You don't have to own an electric car or a hybrid to be the owner of a green car. Picking up a few eco-friendly car care and driving habits can make a positive impact on your overall carbon footprint. Let green living spread to all aspects of your life—including how you care for and drive your vehicle.
Here's a not-long-enough list of green car care rules and driving tips. This list is certainly not exhaust-ive, but try them out and tell us what you think!
1. Mind Your Tires
When getting an oil change (or doing your own), rotate your tires and get them balanced. A slightly low tire can increase resistance and make your car work harder to move. The U.S. Department of Energy found that being aware of your tire pressure can help improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent. The department recommends keeping tires at their optimal pressure, which is listed in your owner's manual.
2. Wash at Home
Washing your car at home will use less water and soap than if you go through a car wash. When it's buggy bath time, wash the vehicle on the lawn. The soap, grime, and water will soak into the grass—not roll down a hill or storm drain and into your local body of water.
Use biodegradable soap when washing your car (even better if it's a naturally derived surfactant). The soap that percolates into the ground will be filtered by the soil, but some may make its way to your nearest waterway or the aquifer below your home. Using soap that will biodegrade after a while will be less harmful to wildlife and water quality, says Gear Patrol.
3. Watch Your Weight
Maintaining a healthy vehicle weight is simple. Don't store your toolbox in your back seat or tote around heavy bags of cat litter in the trunk. Along with having a tidier driving and riding environment, you will be saving fuel since your car will be carrying less. Natural Resources Canada explains the connection between your car's weight and fuel consumption.
4. Monitor Filters
Keep an eye on your filters, and change them as soon as they're dirty. Air and fuel filters are there to keep the internal workings of your vehicle clean and running well, but they also keep undiluted fumes from coughing into the outside air. Be mindful.
5. Recycle Car Consumables
Car consumables include batteries, tires, and even some filters. Chances are you've seen shredded tires recycled into playground mulch and rubberized asphalt, but Recycled Rubber Facts says they can also be used in hospital flooring and agricultural windbreaks.
It's unlikely that you can recycle these items curbside, so don't put them in your regular weekly recycling bin. Call around to local car repair shops, auto parts stores, or your county's solid waste authority to see where these items are accepted. Also, be prepared to pay a small fee for recycling in some areas.
6. Recycle Used Oil
It probably goes without saying, but if you change your own oil, be sure to recycle the used stuff. Never pour it down a drain, dispose of in the trash, or pour it onto the ground. Motor oil is a major wildlife health hazard and drinking water pollutant. Most car repair shops will accept your used oil and recycle it for you for a small fee.
7. Stay in the Shade or Sun
Depending on the weather, park in the shade or sun. Parking in the shade or using a reflective windshield shade will keep your car cooler in the summer and use less energy to cool it to a comfortable temperature.
Do the reverse in the winter: park in the sun to help melt ice and snow off your windows while keeping the temperature inside just a tiny bit warmer.
8. Curb Your Energy Use
Go light on the defrost setting and seat heaters, both of which use a lot of energy. Use them when needed, but turn them off after they've done their job. Remember: everything that runs inside your car runs on gasoline.
When you're rolling along on a hot summer day, enjoy the fresh air with the windows down instead of running the air conditioner. The TV-famous Mythbusters took on this challenge and found that open windows use less gas than a cranked air conditioner—as long as you drive under 45 miles per hour.
9. Keep Your Car
One of the greenest habits of car ownership is to keep the same vehicle for as long as you possibly can. Yes, newer models tend to have better gas mileage, but your old car will become plenty of landfill trash (and scrap metal) when its life is over. Keeping your car on the road will keep it out of the landfill!
10. Find a Green Mechanic
Finally, find a friendly, green-minded mechanic. It might not be in your telephone book (if you still have one), but you can ask around and search on consumer education sites like Yelp and Google Reviews. Asking your local solid waste district if they know of a mechanic that is a devoted recycler can also point you in the right direction. Having someone on your side that is devoted to both cars and environmental good can be an invaluable resource in your quest for greener car care.
What else do you do to keep your car green? Do you have other eco-friendly car care tips to add to the list? Send us a tweet to let us know!
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Why It’s Good
Reducing gas consumption is a great green goal: less oil drilled means less land disturbed—and fewer animals harmed or banished from their homes.