of my conscience and will help me make the right choices.

  • Sarah says:

    I think its great that you are making changes in your life that will benefit the earth, and I hope that this will inspire others to do the same!

  • Davis in San Francisco says:

    Brilliant. The pictures are very beautiful.

  • J.A. in Toronto says:

    Amazing! It is both surreal (the cosmic shot of the earth and the SUV) and very down-to-earth. Well done! You’ve got the right message. It captured my imagination and was a pleasure to read.

  • Diana says:

    This is very relevant to me and our family’s lifestyle. Thank you! Maybe we’ll ditch our SUV too…

  • I love the reactions of ordinary people to the idea. Love Suzuki. Love your fridge and that you’re not perfect in this green stuff and that Suzuki would find a lot to criticize… Your essay shows that the imperfect person can still contribute much because people don’t have to be environmental purists in order to contribute their little part.

  • James in T.O. says:

    Great story! Thanks for doing the hardest thing first. You make it look easy… and beautiful. I’m green with envy…

  • queenycolleen says:

    Another great piece of visual art. LOVE it!
    Like James said, I’m green with envy. I wish I walked more and didn’t need my car at all. But its a long walk to the cottage.

  • OK, Franke. You’ve just instilled a TON of guilt over our 3 SUVs (actually, we’ll be downsizing to 2 very soon as soon as we sell the Jeep, but still…).

    This is yet another wonderful post. I love the way you put such a human side to global warming and our role in responding to it. And I’ve seen your responses to office politics… you don’t strike me as a granola-loving tree hugger.

  • Arnie Herz says:

    Amazing post once again. I picked up my Prius on Jan. 31. Everytime I go somewhere, I feel happy knowing that I am using less gas then I would be using my former Audi. Being green does not mean you need to be deprived. There is a joy that arises when we live in alignment with the planet.

  • Julie says:

    You know, I’ve never met a granola-loving tree hugger I didn’t immediately feel a kindred connection to. It’s not an insult, nor anything to be afraid of being.

    Interesting that you chose to green the hardest thing first. My friend and I were just talking about encouraging people to simply green the *next* thing. So if a lightbulb blows, replace it with a CFL. If you’re making a big family dinner on Sunday, choose gourmet vegetarian dishes or organic meat. If you’re thinking about buying a new car, make it a hybrid — or go carless!! Congratulations, Franke. You have done the most important green thing a North American can do. I hope you’ll experience it more as a gift to the future (and your fitness) than as a sacrifice. And don’t guilt out about taking an occasional taxi.

    Wishing you many carfree adventures!

  • Franke James says:

    Julie, thank you for your great post. A wonderful idea and very doable. I just changed our front lightbulb with a ‘curly’ bulb… Certainly getting people to do the next thing ‘green’ is very simple and very practical.

    My thinking about doing the ‘hardest thing first‘ goes like this…

    I can have the best intention to do a weight workout two times a week, but if I don’t block off time to do it, it doesn’t get done. I realized that my habit of going for a walk first, and then doing my weight workout after, was too often resulting in me not doing it at all! I wasn’t achieving my personal fitness goal! So now I do the weights first, and then reward myself with the walk.

    Going carless is my way of doing one thing for climate change that’s a little hard, but just like the weight workout I get the reward! Going for the walk! I hope each person finds their own answer to meeting the climate change challenge.

    One question I wrestle with is: If we think of global warming and doing the easy stuff first, when we will get around to doing the hard stuff?

  • Dr Peter Carter says:

    Your messaging style for this is brilliant.

    The two really big ‘ginormous’ ones are cars and cows (livestock industry). How about trying to do a satire with it? Poke fun at all the insanities around global climate change. We really need clever messaging to spread around the WWW and get through people’s heads. Thanks for your creativity. ~ Peter Carter

  • Marty Avery says:

    Very good! This weekend I started recovering the seats of my 1997 Subaru and will have the windscreen replaced rather than trade her in for something new. Landfill is terrible too. She can’t wait for her new covers. They’ll look good parked in the driveway.

