April 2, 2013
Just how much greenhouse gas does a litre of fuel generate?
We’re often told that our vehicles generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, but how are we to know just what that means?
Here’s a quick guideline: every litre of gasoline burned produces 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. That equals about 100 kilograms for a 40 litre fillup (typical for a compact car).
There’s more. The above figure doesn’t include emissions from drilling, extracting, transporting and refining that fuel, and then trucking it to the service station where you buy it. Factor those in, and it’s more like 3 kilograms CO2/litre for gas. If you consume 40 litres per week, that equals over six tonnes of emissions per year. Many Canadians consume a lot more than 40 litres a week.
Every litre of diesel fuel burned produces 2.7 KG carbon dioxide; a similar 25% premium can be factored in for refining and other upstream emissions.
The bottom line: vehicle emissions ARE a huge part of our carbon footprint. Why not reduce yours by walking, biking, driving less, driving an efficient vehicle, carpooling and taking transit.
September 4, 2012
Choose a better way to get the kids to school
For most of us, driving is one of the biggest parts of our carbon footprint. And until we have electric vehicles charged by wind or solar power, it’s pretty much impossible to make driving ‘green’ or sustainable. Every tank of gas equals another 100 KG or more of greenhouse gases emitted.
School’s in this week, and that means many parents will likely fall back into the routine of driving the kids to school – even though most live near enough to walk or bike, or there’s a school bus to collect them. The US National Highway Traffic Administration estimates that 20-30% of morning rush hour traffic is people driving their kids to school. At my son’s elementary school last year, the principal counted over 100 vehicles on an average morning – and the school has just 300 students.
Unfortunately, by driving our kids to school, we contribute to inactivity and obesity; we make the streets more dangerous by adding traffic; we waste a fortune in fuel; and we produce tonnes and tonnes of unnecessary greenhouse gases.
As a parent myself, I can appreciate that some parents may be uneasy about letting their little ones walk or bike. But there are many creative ways – such as a ‘walking school bus’ – to make the trip safe, healthy, fun and eco-friendly. Check out http://www.saferoutestoschool.ca/ for lots of ideas and resources.
May 29, 2012
A sensible, fuel-saving idea in stopped traffic
In stopped traffic, have you ever noticed that when one driver nudges ahead a meter or so, everyone behind usually does the same thing? It seems we do that in any lineup, whether at the bank, grocery store or airport.
Does this ripple effect get anyone where they’re going any sooner? Well, no. But everyone does end up burning an extra shot of fuel – and producing an extra puff of greenhouse gas – each time they press the gas pedal to nudge forward.
So why not be the ‘nudgebreaker’ the next time you’re in stopped traffic, and resist the urge to edge forward? You’ll save fuel for yourself and everyone in the line behind you – and you’ll be doing your planet a little favour.
February 21, 2012
Cut out unnecessary idling to save money, energy and the environment
The disease: It’s the Idling Disease, still commonly seen in driveways, parking lots and drive-throughs.
The prognosis: According to Natural Resources Canada, Canadians burn over 2 million litres of gas every day idling in winter and over a million litres every day in summer.
The potential: If every Canadian idled just 3 minutes less per day, we would save 640 million litres of gas a year.
The cure: 1) The best way to warm up your vehicle in winter is to drive it, not to let it idle; 2) Even on the coldest day, 2-3 minutes of idling is enough time for an engine’s oil to circulate; then you’re good to go. (Personal note: I still go by the old rule of 30 seconds and have never had a hint of car trouble.); 3. When an engine is warm, idling for over 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 than restarting your engine.
A SURE cure: One business owner I know has developed an interesting way to demonstrate he’s serious about his company’s zero-idling policy: he just takes the keys out of any company vehicle found idling. No words needed when the wrongdoer sheepishly visits his office to retrieve them…
Spread the cure: Start a campaign in your workplace, school or community, or even the local coffee shop. NRCan’s Idle Free Zone website offers awesome resources (including FAQs, videos, signage and more) for individuals, businesses and communities.
January 10, 2012
… I mean windshield washer fluid
Tis the season of pish-pish. (That’s my wife’s nickname for windshield washer fluid.) On cool winter days when busy roads are wet with slush, we use the stuff almost constantly as we drive.
Most windshield washer fluids contain methyl alcohol. The good news is that it biodegrades quickly in the soil or evaporates readily in the air. The bad news about methyl alcohol is:
- Most of it is produced synthetically from – you guessed it – fossil fuels
- In its raw form, it is both poisonous and flammable (and windshield washer jugs have ‘Danger’ logos as evidence of that)
- Once evaporated, it contributes to the formation of smog
- We release SO MUCH of it across North America – imagine the millions and millions of litres every winter
What to do?
