Life & Beauty Weekly: Happy You

By Elizabeth Brownfield for Life & Beauty Weekly

Eco-friendly Driving Tricks Anyone Can Do

In an eco-perfect world, we’d all drive zippy little electric cars. Or better yet, we’d take public transport and walk everywhere. But between work, running a household and maintaining your social life, living without your car isn’t realistic for even the greenest women among us.

Still, that doesn’t stop the pang of guilt you may feel whenever you hear experts talk about dwindling oil reserves and the damage cars can do to the environment. According to Environment Canada, passenger vehicles account for a considerable proportion of the total national transportation emissions, including approximately 21 percent of nitrogen oxide and 51 percent of volatile organic compound emissions.

Fortunately, these simple changes can help you reduce your environmental footprint from behind the wheel. Not only are these ideas good for the planet, but they’ll save you money too!

1. Keep Tires Inflated
Experts repeatedly drive home the importance of keeping proper tire pressure. And for good reason: You can extend the life of your tires by 10,000 kilometres and reduce your fuel consumption by up to four percent simply by maintaining proper pressure, says Fabian Allard, senior chief of vehicle efficiency at Environment Canada.

Checking your tires’ pressure is easy. Look in the owner’s manual for the recommended tire PSI, then use an inexpensive pressure gauge (available at gas stations or auto parts and hardware stores) to check the PSI. If the tires are low, fill up at a gas station’s air compressor until you reach the right level. Allard suggests checking the pressure at least once a month, so keep the gauge handy in the glove box.

2. Change Your Air Filter Regularly
Allard recommends drivers replace the air filter and get their air systems inspected according to the recommendations in their owner’s manual. “Air for the engine passes through the air filter, which removes dust and dirt that could damage the engine,” he says. “A dirty air filter may reduce acceleration performance.”

You can save some money by changing the filter yourself; it only takes a few minutes (consult your manual for how-to’s). Or you can easily have it replaced when you get your oil changed.

3. Practice Patience on the Road
You probably avoid aggressive driving for safety’s sake, but manoeuvres like speeding, tailgating, and rapidly accelerating followed by slamming on the brakes also impact the amount of gas you use. “When combined, speeding, quick acceleration and hard stops — all considered aggressive driving — can increase fuel consumption by 25 percent,” Allard says. “Driving smoothly is safer and more fuel-efficient.”

The next time you’re on the highway, set the cruise control at 100 kilometres, take a deep breath and calmly coast to your destination. Not only are you more likely to arrive safely, but you’ll save yourself potential road rage and money while helping the environment too.

4. Lose the Junk in Your Trunk
For day-to-day trips, clear out and put away any sports gear, books, toys and other stuff you’ve been hauling around but don’t need. Aside from taking up space, unnecessary weight makes cars guzzle gas. Adding just 100 extra pounds, for example, can decrease fuel efficiency by up to two percent.

On long trips and vacations — when you can’t avoid a heavy load — try to fit everything in the trunk or inside your car. Tying bikes or cargo boxes to the roof may give you extra room, but it causes a drag on what may usually be an aerodynamic car, which reduces fuel efficiency even more than the added weight alone. If you can’t fit everything inside, try hitching a small trailer to the back of your car, which doesn’t create the same drag as something fastened on top.

5. Plan Trips Strategically
With five minutes of extra planning, you can not only spend less time behind the wheel, but you can save gas too. Your goal: “Trip chaining,” Allard says. “Cold engines use more fuel than warm ones. As a result, trips that are shorter than 5 kilometres can be hard on your purse, because your vehicle’s engine never reaches its peak operating temperature — the temperature at which it converts energy most efficiently. To optimize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, run several errands one after the other, and plan your route before starting out to avoid backtracking and rush-hour traffic.”

Every Sunday night, look at your schedule and jot down your errands and activities for the following week. Then figure out how to group them together. Also try to plan routes in loops so you never have to backtrack. For example, if you know you have to get to the grocery store, dry cleaner and card shop, plan to go after work or on a night you have book club and hit them all up at once.

Bottom line: The less often you set off from home to run errands, the less gas you waste and the more time and money you’ll save.

6. Get Creative With CarpoolingYou’re probably already a car pool pro, working with other moms to arrange rides for your kids. Why not organize your own car pool to and from work or for other functions? The practice, which became popular in the 1970s, is making a comeback thanks to this green-minded generation. And websites like , and make it easier than ever to find people to share your drive (and the gas bill) with.

If you’re not comfortable commuting with strangers, try posting ride-share info on your company’s website or bulletin board. You can also chat to neighbours to find out if their offices are near yours. Or simply try sharing a ride to work with your spouse.

Carpooling is also easier if your job allows you to think outside the nine-to-five box with “flex time.” The practice lets you stagger your hours, working from, say, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This helps you avoid rush hour traffic and the stop-go-stop-go type of driving that wastes fuel.

Green-ifying your car isn’t difficult. You’ll find it even easier knowing these changes benefit not only the environment but also your schedule and your wallet. More savings at the gas pump, less wear and tear on the car, and a clean, green conscience. Who knows, maybe you’ll even start to think driving is fun again!

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