Ease Off the Gas With These 10 Eco-Friendly Driving Habits

trafficYou’ve repeatedly heard how operating a vehicle negatively impacts the planet by using fossil fuels and generating harmful emissions. As such, it’s only natural to want to adopt eco-friendly driving habits. By becoming a greener driver, you can reap the rewards of greater fuel efficiency and help clean the air.

From smoother acceleration to planning your trip around peak hours, you’ll learn to navigate roadways more sustainably. Here is an overview of cars’ ecological impacts and tips for creating eco-conscious driving habits.

The Environmental Impact of Cars

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the transportation sector accounts for two-fifths of nationwide fuel emissions, while electric vehicles (EVs) contributed to a 6% drop in vehicle pollution in 2021. Car pollution simultaneously affects humans and the planet, and is a significant catalyst for climate change.

Burning gas generates carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), benzene, formaldehyde and hydrocarbons. Some are carcinogens, but all cause the Earth to warm up quickly.

The older your car, the more harmful it’s likely to be to the atmosphere. Fortunately, the latest vehicle models will cut 6 billion metric tons of CO2 throughout their lifetimes while doubling fuel efficiency. Yet, there is much more drivers can do to reduce their environmental footprint. 

10 Eco-Friendly Driving Habits

Adopting eco-friendly driving habits is good for the planet and can keep you safer on the road. So, fasten your seatbelts — here are 10 things to improve upon when behind the wheel.

1. Purchase an Electric Vehicle

Tesla is no longer the only electric vehicle (EV) maker, as popular brands like Toyota, Kia and Hyundai have also begun selling them in recent years. Widespread availability and affordability are greatly influenced by decreasing lithium-ion battery costs, which dropped nearly 89% from 2008 to 2022.

Charging your car versus fueling up requires you to adapt. However, the average EV battery charge lasts about 234 miles — manufactured for 150,000 miles during the car’s life span. Of course, proper driving habits can ensure your vehicle achieves this benchmark.

2. Turn Off the Air Conditioning

Running your car’s air conditioning (AC) is crucial on a hot summer day. The last thing you want is to faint from the heat while driving. However, cracking the windows open and turning off your car’s cooling system can help you save gas and the environment.

Light-duty passenger vehicles’ AC units are responsible for 81% to 88% of greenhouse gas emissions, burning even more fuel than necessary. In fact, using the AC in hot weather wastes 1.3% more gas.

3. Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Rush hour traffic is the bane of any driver’s existence, especially if you have somewhere important you need to be. Yet, sitting in traffic is only one reason to avoid peak times — it also creates more emissions.

When jammed roadways become like parking lots, cars idle, releasing NOx and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. Likewise, traffic congestion creates more significant CO2 emissions. Always schedule appointments and plan trips around rush hour to avoid contributing to poor air quality.

4. Remove Unnecessary Weight

One of the luxuries of driving is transporting items to different locations. You can load the car with groceries or move cross-country with your whole life shoved into the trunk. Unfortunately, the heavier the load, the more fuel and energy your vehicle will expend.

It’s always best to lighten your load and pack only the necessities for your travels, especially over long distances. Every additional 50 pounds reduces fuel economy by 1%. Make an effort to drive with less and watch your savings increase.

5. Use Cruise Control

In some instances — like driving on an open highway — cruise control can maintain a steady speed and reduce fuel consumption. This is because your car isn’t consistently accelerating or slowing down.

Yet, the most fuel-saving benefits occur only on flat roads. Pressing cruise control on hilly terrains or in stop-and-go traffic could have the opposite effect.

6. Avoid Aggressive Acceleration and Braking

Have you ever been told you have a lead foot? If so, slowing down could do wonders for the environment. Aggressive driving has been shown to cause a 15% to 30% reduction in gas mileage on the highway and a 10% to 40% decrease in stop-and-go traffic. As a result, you could lose 25 cents to $1 per gallon on gas.

Aggressive driving often derives from stress or distraction. If this is you, practice breathing or mindfulness exercises to remain calm. Planning trips to avoid rushing to your destination can also improve your driving habits.

Additional ways to prevent road rage and belligerent road behaviors are turning on turn signals, yielding to other drivers, and concentrating on your actions. Remember to avoid retaliating when someone cuts you off or makes a face at you as they pass. The most crucial factor is arriving in one piece.

7. Maintain Your Vehicle

Scheduling regular vehicle inspections and maintenance ensures your car is a well-oiled machine. Routine auto checkups catch issues before they spiral out of control and can boost your car’s fuel efficiency.

Currently, 29 states have compulsory smog and emissions tests to ensure cars meet environmental standards. Requirements vary by state — some mandate annual inspections while others only demand inspections in certain counties. California also requires emissions tests on all vehicles newer than 1975 unless they fall under an exemption.

8. Carpool

The high cost of gas is likely one reason you might want to carpool to the office with co-workers. However, it’s an eco-friendly driving habit you should adopt.

According to one study, carpooling groups of three people reduce CO2 and NOx by 5% and 7%, respectively. As a bonus, driving speeds increase and travel times decrease, averaging 7% and 8%.

9. Limit Idling Time

A traffic jam is not conducive to idling, but neither is warming up the car in the wintertime. How often have you turned the car on in the driveway and left it running before going to work or the store? This habit causes poor air quality and environmental harm.

When the weather dips, your car only needs 30 seconds of idling to drive comfortably — just enough time for the engine oil to circulate. Allowing your vehicle to sit any longer releases pollutants and wastes money. If you really want to warm up the car faster, start driving.

10. Use Quality Motor Oil

The right motor oil for your car can improve the planet. For instance, quality motor oil minimizes harmful NOx and hydrocarbons, enhances fuel efficiency, and prolongs the engine’s life. The latter equates to fewer replacement parts and a longer vehicle life span. Although you might want the most basic and cost-effective motor oil, discussing the highest-quality options with your mechanic to reduce your ecological impacts is best.

Green Driving Habits for a Healthy Environment

Maintaining your vehicle and becoming a safer driver requires effort. However, learning how to be a green driver is just as crucial. To live more sustainably, you should start by changing your driving habits. Minor shifts to your transportation routine can significantly reduce your vehicle’s impact on global warming.

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