Buying green is just the first step in reducing the environmental impacts of automobile use. Your choice of vehicle is most important, but how you drive and how well you maintain your car, van, or light truck will also make a difference.
- Avoid "jack rabbit" starts and aggressive driving. Flooring the gas pedal not only wastes gas, it leads to drastically higher pollution rates. One second of high-powered driving can produce nearly the same volume of carbon monoxide emissions as a half hour of normal driving.
- Think ahead. Try to anticipate stops and let your vehicle coast down as much as possible. Avoid the increased pollution, wasted gas, and wear on your brakes created by accelerating hard and braking hard.
- Follow the speed limit! Driving 75 mph instead of 65 mph will lower your fuel economy by about 10 percent, and can dramatically increase tailpipe pollution in many vehicles.
- When possible, plan your trips to avoid rush hour. Stop-and-go driving burns gas and increases emissions of smog-forming pollutants.
- Combine trips. Warmed-up engines and catalysts generate much less air pollution, so combining several short trips into one can make a big difference.
- Take a load off. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by about 1 percent. Take a few moments to unload your cargo area.
- If your vehicle has it, use overdrive gear at cruising speeds. When driving a manual transmission, shift up as soon as possible. Running in a higher gear decreases the rpm and will decrease fuel use and engine wear.
- Try using the vents and opening windows to cool off before you turn on the air conditioner. Air conditioner use increases fuel consumption, increases NOx emissions in some vehicles, and involves environmentally damaging fluids.
Unlike many older cars and trucks, modern vehicles don't need to warm up and they have automatic chokes, so you don't need to step on the gas pedal before starting the engine.
Americans too often take gasoline for granted, forgetting that it is quite a hazardous substance. Gasoline fumes are toxic and carcinogenic; they cause smog; and spilled gasoline can pollute the water and poison wildlife. And it's very flammable, too.
- Use regular gasoline unless your owner's manual says otherwise. Unless your car requires premium, high-octane fuels improve neither fuel economy nor performance and will just waste your money.
- Don't overfill the gas tank or try to top it off beyond where the automatic nozzle clicks off. Spilled gasoline evaporates to aggravate smog formation and can leak into groundwater.
- Patronize gas stations that have vapor-recovery nozzles (those black, accordion-looking plastic devices attached to the nozzle) whenever you can.