7 ways to make your car more sustainable

Nowadays, more and more people can successfully live without a car – which is fantastic for the environment and climate and it saves a ton of money and space especially in crowded cities. But outside of busy city centers, living without a car is often simply not possible. I myself grew up in the country side where there are no buses and distances are way to far to do everything by bike. So I know from experience that it is quite impossible for everyone to live without a car. But is it still possible to have a car and make it more sustainable? It sure is! Here are 7 tips to make your car usage more environmentally-friendly!

1. Choose your car wisely: Electric? New and fuel efficient? Or keep that old stinker?

Recently, electronic cars are on the rise like never before – especially, again, for those living in cities where distances are low they are a great way to reduce emissions in these crowded places. And I hear more and more people are considering to replace their combustion engine based vehicle with an electric car – because of the environment.

The thing is: Replacing your current, still usable car with a new one because that new one has better mileage or even is electric – and therefore “emission free”, depending on your source of energy, is not always better for the environment. Vehicle production makes up for a significant amount of the vehicle’s total energy use and greenhouse gas emission.

So if you plan to switch cars, you should get a more eco-friendly drive AND keep the new vehicle for a while to compensate the initial production. A general rule of thumb is if you get a ride with 20% better mileage, keep if for at least 5 years. If the new one only has 10% better mileage you need to keep it for 10 years or longer [1]. Only then you will be able to make up for the production costs and emissions of the production of your new drive!

2. Use the car as little as possible

This tip is the most practical and easy to remember: Just because you have a car, that does not mean it should be your go-to option to move around! Before grabbing the keys consider if this is a trip which you could make in any different way – each saved trip saves emissions. Whenever possible, the bicycle is a great option to also get some exercise. Sometimes also a walk is a nice change, especially in these days of quarantine and home office!

3. Reduce your eco-footprint by Carpooling and Carsharing

Each car in use contributes to climate change – so let’s try to reduce the number of cars on the streets! If you have the chance to carpool with someone or take others on longer trips (e.g. by using one of the big portals to find others traveling in the same direction), this will reduce the overall emissions and therefore be beneficial for the environment and the climate. And you can share gas costs, too!

In recent years, more and more people can successfully live without a car - which is fantastic for the environment, saves a ton of money and space especially in crowded cities. But outside of busy city centers, living without a car is often simply not possible. I myself grew up in the country side where there are no buses and distances are way to far to do everything by bike. So I know from experience that it is not possible for everyone to go without a car. But is it still possible to have a car and make it more sustainable? It sure is! Here are 7 tips to make your car usage more environmentally-friendly!
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

4. Adjust to an eco-friendly driving style

Not just what you are driving affects the amount of emissions your car causes, but also the way you drive it. Going faster uses more fuel and simultaneously causes higher emissions – that is logical. Especially on longer trips you can save significant amounts of gas (and emissions!) by going less fast and using the eco drive, if your car has this option. In cities, make sure you shift correctly if you have a manual transmission: Changing to higher gears faster is more efficient, saves gas and emissions!

5. Take good care of your car

Regular maintenance also helps to make the ride less harmful: Make sure your car has the right tire pressure, replace the oil and air filters on a regular basis! Old oil, stuffed filters or low tire pressure all make the engine less efficient, decrease your milage and increase emissions. And these measures also help so that your car lasts longer, which is also essential to make your car greener!

6. Clean out useless weight from the vehicle

Every bit of weight in the car makes the car less efficient – so clean it out regularly and double-check whether or not you really should be driving around with the stuff in your trunk. That bag of cement you put in there for better ground contact on icy streets in winter? It might have been a life saver, but as soon as the ice is gone it needs to go! Same applies to heavy bags, baby seats or beverage crates.

7. Switch of what you don’t need

Especially modern cars have additional, significant contributors to their energy use, which aim to make the ride more comfortable but raise emissions: Climate control or heated seats – they all use energy generated in the engine from fuel. Using them only if really necessary will save you gas and emissions. Of course, you should not turn of any safety-relevant features such as the lights!

Do you have a car or can you make do without it? What are your tricks to save gas – or live without one?

References:
[1] https://blog.nature.org/science/2016/04/14/old-car-or-new-car-energy-transportation-battery-fuel-efficiency/

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