    I’ve been walking way more too and my neighbours, the bears, cougar and whiskey jack thank me.

  • peter stock says:

    Congratulations Franke! You’re braver and smarter than most of us.
    Now, in case of emergency (or for a weekend escape) you might consider one of the carsharing services. I’m sure you’ve heard of them but I’ll mention them here for your other readers– Autoshare (Toronto only) and Zipcar.

    Cheers! ~ peter

  • Franke James says:

    Peter — Brilliant suggestion! My empty driveway would provide a perfect spot for two Zip cars. Here’s an excerpt from my letter which I sent to the Globe and Mail Editor and also to Toronto Mayor, David Miller —

    To the Globe and Mail editor:

    I read with great interest “It’s often not easy being green” as we have recently taken the plunge and sold our gas-guzzling SUV. I came up with an idea…

    Our new ‘carless’ state presents a golden opportunity to rent our driveway to a car sharing company. Brilliant! We can make it easier for people, like us, to go carless — and also reduce greenhouse gases. We pay more than $600 annually to rent two parking spaces, in our own driveway, from the City of Toronto. (A funny quirk — our property is zoned commercial even though it looks like any residential house, so some bylaws are different.)

    Enthusiastically, I contacted a car-sharing company. They would love to rent our unused spots and they would provide proof of $2 million insurance. Great! Then, I read the fine print on our contract with the City. It forbids ‘subletting’. I called the City and explained the unique situation and how we wanted to be good environmental citizens and encourage use of public transit and car-sharing…. But the kind gentleman at the City said, “No. Not allowed.” He cited potential problems with insurance. He also said if we made a profit that would be ‘wrong’ (which I think means they’d claw it back).

    Perhaps David Miller will read this and bring forward a bylaw to allow property owners to sublet parking spaces to car-sharing companies? Perhaps the Globe and Mail will dig deeper and ask why an easy solution to fighting greenhouse gases is being overlooked? Allowing residential and commercial property owners to sublet parking to car-sharing companies would help to reduce greenhouse gases. And we would all benefit.


  • peter stock says:

    oh, and one other funny thing.
    Not knowing you were Toronto-based, I was looking at the skyshot you used to illustrate the “footprint” panel and it looked oddly familiar to me. Finally I realized that the round crescent right in the middle was the street on which I grew up. How weird is that?
    cheers! ~ Peter

  • hi Franke’
    Congratulations. Way to go, I would love to know you personally. I show some of your pictures to my son and he asks me if they are mine.

    go Franke go

    peace and friendship


  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your post! I checked out your site. Good to know about you and your company. Maybe we can get you to advise us on eco-friendly landscaping. Attached is a drawing I did about leaf-blowers, and how I wish that a giant vacuum would drop out of the sky and…

  • Martin Edic says:

    Blogged: Franke Loses the SUV


    Once again you’ve outdone yourself- I sent it around at the agency I work for.

    I’m not giving up my car but I am seriously thinking about buying one of these electric bike kits. The motor is mounted in the front rim so you can easily switch it back to being a bike. I have a seven mile commute but most of it is along the Erie canal so I could cruise along the canal path. You can pedal too. I think I might do it.
    I didn’t have a car for several years. Lived in downtown Rochester but there are no, as in zero, places to buy groceries. Being single at the time, I just ate out all the time.

    When I bought a car it was an incredible luxury- I immediately got in and drove to the Adirondacks. Didn’t even pack anything, just drove straight from the dealership.

    Someday we will look back upon our current lifestyle as a period of unimaginable luxury and wastefulness. I just don’t see any other option.

    Being creative, we have to see this as the ulitimate creative challenge- to change our immediate world in every imaginable way (while we wait for cold fusion to save our asses!).

  • Jenn & Dave in the Valley says:

    Great essay! It would be impossible to live without a car here as our business is repairing vehicles! However we do try to make the rest of our lives as green as possible.

