Why be a green driver? We all need to be aware of how our driving habits affect the environment, so we can minimise the harm that we do. Unfortunately, being a driver is inherently brown rather than green and the best way of decreasing our carbon footprint is to leave more real footprints, to walk and cycle rather than drive our cars. However, you can decrease the amount of damage you and your vehicle do to the environment by being a green driver. How? By following our handy tips, it's that simple!
We've divided our tips into two types: tips relating to your vehicle and tips related to your driving, but if you want to be really green, then you'll read both sections!
Vehicle Tips to be a Green Driver
Choosing a Vehicle
The vehicle you choose has a massive effect on how green a driver you are. A bakkie that uses 10 litres of petrol per 100 km will have twice the CO2 emissions of a small hatchback that only uses 5 litres per 100 km. A diesel engine has a better fuel consumption than the equivalent petrol engine, but it is the litres per 100 km figure that is the crucial one to consider (check out A Diesel or Petrol Car? Which is Better? for more info on the diesel vs. petrol debate).
Hybrid cars and electric cars give better fuel economy, so have lower CO2 emissions and are worth considering if you can afford them. In both cases the electricity that you use to charge the batteries costs less than the petrol or diesel you would put in the tank, but it is generated using coal-fired power stations that emit more CO2 per amount of useful energy than an internal combustion engine that burns petrol, so there is still a big pollution penalty to using even an electric car (something that many people don't consider).
Reduce your own weight as a driver, because every extra kg of fat you have on you is another kilogram that has to be hauled along by your hard-working car engine (which is maybe the strangest reason for a diet you can give someone!).
It's not just you the driver though, you'll also need to cut the clutter in your car, and then watch your fuel use drop! Get rid of all the junk in your boot or luggage area, including child car seats you are not using, baby buggies and golf clubs.
Plus, a litre of fuel weighs nearly 1 kg, so a tank full weighs between 50 kg and 100 kg. If you fill up your tank instead of ¾ filling it you are carrying around and extra 12-25 kg. Remember, every little bit helps!
Cooling Your Vehicle
Opening windows on a hot day destroys any aerodynamics your car has, so it uses more fuel. Using the air-conditioning puts an extra load on the engine, so that uses more fuel too. Yes, you want to reduce the temperature, but be aware of the environmental cost of opening windows or running the air conditioning on high. You can set a higher air conditioning temperature or try to avoid driving in the heat of the day. But as a general rule you're actually better off using the air conditioning than you are opening windows, which might seem a little counter intuitive.
Driving Tips to Be a Green Driver
Anticipation is the key to green driving. You use fuel to reach a certain speed, so if you then need to cut your speed in a hurry you have to brake. If you think of the brake as a fuel dump valve then you’ll use it a lot less. If you leave a bigger gap when you are following another car in traffic you can just take your foot off the accelerator and avoid braking most of the time.
If you watch for other drivers who are about to do stupid things you’ll be able to adjust your speed without hitting the fuel dump valve (brake). Do be vigilant though, the last thing you want to do is end up with the hassle of an accident and having to make an insurance claim. You might want to think about taking an advanced driver course to polish up your skills and make you better able to anticipate what other drivers will do (added bonus: this might lower your car insurance premiums!).
Avoid Rapid Acceleration
Increasing your speed slowly wastes less petrol or diesel and creates less carbon dioxide than trying to do 0-60 in 10 seconds. It is also safer on a road where pedestrians, animals and inexperienced drivers are hiding behind every lamp post and tree, and with petrol prices the way they are it's downright stupid to race away from every traffic light. Accelerate slowly and smoothly!
Make sure you are in the right gear if you want to maximise your fuel economy. Leaving the car in fifth when it should be in fourth gear uses more fuel because the engine needs more fuel to produce the same torque when it is running at lower revs. Diesel engines are slightly more flexible, but as a general rule, “if in doubt, drop down a gear” will help your wallet the next time you fill up with petrol!
Service Your Car
Regular servicing is absolutely essential if you want to cut your fuel bills (which will mean lower fuel consumption therefore less environmental impact). Even though a car service costs money it will pay for itself in fuel savings over the next 12 months.
Weekly checks of your tyre pressures will extend the life of your car tyres and save you money on fuel because under-inflated tyres add to friction meaning your car engine uses more fuel.
If you are waiting for the kids to come out of school then switch the engine off. Modern cars are sometimes equipped with an automatic engine cut-off to help the driver to save fuel if the car is idling for more than 30 seconds. Less idling means less fuel use!
Washing Your Vehicle
Avoid hosepipes that have no stop valve on the end because they waste more water than is usefully used to wash your car. An eco-car wash will filter and re-use the same water many times, so is a great way to improve your green driving credentials.
Being a Green Driver in Conclusion
Being a car driver can never be considered environmentally friendly, but there are easy ways you can reduce the harm you are doing to the planet, and some of these like checking tyre pressures and better anticipation when driving don’t cost you anything. As an added bonus, being a green driver should also save you Rands, since you'll almost certainly be using less petrol when you drive!
Main Subject: driver
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