Cars are one of the great mixed bags of our time. They are at once wonders of engineering and a threat to life on Earth. They create convenience and comfort and also snarled traffic and sprawling suburbs.
In the U.S., about 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and light trucks like SUVs, contributing to climate change, air pollution, and disease. If you are truly trying to lighten your environmental footprint, the first thing to do is ask if you do in fact need a car. If the answer is yes, there are many things you can do to make your driving life greener.
Top 10 Tips
Here are 10 highly effective ways to go greener. Hit it.
1. Drive a green car
There are now hybrids to match almost any need: two-door, four-door, SUV, luxury sedan. They get better mileage than their conventional counterparts, have cleaner emissions, and save money on gas. If a hybrid isn’t in your future, try for a car with the best MPG you can find; and remember that hybrids aren’t always the most efficient option, either.
Biodiesel can now be found in almost any state in the US. This clean, domestic, veggie-based, carbon-neutral fuel will run in any diesel car or truck with little or no modification to the engine. Straight vegetable oil is an option for the more ambitious green driver and can make fueling up almost free. Another veggie fuel is ethanol, and there are between 5-6 million flex-fuel vehicles already on the road — you may even be driving one and not know it.
Also, affordable, practical electric cars and plug-in hybrids aren’t too far off, either. But whether or not you drive a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle, there’s lots you can do to green your car right now.
2. Best practices
Driving technique has a lot to do with your fuel economy. Avoid sudden starts and stops and go the speed limit. Not only does speeding and herky-jerky driving kill your MPG, it’s dangerous. And even if no one gets hurt in a fender bender, how green is it to get a new bumper or have your car re-painted?
As a general rule of thumb, keep your engine speeds between 1,200 — 3,000 RPMs, and up-shift between 2,000 — 2500 RPMs. Also, drive wise and minimize unnecessary miles by doing errands in one trip, getting good directions, and calling ahead.
3. Stay in tune
Getting regular tune-ups, maintenance, and having clean air filters will help you burn less gas, pollute less, and prevent car trouble down the line. Pump up: if every American’s tires were properly inflated we could save around 2 billion gallons of gas each year! (Check your manual for optimal pressure). Lastly, get the junk out of the trunk! All that extra weight is sapping your fuel economy.
4. Car minus the carbon
There are many services out there now that can help you calculate your yearly emissions from driving and offset those greenhouse gasses through various means. Check below for a few carbon offset opportunities.
Of course. Find coworkers, neighbors, and fellow students headed the same direction. Start with one shared trip per week. Also look into car sharing programs like FlexCar and ZipCar.
6. Leave the car at home.
For shorter adventures, walk, take public transit, ride your bike (regular, electric-assisted, or something fancier), skateboard, rollerblades, or even look into an electric scooter. Carrying groceries or other bulky stuff can still be done on a bike with a backpack or some slick modifications. Check out the Xtracycle, for example.
7. Drive part of the way
If getting where you’re going by bike or public transit alone isn’t going to happen, consider driving part of the way and then jumping on public transit or your bike (a folder would be perfect). A great way to beat traffic!
8. Go easy on the AC
Use the windows to help keep the car cool. Or try an electric or solar fan. Parking in the shade and using a reflective windshield shade can keep your car cooler when parked, meaning it takes less to cool it off when you get back in. If you car is new, however, let it air out. That new car smell is not friendly stuff.
Drive less with the wonders of working from home (or internet café, tree house, Mojave desert, etc.) With instant messaging, video chat, teleconferencing, and other world-flattening technologies, making the rush-hour trek to work and back might not be that necessary. Ask your boss or offer your employees a teleconferencing day once a week. Hey, it works for TreeHuggers and 44 million Americans.
10. Aspire to carlessness
Not everyone is going to be able to do it, at least not cold car-key. It will probably entail a shift in thinking and some time, but living car-free might be more within reach than you think. Living closer to work and school is a big part of it. Walking, biking, public transport, car sharing, car borrowing, and teleconferencing are a strong arsenal of tools to help reduce the need for a car. Give it some thought.
Source: Yahoo Green
Most of these tips show that you don’t need a ‘green car’ to drive green. In fact, it may be better to keep your current vehicle instead of trading it for a new hybrid vehicle. Think of all the energy, mining and manufacturing that goes into building even a green car; if you keep your old car but change your driving habits, you possibly might have a lower carbon footprint. However, it is important to maintain your old car properly so that exhaust pollution is minimized. Sometimes common sense and a bit of logic is all that is needed to become more eco-friendly.
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