  • Mary Stevenson says:

    Excellent follow up to Green Winter! The houses in our neighbourhood are being obliterated by SUVs. I was a little sad when the story ended though. Perhaps you should consider keeping a green diary and updating it whenever you make a green choice? Your essays are such an inspirational platform and the artwork is great fun.

  • Blogged: Franke Says Goodbye To Her SUV

    Just thought I’d add something light and fun into the mix today to help balance out my last post (I tell ya – it’s ALL about balance).

    You may recall our post about Franke James a little while ago.

    Well, I just received an email from Franke, letting me know that her latest visual essay is online. Having thoroughly enjoyed her last piece, I certainly didn’t hesitate to pop over to her blog for a look-see!

    Her latest work is entitled “My SUV and Me Say Goodbye” and like her last essay, once again provides readers with some intriguing (and oftentimes hilarious), fun-filled Franke James (environ)mental meanderings to ponder. I absolutely love it, and highly recommend you check it out!

  • Blogged: Selling the SUV

    We were previously wowed by Franke James’ illustrated essay on global warming. Clearly she is taking the issue seriously, for after much illustrated soul-searching, she has sold her SUV and gone car-less. Her new illustrated essay describes the reasoning and the reaction.

    I found it particularly interesting because it is counter-intuitive. We promote Compact Fluorescents because we think of them as first steps, painless and cheap, doing the easiest things first. Franke suggests Doing the Hardest Thing First, which for her is giving up the car. She lives near a subway and shopping but it is a lot tougher than changing a light bulb. And the change in her life that results is a lot more significant.

  • Grant says:

    Really great post…you have managed to find a way to appeal to both cynics and supporters alike. BRAVO!

  • David Suzuki says:


    Good for you.

    Thank you. ~ David Suzuki

  • Bronwyn says:

    Great job. Maybe you should approach Harper for his follow-up on the one-tonne challenge? Granted, his colleagues in Alberta might not like the diminished demand for oil very much.

  • Joseph says:

    As I ventured through your work of art, it captured my imagination in a manner that only words plus art can accomplish. I am impressed.

  • […] March 2nd, 2007 Franke James sells SUV, fears that she looks like a green-headed monster, gets reddited. […]

  • Ben in Gaspe Quebec, Canada says:

    Well done!
    My girlfriend and I have been car-less by choice for over 2 years now and it really is a wonderful feeling knowing that you are making a difference and setting an example for others. We made the choice after realizing how much money we were throwing into our vehicle each year in gas, upkeep and insurance. We had always used our vehicle as little as possible, walking when we could and riding our bikes when it was a little further… using the car just for long distances. But in the end we still felt like we were contributing and taking part in something backwards… burning fossil fuels — not to mention all that concrete and blacktop sucking up and releasing heat…

    We continue to have people tell us we are crazy and asking us silly questions like how we survive. But slowly we are hearing more and more people say that they would love to be able to do the same. We are seeing friends leave their cars at home more and more and driving less and less. Change is slow but it is coming nevertheless.

    Enjoy the fresh air :)

    Ben, Gaspe Qc Canada.

  • Carolyn Clark says:

    Hey Franke

    Once again, you’ve nailed it in a very clever and enjoyable way. I would love to see more of the thoughts that “pop” into your head -it gets me thinking too. Trust you to think “big”.

  • Joanne Mills says:

    I love the picture of David Suzuki! He really is the green face of Canada. We are trying to do our bit, too. We replaced our 15 year old BMW with a Mini. It’s not as good as walking, but hey it’s a start, and it’s not an SUV. If we all work together we can conquer global warming. ~ Joanne Mills

  • Michael Brennan says:

    You could have just TOLD us you were selling the car but OH NO, you had to make a book about it and creatively relate the whole process. Fantastic job of it too!

  • Yoshi in B.C. says:

    nice blog post… and a very bold move. Good on ya!!

