Petrol Head

I can’t pretend cars are the greenest way to get around. But, unless you live close to your work and the shops, have time on your hands and don’t mind the quirks of public transport timetabling, cars are pretty much a necessity in a rural area.

Car choice plays a big part in the impact your driving has on the environment, but whatever car you have, there are simple things you can do now to drive greener. And, the next time the price of fuel reaches its latest record high (I know you don’t believe me now, but just wait…), you can save money too.

Try these suggestions:

1. Take it easy. Drive smoothly, accelerate gently and anticipate the road ahead to avoid unnecessary braking. Aggressive driving lowers your fuel economy by as much as 33%, so leave the boy or girl racer at home and keep it smooth…
2. Observe the Speed Limit. Driving faster uses more fuel and creates more pollution. Driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph. Our speed habits come at a price!
3. Lose Weight. The heavier the load, the more fuel you use. An extra 45 kg in the boot could reduce your mpg by up to 2%. Get into the habit of taking out of the car things that you don’t need for that journey.
4. Don’t Idle. Idling gets zero miles to the gallon. If you’re caught in a queue and it looks like you could be waiting for more that three minutes, avoid wasting fuel – turn off the engine.
5. Plan your journeys. Lots of short trips are bad news for fuel economy and the environment – it’s all those cold starts that are the problem. So combining errands with the school run, or trips to the recycling centre with the weekly shop makes sense.
6. No man (or woman) is an island. Car share with people heading your way to share costs and spread the environmental load. I know it may curb your secret car-karaoke habit, but it’s good to talk too.
7. Dull but true. Regular maintenance, fully inflated tyres and regular oil changes make sure your car is working at optimum fuel efficiency, saving you cash and the planet a large dose of unwanted nasties.
8. In with the new. When its time to trade in, try to choose the most fuel efficient, least polluting, most planet-friendly car you need. It may be smaller than the one you have now, but we can all live with that – can’t we?

blog by Jane Gray

first printed as the Green Scene Column in the Annandale Series newspaper