Whether it’s upping your recycling efforts, switching to paperless billing statements or vowing to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, improving your environmental impact can be inspiring. But when it comes to big things – like your car, truck or SUV – it’s hard to know where to start.
Vehicles have long been getting a bad rap for contributing to pollution, and thus putting "green guilt" on many. But here’s something that has potential to make you feel a little better. A study by researchers at the University of Toronto found that only 25% of cars and trucks are causing about 90% of the problem. That’s due to factors such as poor maintenance and inefficient driving habits. Fortunately, there are ways individual drivers can make a positive difference.
In honor of Earth Day, we’ve compiled eco-friendly driving tips that you can put into practice year round for a cleaner, greener planet.
Watch the extra weight
While there are some things you might always want to keep in your trunk, such as an emergency kit, it’s best to clear out any unnecessary items. Toting around an extra 100 pounds can reduce your fuel efficiency.
Think about the outside of your car, too – for example, roof racks increase wind resistance and can decrease fuel efficiency. If you do need to haul gear on the outside of your vehicle, try to use a rear-mounted cargo box instead of a roof-mounted one. At highway speeds, roof-mounted boxes can reduce fuel economy by 6 to 17%, while rear-mounted boxes typically have a 1 to 5% impact.
Idling uses more fuel than restarting your car does, gives off 80% more pollution than when your car is moving and can even come with a fine in some areas. If you’re staying put for a minute or more, consider turning off your engine.
Several GM models are now equipped with stop-start systems, which help a vehicle conserve fuel by automatically shutting off the engine when the car comes to a stop. Once you take your foot off the brake, the engine automatically restarts.
Pay special attention to ozone alert days
Air quality alert days are when ozone becomes concentrated near the ground, making it difficult to breathe. Emissions from cars can make this worse. On these days in particular, try to refuel in the evening and avoid any gasoline spillage. High temperatures and low wind can quickly convert vapors into ozone pollutants.
Faulty or missing gas caps can be the source of gasoline vapors as well. Although many GM vehicles are now equipped with capless fuel systems, some are not. It’s a good idea to make sure your gas cap fits properly and is on all the way, no matter the weather.
Keep your speed steady and within the speed limit
Once you reach more than 50 mph, you lose fuel efficiency, and that only gets worse as you go faster. It’s best to drive the speed limit, avoid accelerating quickly when possible, don’t ride the brakes and use cruise control when appropriate.
Recycle all the auto parts you can
Make sure to either recycle or properly dispose of vehicle-related items like motor oil, oil filters, tires, batteries and fluids when maintaining or repairing your vehicle. Depending on where you live, there may be ordinances or laws around proper disposal of these items. When it comes to recycling, tires can find a second life as synthetic turf, playground surfaces or road embankments, for example.
Keep your car in tip-top shape
Make sure your tires are inflated to their recommended pressure. When they’re underinflated, fuel consumption may increase by as much as 3% – not to mention that they're more likely to blow out and potentially cause an accident.
When you follow the maintenance schedule recommended by your dealership, your vehicle will be more fuel-efficient and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Schedule regular tune-ups with your local GM dealership to replace air filters, motor oil, tire rotations and more.
If we all commit to a few small changes, we can make a big impact. Check out Driving for a Cause for more ways to make a difference with your vehicle.
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