You can walk and ride your bike most places, and for longer trips you can take the subway or train. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be environmentally friendly, you just need a car to get where you need to go.
Cars are among the least sustainable form of transportation due to their reliance on oil and gas. Thousands of studies have shown that automobile emissions are dissolving the ozone layer, warming the planet and endangering human and animal lives by polluting the air, water and soil. But, when occasional driving is necessary, how can you reduce your environmental impact as much as possible?
The following solutions will help you drive as green as possible whenever you drive, so you maintain your commitment to improving the environment.
Burning gasoline in traditional car motors results in harmful gases that float into the air and atmosphere. Modern vehicle emissions include substances like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, both of which are toxic to humans and animals, as well as carbon dioxide, which creates a greenhouse effect in the atmosphere and is largely responsible for climate change.
Electric cars use electricity instead of petroleum gasoline to make the wheels turn and the vehicle go. For this reason, electric vehicles could be the answer to most car-related environmental concerns. Currently, most electricity comes from oil or coal, which is as bad for the environment as gasoline, but more and more regions are opting for renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar farms, hydro power plants, and geothermal resources. As this transition occurs, those with electric vehicles will reduced their environmental impact nearly to zero.
Though driving (or using) an electric vehicle might not immediately qualify you as a green driver, the reductions in emissions now and into the future make this transportation choice worthwhile.
Use Alternative Fuels
If electric vehicles aren’t immediately sustainable enough, you can also invest in a car that runs on alternative fuels. Here are a few options to consider:
- Ethanol. Made by fermenting and distilling crops, this alcohol-based fuel reduces emissions significantly. However, it does impact food prices and availability.
- Natural gas. Natural gas is a largely untapped resource, unlike dwindling stores of oil, but its emissions include methane, which has a more profound effect on global warming than CO2.
- Hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel-cell technology could be even more beneficial than electric vehicles, but the current lack of infrastructure makes this option difficult to use efficiently.
- Biodiesel. Burned vegetable or animal fats turn into biodiesel, which can be used today in traditional diesel engines.
You shouldn’t be driving all the time; driving should be a last resort, for when you can’t use other forms of transportation to reach your destination in time. Thus, it doesn’t make sense for you to invest in a personal vehicle. Vehicle ownership comes with dozens of costs, from fuel to maintenance and insurance, and if you are only using your car occasionally, you would probably be better served by signing up for a car sharing program.
Car sharing allows many people to utilize a few cars. This encourages members to use other forms of transportation for most of their trips, which reduces vehicle emissions, traffic congestion and other problems caused by heavy reliance on personal vehicles.
Most car sharing services have designated spaces all around urban centers, so you aren’t more than a few steps from an available vehicle. You pay a small monthly fee — usually less than $10 — as well as additional fees per hour or mile you drive. If there aren’t any car sharing programs available in your area, you might even start your own.
Whether you share a vehicle or own your own car — whether you rely on an alternative fuel source or drive a car with a traditional motor — the best way to drive sustainably is to drive safely. Here are a few tips to help you maximize the efficiency of your vehicle to reduce its environmental impact:
- Avoid hard acceleration and braking. A lead foot wastes fuel, and every drop of fuel has an effect on the environment. You should have a lighter touch on the accelerator and brakes.
- Follow the speed limit. You might think driving faster gets you to your destination faster, but high speeds aren’t fuel efficient. Speed limits were initially put in place to enhance fuel efficiency, so you should adhere to them.
- Maintain your vehicle. Inflating your tires, changing your oil and performing other maintenance duties ensures your car’s efficiency.