    “Do the hardest part first.” Yes, they always say, “Lead by example and others will soon question, ‘what is it that you are doing different in your life, I like what you do?’ ”

    Yeah, it’s all about us doing a part of the solution. Good stuff. Very good stuff.

    Much like this ‘Free Hugs’ movement video:

    it’s all above love… and if we could all love each other and the planet we live on, balance would blossom.


  • Sara F says:

    Well done! Hoorah! I’m very impressed and I definitely like your mantra of ‘do the hardest part first’–wise words! :)

  • Mother Earth says:

    Franke, my name is Karen aka “Mother Earth” as Derrick Sorles and Michael Snell and many others like to affectionately call me. Derrick dear (my blogging mentor and hero) had told me about you when you first met in Chicago, but today shared your work with me. I was brought to tears literally, humbled, outraged, yet also felt like shouting from the rooftops at what you have put to visual and written form -it’s as if your speaking through my heart and mind. Thank you and I applaud you – please hear my roar!!

    I am a closet creative, author, advocate of wellness in several areas: being green, prevention through nutritional supplementation (hello!!), cooking from scratch, the alternative food market ie: organics, local farming and more!! I earn my living wellness consulting ! I am looking for a voice and finding that I actually have one, yet seeing your work and hearing your voice showed me a style and more creative presence that as Derrick said “would blow me away”! It did.

  • […] We do not own a car anymore so we are comfortable with ‘experimenting’ with this. For some people it may be too […]

  • Heather says:


    This is fantastic – I love your approach! My friend at the next desk over is laughing out loud right now as she reads it. I have blogged about your essay here: Thanks!

  • […] Seed of our Dream We rationalized that we didn’t need a driveway if we didn’t own a car. We wanted to get rid of our 34-ft wide driveway and replace it with green space which would help […]

  • […] than any facts or figures. (The elephant was in A Green Winter and the green man was in My SUV and Me Say Goodbye. […]

  • […] on La Marguerite. Franke James’ unique philosophy on fighting climate change is to ‘do the hardest thing first‘, so she can relax and enjoy life! James environmental visual essays have been featured in […]

  • […] sold our only car in February of 2007. With mass transit and walking it has been easy to get around. But I […]

  • […] We could… but we don’t. (See My SUV and Me Say Goodbye) […]

  • GreenSmith says:



    Tired of wordswordswords on green blogs? Try this refreshing, thoughtful change of pace, courtesy

    06:09 PM June 02, 2008 from twhirl

  • I bumped into Franke James recently on Twitter and have since discovered her marvelous visual essays. I’m a visual thinker myself, and Franke’s approach strikes a real chord with me. Her style of art and re-visioning of photographs pulls me in with effective (and affective) imagery that lingers long after viewing — key elements for any successful story.

  • […] “My SUV and Me say Goodbye” […]

  • […] and Kevin Dugan, Thomas Clifford, Steve Kayser, David Henderson, Britton Manasco, Lois Kelly, Franke James, Arthur Rosenfeld, Alex Skolnick, Steve Roesler, Marty O’Neill and most every blog on […]

  • […] I can feel good because I’ve got some big actions “right.” Like what? Well, we sold our only car, an SUV, in February 2007. We built a green driveway despite facing objections from the City. I can […]

  • […] “Do the Hardest Thing First” became my mantra. I told the students about us selling our only car so that we could whack down our emissions — and feel that we were doing something. (You can read about it all here: My SUV and Me Say Goodbye.) […]

  • […] not used to being the one being written about (if you know my work, I often interview friends, family, pundits, and strangers for my essays). But I’m very grateful they decided to write the […]

  • […] tells the story of the reduction in Arctic ice from a personal perspective. Franke James uses her blog to provide an ongoing account of how she has changed her lifestyle in an effort to do her part to […]

  • Dara says:

    This essay is so cool! I completely agree with your message. People rarely question owning a car – But it’s not a necessity of life! I get everywhere by walking and taking public transportation. I rarely run into problems, I save money, and I get to bump into cute guys. Win, win!

