“Go green” is a battle cry we hear now in every part of our lives. It’s a call to reduce our energy use and to use our resources more wisely. It challenges us to look inward and see where we can make changes to live a “greener” lifestyle. Some of our energy-wasting habits need only minor tweaks to make a difference.
But let’s face it — there are certain things you can’t change. If you live in New York and you have to go to a wedding in California, riding your bike there is probably out of the question. The easiest way to get there is by an energy-guzzling airplane.
How far you live from work will dictate your commute. There are limitations to how far you can realistically walk each day, and some routes aren’t navigable by bicycle. If you don’t live in a walkable, bikeable area, you may be forced to drive your car wherever you go — even if you are environmentally conscious. What are some things you can do to be more ecologically friendly, even if burning fossil fuel is a necessity for you?
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Work from Home
The simplest solution — and the best way to save energy — is to not drive as often. See if your employers will allow you to work from home one day per week or more, as schedules and commitments allow. That saves trips to and from the office. Figure out how much gas you use each trip, and do the math. You will save energy, money and wear on your vehicle.
Share the Commute
Whether working from home is feasible or not, you can also save energy by carpooling with like-minded, energy-conscious coworkers. Minus the extra travel to each other’s homes, you’ll reduce energy use by one vehicle per person. This will give you extra time to strategize over work issues — or just gripe about them. It’s a great coworker bonding experience, as well.
Maintain Your Vehicle
No one likes to bring their vehicle into the dealership or service station if there is nothing wrong with it. Too often, it can feel like they are looking to “fix” things that aren’t broken, and you can almost feel their hands reaching into your wallet. But just like it’s best to see your doctor regularly before you are ill, it’s wise to have your vehicle regularly inspected.
Oil leaks pollute the environment. Inefficient engines waste gasoline. Your vehicle’s exhaust system cleans and minimizes the amount of harmful fumes entering our air. Some states require regular inspections to make sure they comply. The good news is, newer vehicles are equipped with warning lights to alert you of almost every problem you could be having.
But regular maintenance can mean catching those problems before a light goes on. There are also a few things you can do yourself — such as oil changes — which do not require a mechanic and a hefty service fee.
Maintain Adequate Tire Pressure
You might not think too much about your tires, but everything rests on top of them! Tires need to be inflated to their proper pressure. This number is usually posted on a sticker inside the driver’s-side door. A typical commuter vehicle tire pressure is 30 to 35 pounds per square inch (PSI).
Invest in a tire pressure gauge, which should be easy to find at an auto supply store or any department or grocery store with an automotive section. Tires might look properly inflated, but don’t rely on eyeballing them — take a few minutes to check them weekly. Most vehicles have a tire pressure warning light that illuminates when the tire pressure is low. However, that light doesn’t come on until they are well below their required pressure.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an underinflated tire will reduce gas mileage 0.4 percent for every one PSI. Again, do the math. It’s easy to waste gas without knowing, and even easier to prevent it. In addition to a tire gauge, it’s a good idea to invest in an electric air pump. They can be used remotely, powered by your vehicle’s auxiliary outlet and often come with gauges built in.
Be particularly careful in the winter, when colder temperatures can reduce tire pressure. In addition to underinflated tires lowering your vehicle’s MPG, they will also affect your ability to steer and brake in harsher driving conditions.
- Plan your routes to conserve energy and save time. Combine errands into one efficient trip.
- Don’t use the air conditioning without thinking about it. The AC takes a lot of extra energy and strains your engine. Listen to the sound when it’s on. That’s your engine making the extra effort to cool you down. Don’t suffer, but use it consciously.
- Don’t speed excessively. The faster you drive, the more energy you use. It’s best to stay within the posted speed limit.
- When approaching a red light, take your foot off the gas and decelerate gradually, rather than braking hard at the last moment. This conserves energy.
- Don’t rapidly accelerate from a traffic light. It takes more power — and, therefore, more fuel — to move your vehicle that quickly.
- Use cruise control to maintain a constant speed and make your drive more efficient.
- If you are off the road and will be stopped for a long time, shut the engine off rather than leaving it running. Anything over a minute or two is wasting gasoline.
For most working people, a car is a realistic must, not a choice. No one wants to pollute the environment, but we need to drive to work to make money and support our families. We can control, limit and reduce our energy use, but we can’t stop it. If you must drive everywhere, do so as eco-consciously as possible, and spread the advice to your family, friends and coworkers.