Buying green is just the first step in reducing the environmental
impacts of automobile use. Your choice of vehicle is most
important, but how you drive and how well you maintain your
car, van, or light truck will also make a difference.
Drive Carefully and Gently
- Avoid "jack rabbit" starts and aggressive
driving. Flooring the gas pedal not only wastes gas, it
leads to drastically higher pollution rates. One second
of high-powered driving can produce nearly the same volume
of carbon monoxide emissions as a half hour of normal
- Think ahead. Try to anticipate stops and let your vehicle
coast down as much as possible. Avoid the increased pollution,
wasted gas, and wear on your brakes created by accelerating
hard and braking hard.
- Follow the speed limit! Driving 75 mph instead of 65
mph will lower your fuel economy by about 10 percent,
and can dramatically increase tailpipe pollution in many
- When possible, plan your trips to avoid rush hour. Stop-and-go
driving burns gas and increases emissions of smog-forming
- Combine trips. Warmed-up engines and catalysts generate
much less air pollution, so combining several short trips
into one can make a big difference.
- Take a load off. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds
reduces fuel economy by about 1 percent. Take a few moments
to unload your cargo area.
- If your vehicle has it, use overdrive gear at cruising
speeds. When driving a manual transmission, shift up as
soon as possible. Running in a higher gear decreases the
rpm and will decrease fuel use and engine wear.
- Try using the vents and opening windows to cool off
before you turn on the air conditioner. Air conditioner
use increases fuel consumption, increases NOx emissions
in some vehicles, and involves environmentally damaging
- Unlike many older cars and trucks, modern vehicles don't
need to warm up and they have automatic chokes, so you
don't need to step on the gas pedal before starting the
Your owner's manual is the best source of information about
how to care for your vehicle. Refer to it for instructions
about proper maintenance and service specific to your make
- Keep your tires properly inflated. Tires should be inflated
to the pressure recommended for your vehicle; this information
is often printed inside the door frame or in your owner's
manual. For every 3 pounds below recommended pressure,
fuel economy goes down by about 1 percent. Tires can lose
about 1 pound of pressure in a month, so check the air
pressure regularly and always before going on a long trip
or carrying heavy loads. Underinflated tires can also
detract from handling, safety, and how long the tires
- Buy low-rolling-resistance (LRR) replacement tires.
Switching to a typical set of replacement tires lowers
a vehicle's fuel economy as much as 4 percent. LRR tires,
on the other hand, are specially designed to improve a
vehicle's fuel economy. Most major tire manufacturers
now produce LRR models, so when it comes time to replace
your tires, seek out a set of LRRs.
- Check your own fuel economy every few weeks. If you
notice it slipping, that could mean you have a minor problem
with the engine or your brakes. Using this advance warning,
you can fix problems before you have a breakdown on the
- Get a tune-up. Whether you do it yourself or go to a
mechanic, a tune-up can increase your fuel economy. Follow
owner's manual guidelines. Be sure to check for worn spark
plugs, dragging brakes, and low transmission fluid; have
your wheels aligned and tires rotated; and replace the
air filter if needed. Make sure all used vehicle fluids
are recycled or disposed of safely.
- Change the oil. In addition to making your car or truck
last longer, replacing the oil and oil filter regularly
will also help fuel economy. Check your owner's manual
for specific recommendations about how often to change.
Ask the service station if they recycle used oil, or if
you do it yourself, take your old oil to someplace that
does recycle. Ask for recycled oil as a replacement.
- Have your vehicle's emission control system checked
periodically. Take it in for service if an instrument
panel warning light comes on.
Americans too often take gasoline for granted, forgetting
that it is quite a hazardous substance. Gasoline fumes are
toxic and carcinogenic; they cause smog; and spilled gasoline
can pollute the water and poison wildlife. And it's very
- Use regular gasoline unless your owner's manual says
otherwise. Unless your car requires premium, high-octane
fuels improve neither fuel economy nor performance and
will just waste your money.
- Don't overfill the gas tank or try to top it off beyond
where the automatic nozzle clicks off. Spilled gasoline
evaporates to aggravate smog formation and can leak into
- Patronize gas stations that have vapor-recovery nozzles
(those black, accordion-looking plastic devices attached
to the nozzle) whenever you can.
- Park in the shade in summer to keep your car cool and
minimize evaporation of fuel.
- If you have a garage, use it as much as possible to
keep your car warm in winter and cool in summer.
- If you have to park outdoors, windshield shades can
cut down on summer heat and help keep the frost off in
Take Advantage of "Commuter Choice" Programs
Most Americans commute to work, and now there are special
programs that provide incentives for both employees and
employers to "Get There With Clean Air." The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation
are teaming up with businesses and others to set up "Commuter
Choice" programs. These employer-sponsored initiatives
can make you eligible for cash and other benefits for greener
commuting. Examples include:
Companies and communities that make use of Commuter Choice
benefits often save money. For example, by cutting down
on car commuting, they can avoid the need to build large
parking lots that are both expensive and use up green space.
These programs take advantage of recent fringe benefits
rules, such as offering workers tax-free transit or vanpool
benefits of up to $100 per month. Employers can also allow
employees to "cash-out" their parking space, receiving
additional income of up to $175 per month (taxed like added
salary for the employee, but still a deductible business
expense for the employer). Employees can use this cash to
commute as they wish, including carpooling, telecommuting,
bicycling, or walking. Employers benefit through lowered
taxes, lowered costs, and new ways to recruit and keep employees.
Commuter Choice cuts pollution, reduces traffic congestion,
and conserves energy. Ask your employer if they have a Commuter
Choice program. If not, ask them to start one. For more
information, check out the Commuter