- Look for windshield washer that is made from plant-based ethanol (though it too has its issues)
- If possible, increase the distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you to minimize spray; drive in the driest part of your lane to reduce the spray you generate for the vehicle behind you; and avoid rush hour traffic if that’s an option. As well, strive to use only the amount of fluid you need each time you wash the windshield. But please use good judgement, and NEVER compromise road safety!!
September 5, 2011
Overfilling that gas tank costs you money!
When filling our gas tanks, most of us ‘top it up’ a bit: after the gas nozzle clicks to signal the tank is full, we add a bit more, to round it up to the next full dollar.
But usually that’s not a good thing: it results in fuel dollars being lost as vapour coming out of the tank; it can result in a spill of some of that fuel we’ve paid for (and sometimes we don’t see those spills because our vehicle may have a hidden overflow pipe); and on hot days it can result in spills later since gas expands as it warms. Bad for the wallet, bad for the environment.
The solution is easy: believe the gas nozzle when it clicks, and choose not to top up your tank. It will save you money, conserve precious gas and reduce damage to the environment.
August 9, 2011
Roll down the window, turn off the air conditioner…
Air conditioners make cars bearable in the heat of summer, but they are HUGE energy users, increasing a vehicle’s fuel consumption by 20%. That means a vehicle that normally goes 800 kilometres on a tank of fuel will only go about 675 kilometres with the air conditioner on – and many of us have it on by default all summer.
The best solution is to just turn your AC off. When driving 60 KMH or less, roll down your window and enjoy a bit of fresh air. (Wise dogs have known the pure joy of fresh air for years.) At speeds above 60 KMH, keep a comfortable airflow moving by using the fan to bring in fresh air and keeping a window or sunroof open just a crack to let it out.
On really hot days when that’s not enough, alternate the AC on and off to get just the amount of cooling you need. Just remember: it costs you every time you turn it on.
August 24, 2010
Will cruise control improve fuel economy?
The answer: it depends.
On level highways with light traffic, it is YES: cruise control holds a vehicle to a steadier speed than most drivers can, and that’s more efficient than continuous acceleration and deceleration.
However, in hilly terrain, cruise control ‘tramps on it’ when it encounters a climb, trying to maintain a constant speed – and that consumes a lot of fuel. So in hilly areas, a driver with a skilled foot can easily get better mileage than cruise control. (A skilled foot means allowing the vehicle to slow down on the upgrades instead of tramping on the gas, and then using the other side of the hill to pick up speed.)
One caveat: safety first! Always ensure your driving style is compatible with road and traffic conditions.
Thanks to Stephanie McClellan in St. Anthony, NL for the question that led to this Green Idea!
August 9, 2010
Does the type of transmission in your vehicle affect your mileage?
It does! Generally speaking, vehicles with automatic transmissions use more fuel than similar vehicles with manual transmissions. A comparison of the 2010 models listed below produced the following results:
On average, manual transmissions will result in fuel savings of about $60 per year.
In city driving, manual transmissions will go about 7% further on a litre of fuel, or about 32 KM further per tank.
In highway driving, manual transmissions will go about 1.3% further on a litre of fuel, or about 8 KM further per tank.
Note that savings vary for every model of car, so it’s wise to check NRCan’s Fuel Consumption Ratings here before buying. Also, some models now have continuously variable transmissions, which are often even more efficient than manual.
2010 models compared: Chevrolet Aveo and Cobalt; Ford Fusion; Pontiac G3, G5 and Vibe; Honda Civic; Nissan Frontier and Versa; Toyota Corolla, Matrix and Yaris
June 14, 2010
Drive two months for free each year
Without investing a penny, most drivers can save 15% on their fuel bill – equivalent to almost two months of free driving a year.
It’s all in how you drive, and here are the two critical habits for savings:
1. accelerate gently – resist that urge to ‘tramp on it’, because that’s when your engine slurps HUGE amounts of fuel. Then coast as much as possible, and brake gently.
2. limit your speed to 100 KMH or less. Generally, the slower you go, the more you save.
Here’s proof these two practices work: my Toyota Echo gave me 60 miles per gallon (21 KM/litre) last week, well above the car’s official rating.
For more great fuel-saving tips, visit http://www.ecodriver.org/pages/Fuel-EfficientDriving.php. And take a 2-minute ride (via YouTube) with the ‘king of hypermiling’: he gets twice his vehicle’s rated fuel mileage!!