Earth Day: How to Drive with Mother Nature in Mind
How we can do our part for the Earth
Cars are among the worst things in our daily lives in terms of their impact on the environment. In fact, in the U.S., transportation is the biggest single source of air pollution. But cars and trucks are a necessarily tool for in our society. Though some Americans live in urban areas where public transportation is available on every corner, many rely heavily on their cars to get to work, travel to the supermarket, and take their children to school.
If you can’t take alternative forms of transportation to reduce your carbon footprint, here’s a few things you ought to try to reduce your impact on Mother Nature. In addition to reducing the amount of pollution your car contributes, these habits will also save you money by reducing fuel costs.
Invest in a more efficient car.
Electric and hybrid cars use significantly less gasoline - or none at all. Since the emissions from fuel consumption are a major factor in pollution, reducing them is an important step individuals can take to help protect the environment. If you’re not ready to make the switch to electric, you should still consider purchasing a vehicle rated to get more miles to the gallon. The higher your car’s gas mileage rating, the more efficient it will run - saving you money on gas and helping to protect the environment.
Stay up to date on regular maintenance.
Ultimately, a car performs at it’s best when it’s well-cared for and maintained. Keep your engine tuned, change your air filter, get regular checkups, and perform maintenance on your car to keep it running safely, smoothly, and efficiently!
Lighten the load
The heavier your car is, the more fuel the engine will need to consume in order to move it. It may be tempting to just store things like sports equipment or beach chairs in the trunk, but they’re ultimately slowing you down, decreasing your efficiency, and increasing your fuel costs. They’d be better stored in a shed or basement. To be kind to the environment, only keep the essentials and a few in-case-of-emergency items stored in the car. On your next road trip, pack light!
Pump up the tires.
Your car’s tires have an optimum level of tire inflation pressure, which can usually be found listed in the manual, the glove box, or the driver’s door. Keeping the tires at optimum inflation will help it run more efficiently, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3%. Investing in low rolling resistance tires can improve a car’s fuel economy by up to 6%.
The way you drive affects the efficiency of your vehicle’s fuel consumption. Whenever your car accelerates or decelerates, it works to overcome inertia, which takes energy - gas. The more you speed, accelerate, start, and come to quick stops, the more gas your car will use. Allowing your car to take it’s time when accelerating, and coasting to stops are good ways to help save gas. On the highway, most cars are most efficient when driven at 60 miles per hour, and decrease in efficiency by 6% for every additional 5 miles per hour above 60. Some hypermilers - people who change their driving habits in order to achieve maximum efficiency - have even achieved 75 miles to the gallon. More tips on hypermiling can be found here.
Share your ride
Carpool with friends or coworkers in order to save gas and reduce emissions. Or find a rideshare program in your area to connect you with others whose destinations are close to yours. Some highways even have Heavily Occupied Vehicle lanes, allowing carpoolers and rideshares to take advantage of them to avoid traffic.
There are also car sharing services like zipcar, that allow members to use their vehicles for a fee. If you don’t always need a car, or perhaps have the option of taking public transit to some destinations, a carshare could help you reduce fuel costs and avoid the costs of car ownership while also giving you the option of a car if you ever need one.
Do you really need to go out, or are you just driving for the sake of driving? Can you have just as much fun in your backyard or getting to know your neighbors as you will if you drive across town? Every once in awhile, give the car a break and enjoy the comforts of home. Ask your employer if you can adopt a flexible schedule, or telecommute a couple days each week. The 2005/2006 National Technology Readiness survey estimated that Americans could save $3.9 billion annually in fuel costs by taking advantage of telecommuting potential.
Check the gas cap
It’s simple, but it will keep your gas from vaporizing. Loose, lost, or broken gas caps allow the gas to vaporize into the air, causing pollution and costing you money. 147 million gallons of gas vaporize annually due to gas caps that aren’t properly installed.
Get a Green Checkup
A Green Checkup will help to improve your car’s gas mileage, decreasing both your gas expenses and your greenhouse gas emissions. Call your local dealer or service center to inquire about a Green Checkup. The National Automobile Dealers Association is working to encourage dealers to offer Green Checkups for free. Find out more about what they’ll check and where you can get a checkup here.
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