5 Ways to Green Your Commute

If we remember what happened in 1974, drivers then were incensed! Drivers today have to deal with some of the highest fuel prices in history, and for some reason, we’ve become accustomed to paying through the nose for fuel. One of the direct consequences of the OPEC Oil Embargo was the sudden influx of fuel-efficient vehicles, which helped drivers make the most of their fuel dollar, but we can do better.

In addition to the amount of money pouring into our fuel tanks is the amount of carbon-dioxide [CO2] pouring into the atmosphere from burning fuel, as well as emissions we don’t usually consider, such as synthetic rubber which comes from petroleum distillation, as well as when we change our oil.

Ford C-MAX

Green Tips

How do we clean up our act and save money as well? You might think that all these tips are going to tell you to get rid of your vehicle and ride a bike or take mass transit, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, modern internal combustion engines [ICE] are way more efficient and clean than they were five, even ten years ago. I promise, ditching your vehicle is only one of the tips I have for you today.

1. Replace Your Gas Guzzler — If your vehicle gets less than 30 miles per gallon [mpg], maybe you should consider replacing it with a more fuel-efficient model. Consider this: At $4.50 per gallon and driving a 20 mpg internal-combustion engined [ICE] vehicle, your car costs, not including maintenance, 22.5¢ / mile. At the same time, your vehicle generates .9 pounds of CO2 per mile. On the average 30-mile commute, this translates to $6.75 and 29.5 pounds of CO2.

A 35 mpg compact car, will cost $3.86 and emit 22.9 pounds CO2. A 50 mpg hybrid electric vehicle [HEV] will cost $2.70 and emit 11.8 pounds CO2.You have plenty of choices in vehicles that get over 30 mpg, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles [PHEV] and electric vehicles [EV] that are rated over 90 mpg-e, which could save you even more money and CO2 emissions. Because they charge off the power grid, they are even cheaper and cleaner than HEVs and ICEs.

Don’t forget to check out home-based solar and wind installations for even cleaner recharging of your EV. Some of these advanced technology vehicles also qualify for access to the High Occupancy Vehicle [HOV] lanes, normally reserved for vehicles carrying more than three people.

A permanent, separated high-occupancy vehicle ...

A permanent, separated high-occupancy vehicle lane on I-91 near Hartford, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Carpooling— You do realize that your vehicle has more than one seat, right? Unless you live in an area that lets you ride a motorcycle, some of which get over 100 mpg, you probably have more than one seat. If you have coworkers who live in the same area or on the route to work, then adding passengers eliminates vehicle miles on the highway, which reduces overall costs and emissions.

Split the cost of gas between up to five people, and you can begin to realize the savings.Carpooling also gives you some other benefits, such as access to the HOV lane. Reserved for vehicles carrying more passengers, the HOV lanes are typically flowing, even in rush hour traffic, which means that carpools spend less time idling in stopped traffic. The Environmental Protection Agency[EPA] estimates that idling costs between 2¢ and 4¢ per minute, getting you nowhere and putting CO2 into the atmosphere for no reason at all.

3. Telecommuting — Some of us have office jobs that we wonder, “Do I really have to be here, in the office, to do this job?” Some people have even gotten into the habit of bringing their work home with them, because they believe that they haven’t sufficient time to finish on the job site. Talk with your boss about taking even more work home with you, and skipping a day or two of the commute.

The average commuter could drop 60 miles of commute per day telecommuting. Some telecommuters only have to be on-site once or twice a month. Modern laptops and desktop computers coupled with high-speed internet connections make telecommuting even easier than ever before. You can still get your work done, take phone calls, work with digital documents, and video conference with your colleagues, even half a world away. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in your underwear, though. Besides, studies show that if you dress professionally at home, then you’ll work better with the professional attitude that comes with the dress.

power steering pump

Regular vehicle maintenance
can help you save energy.

4. Vehicle Maintenance — When your vehicle was new, it was efficient and clean, but over time, things begin to wear out. Filters get stuffed, efficiency suffers, and your fuel mileage drops, sometimes significantly. In order to keep your vehicle running at its most efficient, keep an eye on your maintenance records.

Tires should be properly inflated, which is a five minute check first thing in the morning, when they’re cold. The proper pressures are in the door jamb or the manual, and strike a fine balance between fuel economy and comfort. Low tire pressures add resistance, and increase the risk of a blowout. Speaking of tires, consider used tires, which eliminate up to forty gallons of oil refining per set of tires. Oil changes are important for the life of your engine and transmission, and regular service, will keep them running their best. Typical oil change services today are recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, but did you know you can choose recycled oil? It is just as good as new oil, but eliminates the refining process that extracted it from crude in the first place. Synthetic oil is another good choice, and while more expensive, also isn’t petroleum-based. While you’re getting your oil changed, have the air filter checked. A dirty air filter makes it difficult for your engine to breathe, harming efficiency.

Keep an eye on your Malfunction Indicator Light [MIL] or “Check Engine” light, which every vehicle has. The engine may seem to be running fine, but when the MIL is on, it means something is wrong. The computer running the engine goes into a “Limp Home Mode,” which ensures you can still drive your vehicle, but it does so at the expense of efficiency. If the MIL comes on, have it checked and repaired immediately. The cost of the black tape will surely come back to bite you in your wallet in the form of higher fuel costs.

English: Seattle Transit Authority - Metro Tra...

Seattle Transit Authority – Metro Transit, Hybrid electric Bus
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. Mass transit — Yeah, you knew that was coming, but of course, it is one of the obvious solutions. If you commute to work every day, take into consideration exactly what you do with your vehicle five or six days a week. Some commuters do almost 300 miles a day, just getting back and forth to work. If there is already a bus or train heading in that direction with hundreds of people on it, then why not take advantage of it?

Mass transit operators have to keep their operations clean and efficient, because every wasted drop of fuel affects their bottom line, which means that their passengers can enjoy some of the cleanest transportation available. You can forget about traffic jams and road rage as the conductor takes the controls and gets you to your destination safely and on time. Additionally, when you take mass transit, you can enjoy something else, free hands! Plug in your iPod and take out your laptop, have a cup of coffee and read the morning news, happy that you’re making a difference in your atmosphere.

Cleaner Air

Granted, there are many more ways to improve your impact on the environment when you are commuting, and these are but a few tips that can help both your wallet and your environment. Your boss, technician, local dealer, co-workers, and your train conductor can all help you to make a difference. Everyone can do their part to clear the air.

Author Information

B. Jerew is a master automotive technician with a keen interest in environmental issues and green vehicles.  This particular article has been provided on behalf of CarLotsUSA.com.  You can peruse their green tech articles here.