  • Maria Gatti says:

    I have never owned or driven a car and I think I’m a few years older than Franke. But I’m lucky – I live in a typical MontrĂ©al triplex with several buses within a minute or two and three nearby mĂ©tro stations – the closest is less than ten minutes’ walk away. And we have lots of good shopping – of course I deliberately chose to live near MarchĂ© Jean-Talon.

    And of course ride my bicycle everywhere, except in the depths of winter (I hate winter, much as we must fight global warming)… ;-)

    I think we have to rethink the urban form and not merely cars – there are far too many single-family houses in many places, too much land wasted for grassy lawns (and worse, paved over).

  • […] fry” and “moosewood pot pie” Thank you Derrick and Michael, Liz, Phil, Wendy, Franke, Marguerite for helping me build a community and /or sharing me with your […]

  • […] Another new word and concept I learned recently is consumerism. (through artist Chris Johnson at Franke’s Blog)  I feel I have adhered to a slightly non- consumerism model by being a rather particular […]

  • […] thing first. For me, that was selling our SUV. I documented that green act in my visual essay “My SUV and Me Say Goodbye.” The SUV is such a potent symbol of our gas-guzzling, oil dependent culture that the sacrilege […]

  • Doug says:

    Hooray for your choice. How have the past few years been without it?

    We analyzed our car usage, and found that every time we drove it, it cost us $83. EIGHTY THREE dollars!

    So we had it demolished…


  • Tanya says:

    My husband and I are selling our car this summer, I was feeling a bit anxious despite living in Vancouver with relatively mild winters and easily accessible transit. Now I feel, if you can do it in Ontario, so can we. Thank you for sharing.

  • ashley tisdale says:

    i think your website is amazing. you really know what you are talking about.
    one of my favourites is dinner with a stranger.
    it really encourages me to make the planet green.

  • Jessica says:

    i think your visual essays are amazing! they don’t get me bored to death. HOORAY

  • Sam says:

    how do you go on vacation to far away places without a car?

  • Franke James says:

    Good question! I love to take the train — I take pictures out the window. I can read… It’s a great way to travel. Some places are not accessible by train, so then I take a bus. Or sometimes, I get a ride from other people… If it’s very far away, and I have to fly, then I buy carbon offsets.


  • Sam says:

    one more question , how do you buy groceries??

  • Franke James says:

    We have three grocery stores within easy walking distance. In my book you’ll see an illustrated map of our neighborhood. All of the amenities I could want are within walking distance (food, banking, clothing, hairdresser, hardware, cooking, flowers, bagels, coffee shops, LCBO, etc., etc.)



  • jacob says:

    what was hardest about giving up the car?

  • […] solutions that inspire others to become more ecologically attuned, on being creative, musical and artistic in furthering the fun aspects of a simpler lifestyle, on talking to my neighbors and meeting random […]

  • […] A few months ago Harriet Shugarman at Climate Mama contacted me about an interview. She sent me eight questions (numbers three, four, five, six and seven being the most challenging!). I read the responses from past Climate Mamas, including fellow Canadians Lisa Borden and Diz Glithero. Whoah! What a great opportunity… but what are my answers to these very BIG questions? How would you answer? Here’s my interview, which starts off with Harriet’s wonderful introduction. Let me know what you think… […]

  • […] and very naive blogger.  I left a way too gushy “fan” comment on her post about her giving up her SUV. The truth was I had never been exposed to such original expression or voice.  She impressed me. […]

  • […] video reminds me of Canadian artist and activist Franke James’ powerful visual essay about selling her SUV and the phrase from it that has stuck in my head since I first read it in 2007: “Do the […]

  • […] recalls the essay “My SUV and Me Say Goodbye” she included in her book Bothered By My Green Conscience. In it she sketched her […]

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