Green for Dummies: Driving

It may seem a little antithetical to talk about “being green” and “driving” in the same breath, and, while there are certainly greener ways of getting about, the reality remains that many of us are going to continue to drive our cars, despite any other earth-friendly behaviors and all the good intentions in the world. So, though TreeHugger isn’t encouraging more driving, it is important to know how to make the driving you have to do as green as possible. Here are some basics.

Drive a green car — though it’s trendy and might seem to go without saying, a hybrid car is still the best way to increase mileage, cut your gasoline consumption and reduce emissions. Though there are increasing options, in terms of style and type of cars available, hybrids aren’t for everyone, but that’s okay. Biodiesel [] and other alternative fuels [] like ethanol [] all offer benefits (and a few pitfalls, but, hey, nobody’s perfect), but whether or not you drive a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle, there’s lots more you can do to green your car right now.

No petal to the metal — Driving technique has a lot to do with your fuel economy. Avoid sudden starts and stops and go the speed limit. Not only does speeding and herky-jerky driving kill your MPG, it’s dangerous. And even if no one gets hurt in a fender bender, how green is it to get a new bumper or have your car re-painted? As a general rule of thumb, keep your engine speeds between 1,200—3,000 RPMs, and up-shift between 2,000—2500 RPMs. Also, drive wise and minimize unnecessary miles by doing errands in one trip, getting good directions, and calling ahead.

Keep in tune — Getting regular tune-ups, maintenance, and having clean air filters will help you burn less gas, pollute less, and prevent car trouble down the line. Pump up: if every American’s tires were properly inflated we could save around 2 billion gallons of gas each year! (Check your manual for optimal pressure). Lastly, get the junk out of the trunk! All that extra weight is sapping your fuel economy.

Dip your toe in the carpool — This is another one that makes a lot of sense to your wallet [], too. Plus, less cars = less traffic on your commute (or wherever you’re going).

Easy on the A/C — Use the windows to help keep the car cool, especially at lower speeds. Parking in the shade and using a reflective windshield shade can keep your car cooler when parked, meaning it takes less to cool it off when you get back in. If you car is new, however, let it air out. That new car smell is not friendly stuff [].

Avoid the carbon build-up — There are many services out there now that can help you calculate your yearly emissions from driving and offset those greenhouse gasses through various means. Though offsets aren’t a silver bullet [], they’re a good way to clean up anything you can’t reduce or conserve through better behavior.