Do you drive a car? If so, this is probably your most polluting daily activity. This article will help you to minimize the environmental impacts of using your car by offering driving and maintenance tips as well as things to keep in mind when the time comes for you to get a new car.
- Reduce the time your engine runs.
Idling your engine generates more pollution than actually driving because your engine operates more efficiently as it gets warmer. Today’s cars no longer need to be “warmed up” in cold weather as they are designed to operate effectively soon after start-up.
- Plan your trips.
Take care of several errands in a row and park where you can visit as many of those places as possible without having to get back in your car and drive only a short distance. Call ahead to make sure what you need is in stock before visiting a store or do your shopping by catalogue or online to avoid the hassle of mall parking.
- Reduce the load on your engine.
Don’t use your car as a storage facility and only carry around what you actually need with you. Try to avoid piling large items on top of your car, which increases wind drag. Instead of running the air conditioner, crack open a window or use the air vent.
- Slow down.
Increase your speed gradually and avoid “jack-rabbit” starts. Keep a safe distance between yourself and the car in front so you aren’t constantly tapping your brakes when you get too close. This significantly reduces wear and improves gas mileage.
- Share a car.
If your family has more than one car, consider selling one. Doing so can encourage “greener” habits, such as carpooling, walking or biking, especially when you have short errands to run. The cost of occasionally calling a cab or renting a car if you need the extra wheels will be more than offset by what you’ll save on car payments, insurance, fuel and maintenance.
- Recycle and buy recycled.
Used fluids, worn-out parts, oil, antifreeze, batteries and tires can all be recycled. Your mechanic or local recycling center can help you figure out what can be recycled and where. Even more important than recycling your car’s old parts is to buy recycled. Ask your retailer for re-refined motor oil when you change the oil in your car and ask for remanufactured parts when you need to replace something like a starter or alternator. When it’s time to get a new car, consider donating your old one to a vocational school for students. You may be able to get a tax deduction for doing this, too.
- Maintain your car.
We’ve all seen cars spewing out so much exhaust that they look like they’re on fire. Cars with poorly maintained engines are usually the worst polluters on the road. Visit your mechanic annually for an emissions check and tune-up, especially if your car appears to be “running rough”. Check the pressure on your tires monthly and keep them properly inflated. Low tire pressure wastes about two million gallons of gasoline per day in the United States. Also make sure to have your wheels aligned annually to reduce tire wear and rolling inefficiencies.
- Make a fuel-efficient choice.
Unlike early cars, which were nearly all gas-guzzlers, there are lots more choices available today. New technologies, such as gas-electric hybrid engines in cars like the Honda Insight or Toyota Prius, mean we can now drive some 50-70 miles on a gallon of gas. Other models with conventional gasoline engines that get 40 miles per gallon are available from Chevrolet, Honda, Suzuki and Toyota. Not only will you pollute less, but you’ll save money in fuel costs as well.