Going The Extra Green Mile For Eco-Friendly Driving

2931296449_feefd3b0df_z

Have a gas guzzler? You could save thousands of dollars and large amounts of carbon emissions by having a more eco-friendly car. But you knew that, of course. But, did you know that how you drive is almost as important as what you drive? It’s true. So to help you save money the next time you get behind the wheel we’ve come up with the following tips for eco-friendly driving: By adopting these tips you could save up to $288 per year!

1. Your Tires. Driving around on underinflated tires is unsafe. In addition, it’s kinda like walking through mud

Doing extra work to move your vehicle forward on flatter tires will force your engine to suck more gasoline from your tank and money from your wallet. According to the US Department of Energy, your car’s fuel efficiency will drop 0.3% for every PSI (pounds per square inch, a measure of pressure) each tire is underinflated. That can easily add up to a few hundred or even thousands of dollars a year, depending on how underinflated your tires and how much you drive. That, plus, did I mention, it’s really unsafe!

Many people make the mistake of filling their tires to the tire pressure on the tires themselves. The U.S. Department of Energy says not to do that, and instead to use the tire pressure recommendations that are in your vehicle’s owners manual or printed on the inside of the driver doorwell.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 1.11.33 PM
Your car will have a label on it (usually inside driver door) for the recommended tire pressure. Use that one, not the one on the tires themselves.

Testing your tire pressure is easy with a pressure gauge:

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 1.13.17 PM
Testing your tire pressure is super easy. Just unscrew the cap and apply the gauge to the valve.

Let’s take a look at just how much money you can save be ensuring your tires aren’t underinflated: The average driver in Hawaii puts 7,907 miles on their car and tires per year, and there is a .3% drop in fuel efficiency for every 1 PSI your tires are underinflated. Assuming your car is getting 19 mpg, with underinflated tires, and the cost of gas is $4.27 per gallon, you’ll spend $1,776 on gas per year! Now, if those tires are properly inflated you could raise your average to 19.57mpg, which would reduce your annual cost of gas to $1,549 per year, a savings of $227!

Many gas stations and every car mechanic will have a hose with which you can fill your tires. It’s as easy as plugging it in and occasionally testing the pressure with your gauge to get to the right level. Don’t have a tire gauge? You can pick one up from the Pono Home Store!

2. Your EngineIf your car is not properly tuned, it’s like trying to exercise after eating fast food: not pretty

Proper maintenance of your car will help keep your car running efficiently. The DOE says that major maintenance problems, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can drop your fuel efficiency by as much as 40%.

Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 1.47.34 PM

No one expects you to tinker under your hood to keep your car running efficiently. The best idea for you is to have your mechanic do a fairly regular comprehensive check to inspect for potential problems that might cause your fuel efficiency to drop.  Regular maintenance is way cheaper than all of that money you’re losing by putting it off.

Let’s take a look at just how much having a properly tuned engine can save you every year: Assuming that by keeping your engine properly tuned you can increase your fuel efficiency by 4%, and you drive 7,907 miles per year, a car getting 19mpg on an un-tuned engine would spend $1,594 on gas per year (assuming the price is $4.27). Now, if that same car, has a properly tuned engine, it would get 19.76mpg which would add up to $1,533 spent in gas per year. A savings of $61 per year!

3. Slow down, Speedy Gonzales! Love to drive aggressively? You’re only costing yourself more in gas money

Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 1.49.08 PM

There is a concept called Eco-driving (there are even driving schools specializing in it). The main tenets of eco-driving can more or less be boiled down to a few basics:

  1. Accelerate gently. Gunning it uses a lot of fuel for the distance it covers.
  2. Drive the speed limit, not 5 MPH above it. When you see a red light or a “stale” green light a little ways up ahead, let the car coast rather than continuing to press the gas pedal.
  3. Driving with windows slightly open, as opposed to using the A/C, is more efficient.

4. Do not idle

7190921060_32799aa6a5_z

It’s still a commonly held belief that idling is better for your car than cutting the engine off then back on. That hasn’t been the case for many years. There is no damage done to your engine by turning it on and off, but idling will continue to burn gasoline and pollute the air around your car, which you and the people around you, will be breathing. Check out this article from Gas2.0 on how Ec0-driving and low impact living can save you money.

Further suggested ways to save:

Check out Google’s online directions tool–there’s a button at the top with a train icon on it. If you click that you can get public transit directions to whatever destination you’re going to, and, in many places, the cost differential between driving and taking transit. It’s usually quite a bit cheaper to go by transit, and surely has less of a carbon footprint. Prepare to be shocked at the difference!

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons ( green car, testing tire pressure, enginespinning tires and exhaust fumes) and Pono Home.






About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *