It doesn't receive as much attention as what you drive, but how you drive can make a big difference environmentally. And, of course, burning less fuel and taking care of your car also means burning less of that other green... cash.
There are a lot of things you can do to green your everyday driving, whether your car is new or old, big or small. To turn your driving bright green it's necessary to take a holistic approach, concentrating on your technique (see below), car maintenance and trip planning.
Drive Smoothly: While there's a chance aggressive driving will cost you a ticket, there's no doubt it wastes gas and wears on your car. Keeping a constant speed and accelerating/stopping gradually is preferable to jack-rabbit starts and quick stops. Also keep in mind that driving above 60 mph rapidly decreases gas mileage.
Along with the financial benefits of buying less gas and replacing parts less often, good driving also helps the environment by releasing fewer emissions and prolonging the useful life of car parts. Using cruise control when possible is a good way to maintain a constant speed.
Avoid Idling: Idling is another big driving no-no. If you're going to be stopped for longer than 30 seconds, you'll save gas by turning off your car and restarting it as opposed to leaving it running.
Newer models also don't generally need to be warmed up, but check with your mechanic if you have questions. Along with wasting gas, idling also damages your car's catalytic converter.
Use the A/C Efficiently: Avoid using the A/C at slow speeds, and avoid leaving the windows open at high speeds. The AC increases fuel consumption, releases more nitrous oxide NOx in some models and uses environmentally damaging fluids. Windows are a good option up until about 40-45 mph, at which point they begin to cause enough drag to actually consume more gas than AC.
There are other options to keep your car cool/hot depending on the season, including windshield shades, parking in the shade (cool) or sun (hot), and opening doors or windows before starting the car.
- Keep RPMs Low: A slightly more advanced green driving technique is to run in a higher gear. A higher gear means lower RPMs, which burns less gas and puts less strain on your engine.
Tip: If you drive a manual (stick-shift), then shift up as soon as possible. In an automatic, put your car into overdrive at cruising speeds, if it's equipped with overdrive. Consult your owner's manual, dealer, and/or mechanic for specifics.