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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are you a green traveler?

It’s easy to to think that individuals can’t make a difference when it comes to the issue of global warming. How often do we hear reports of governments and large companies making sweeping changes to help reduce their carbon pollution compared to smaller micro schemes? I often question the impact of individuals only to realise that real measurable change will only happen when everybody acts together. It is entirely possible to travel in an environmentally responsible way whereby you save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s a list of ideas and techniques that when applied to your life will save you money and help protect our environment.

1. Where possible, walk: Start with the simplest option first. Don’t drive everywhere, walk those small trips. In stating the obvious, by leaving the car behind and simply walking or riding a bike you are doing both yourself and the environment good. Not only will you save money on fuel and the general upkeep of car but other knock on effects include the improved outdoor air quality and reduction on road congestion.

2. Get on your bike: You’ll not always be able to walk to your destination. Jump on your bike for those trips where you’d normally be jumping into the car without a second thought. You’ll develop your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, reduce congestion and generate zero emissions.

Transport

We might as well face up to the fact that we live in a car culture, and it won’t change overnight. Fortunately there are a multitude of ways in which you can vastly improve the fuel efficiency of a vehicle so it can drive further on less fuel, emit fewer greenhouse gases and save you some money. Here are a few to get you started.

3. Get ready first, then go: How many times have you jumped into the car and realised your laptop or bag is still inside the house, then left the car idling while you fetch it? Plenty of times, it happens to us all. While you’ll never stop this from happening ever again, you can reduce the emissions by making sure you have everything you need before starting the engine.

4. Put your seatbelt on before starting engine: I read some time ago that on average we waste several hundred pounds / dollars (x2) of fuel by starting the engine and then putting on a seatbelt. Optimise your efficiency and maximise savings by securing your seatbelt first.

5. Improve MPG: Most road users don’t have a clue about how to look after their car never mind improving the Miles Per Gallon it can achieve. That sort of knowledge doesn’t need to remain within the car sub-culture. You can easily improve the MPG on any car by keeping tyres inflated to their manufacturer-specified pressure, employ steady acceleration and drive at a steady speed that requires fewer gear changes.

6. Don’t idle the engine: A modern car is designed to work efficiently as soon as it starts, so you don’t need to start the engine and let it warm up before you drive. Not even on cold winter mornings.

7. Smooth gear changes: shift up a gear when you hit 2500rpm for petrol cars and 2000rpm for diesel cars. Research indicates that a car travelling at 37mph in third gear uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear.

8. Turn off air con: A car engine generates enough pollution without having to power an onboard air conditioning unit. It might be hot outside, but if you want to be serious about protecting the environment you’ll just have to keep the air conditioning turned off! Need further impetus? You’ll save money by driving for longer because of improved fuel efficiency.

9. Don’t charge electricals off car battery: It might be convenient, but charging your iPod / mobile / laptop / whatever off the car battery greatly increases fuel consumption. Of course you’ll still indirectly generate emissions when charging electrical gadgets at home, but it is still more efficient than doing so in a car.

10. Drive with windows up: This sounds so trivial, but it has been proven to work. If you keep your windows up your car will be subject to less drag, which improves the aerodynamic profile of the vehicle. Therefore, cars driven with the windows up are proven to achieve much higher MPG.

11. Remove rook racks: If you have roof racks installed on your car, remove them. If you surf / ski / snowboard, stow the boards inside the car. Roof racks increase the car’s weight and reduce aerodynamic efficiency, which increases the amount of fuel burnt to power the car.

12. Service regularly: This one can’t be overstated enough. If you want to make sure that your car performs at peak efficiency then you’ll have to get it serviced on a regular basis. Get the oil checked, swap out the brakes, check the exhaust etc. The idea is that a well-kept car will consume less fuel, pump out fewer greenhouse gases and also last longer, which in the longterm helps the environment and your bank balance.

14. Alternative forms of fuel: Refuel your car with an alternative form of fuel such as biodiesel instead of diesel. It can be quite expensive in the short term but it is possible to refit your vehicle to run on gas, ethanol or used fats and vegetable oils. This tactic is especially good if the fuels are locally produced.

15. Use premium fuel: If it is not possible to change the type of fuel your car can run on to bio, purchase the more expensive but environmentally friendly premium petrols. While these are still produced from oil, they are more efficient and much cleaner.

16. Carpool: Organised carpooling with your co-workers has quite a few advantages. You actively reduce air pollution, increase outdoor air quality by having 1 car on the road instead of 4. Also, carpooling saves you money and everybody can do it - you might even form some new friendships. You can use a variety of tools online to arrange or find carpooling opportunities - especially on Facebook

17. Hybrid Options: Opt for a hybrid hire car on your next holiday. Not only will you be reducing emissions while you drive, but you will be sending a positive message to the car hire industry by your endorsement of the ‘green’ car. Plus, you get to test drive a hybrid and put it through the motions! Make a more substantial commitment and consider a new hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or get one of the ultra efficient small cars such as Citroen C4.

Public Transport

It’s widely considered to be the holy grail of environmentalism, but it’s sadly not quite there yet. Governments take big back handers from the car lobbyists, so we shouldn’t expect the world’s public transport networks to get massively better any time. Of course, there are cities around the world where the local government has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure - but you probably don’t live near one. Here are a few ways to maximise the positive environmental impact of what public transport is available to you.

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