Driving Hacks to Save the Planet (and Wallet)
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to ditch their cars, burn some extra calories, and bond with their community on electric subways, buses, and trains. However, since not all public transportation systems are created equal, it can be hard to give up your vehicle completely. So how about making those miles that you spend in the car as "green" as possible?
The average US driver produces over 10,000 lbs of CO2 every year, contributing to the quarter of all US carbon dioxide emissions that come from the transportation sector. Therefore, the most direct way to ease your car's impact on the environment is to bump up your gas mileage. Even if you can't buy that new Prius, you can still reduce your gas consumption considerably just by changing the way you drive. Here are just a few places to start.
Green your Ride
Buy a More Efficient Vehicle
If you are in the market for a new car, there are many options for a greener alternative—from Hybrid-electric cars, diesel cars, and alternative fuel vehicles (AVFs). Beyond the environmental benefits, Federal, State, and private companies add even more perks with tax incentives, access to HOV or carpool lanes, discounted parking, or even cash to their employees for purchasing a hybrid.
Share a car
If you commute on public transit and just need a car for the occasional grocery run or weekend escape, consider joining a car co-op. One of the best ideas to come forward in the move toward collaborative consumerism, each shared car takes 15-20 cars off the road, and saves an average of $1300/year for those who drive around 5,000 miles annually (vs. car ownership). Not to mention relieving you from the headaches that come along with car registration, oil changes, car washes, daily parking fees, etc.
Update your Driving StyleEasy on the Pedal Driving aggressively is a guaranteed way to waste gas, lowering your mileage by up to 33% on highways and 5% around town. Every time you brake, you're wasting the gas used to get going. Instead of accelerating quickly and slamming on the brakes, gain speed slowly and look ahead to anticipate when you can take your foot off the gas and begin stopping.
Turn it off
Contrary to conventional wisdom, starting your engine takes the same amount of energy as idling for 6 seconds. So, if you're sitting for more than a minute, turn off the car and expend your own energy to turn that key one more time.
Believe it or not, drivers that use GPS navigation systems are much more planet-friendly than those who don't—just by virtue of the fact that they get lost less! Driving in circles is not only frustrating for you, it takes a significant toll on the environment. Smart car manufacturers like Ford have even taken it a step further and installed systems like Eco-Routes that let you choose the most fuel efficient path. So invest in a GPS system to give you peace of mind AND a clear green conscience; and don't forget to trade it in using eBay Instant Sale when you are done with it!
Lighten your Load
As common sense would tell you, the lighter and sleeker the car, the better mileage you get. So, take off that luggage rack, roll your windows up, and empty out your trunk to lighten the load for your engine.
Be Cheap: Pass on Premium Gas
Unless your car specifically requires premium gas, most modern engines do not benefit from the higher grade of gas. Instead, it just costs you more and creates more pollution from higher octane levels.
Follow Simple MaintenanceShow some love Give your car the attention it deserves and it will reward you by running more efficiently and lasting longer. Make sure you're using the recommended grade of oil for your car, keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure, and get your car serviced regularly to catch any problems that can drastically reduce gas mileage or cause extra pollution. Even better, find a green auto body shop to do the work.
Use a Commercial Car Wash
Put down the hose. A commercial car wash uses 60% less water than an at-home wash, and they are legally required to properly treat contaminated waste water so it doesn't go through neighborhood storm drains and into local lakes and rivers. If you're committed to DIY, at least follow these tips to make your car wash as green as possible.
Track your progress
Yes, there is an app for this too. Track your gas mileage with an iPhone app to monitor the results of your new driving behavior. You can even get extra fancy with apps that track oil change and other maintenance reminders to keep your car in top condition.