Shades of Green: Cars

carsThe all-American pastime – driving our cars. While a small portion of us has already moved to hybrids and low impact vehicles, most of us have not. Yet it just isn’t has hard as you think to do better. Let’s keep in mind that this is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our human impact on the environment. In the U.S., about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and light trucks. Of course, this contributes significantly to climate change through global warming. It also contributes to air pollution (ask anyone who lives in Los Angeles!), ground pollution as particulate matter is washed out of the air and into our soil, and to disease and medical conditions suffered by many. If you want to do something to impact the footprint we are making on the environment, this is it. Look at your car, and the use of your car, and start making changes. So what can we do? Here are eight ideas:

  • Start by simply driving less by driving smarter. Make it a goal to drive 10 miles less each week
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    by combining your trips to the store, shopping and the dry cleaners. Saving 10 miles a week

    results in a savings of 520 miles a year. That’s a significant saving in air emissions and, by the way, you’ll save about $225 in gas costs over that same year.

  • Don’t idle the car to warm it up. First, it’s not necessary for today’s cars, and second, you don’t spew more emissions into the atmosphere while going nowhere.
  • Keep your engine tuned up. The difference between a properly tuned engine and one that is not can run from 15 to 50 percent in fuel efficiency!
  • Keep your tires at the right pressure. Check monthly, because the average tire loses about one pound per square inch each month. Tires that are under-inflated produce drag, lowering fuel efficiency. They wear out faster too. Keeping your tires properly inflated could save you about a tank of gas a year.
  • Drive sensibly. Stay off the gas pedal. Jackrabbit starts cost gas mileage. Speeding above 55 mph costs gas mileage. Aggressive driving with lots of acceleration and deceleration costs gas mileage. Here’s an example: at 55 mph you will use 15-percent less fuel than at 65 mph. Aggressive driving increases fuel consumption by up to 33 percent! It also results in five times more exhaust emissions than normal driving.
  • Don’t drive at high speeds with the windows down. This causes drag and reduces fuel efficiency. In fact, go ahead and use that air conditioner. It’s actually more fuel efficient than opening the windows (at high speed).
  • Don’t keep the car loaded down with “stuff.’ Every extra 100 pounds of stuff will reduce your fuel efficiency by 2 percent.
  • Gas. Buy the cheap stuff. Unless you experience problems with regular gas, or your owner’s manual specifically requires it, your car was manufactured to run efficiently on 87 octane. Don’t go for the 92 octane premium. You will get no improvements to fuel efficiency, engine power, speed or performance. But the price is usually about 20 cents per gallon higher. Save that 20 cents and let it add up. Then buy a hybrid car.

By Julie Vincent, APR and Bob Dittmer, APR From: Shades of Green, available at  

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