How Green Is Your Family's Household?
Written by Tracy Brennan
Car Talk: Getting From Point A to Point Green
As you peer into your garage or glance down the driveway, what do you see?
a. An SUV crammed with car seats and strollers
b. A hybrid
c. A well-maintained older family car
d. Well-used bicycles
The U.S. unfortunately is a car-obsessed culture: Half of the world's oil goes into vehicles, spewing a quarter of the world's greenhouse gasses in emissions. Burning one gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, which contains five pounds of pure carbon. The average car emits 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, and there are over 230 million registered vehicles in the United States. Your willingness and efforts to forego extraneous car travel will go a long way to lessening your family's impact on the environment.
Full hybrid car, or, smaller is better. By downsizing the family SUV to a mid-size hybrid car for your city driving needs, you could reduce your gas usage by about 70%.
Know the difference between a "mild" hybrid car and a "full" hybrid car (Hybridcenter.org is a great resource for learning about hybrid options and variations). The web abounds with helpful information about green cars. To see where your car ranks in terms of fuel economy or to gather information for purchasing a new or used energy-efficient car, visit the Department of Energy’s super-nifty fuel economy site.
Car maintenance: By taking conscientious care of your car you can reduce your carbon footprint in a dramatic way because you are practicing habits that add up over the long haul.
Best Tips for Families:
Slow down, Cinderella! Did you know that by increasing your speed from 50 to 60 miles per hour you use 20% more gas — and wear out your tires more quickly? So let those gas-guzzling speed demons pass you by on the highway, feeling smug and confident about your choice to help the environment.
Check your tires and replace when worn down. Balanced tires, with correct air pressure, use less gas. Underinflated tires cause a 5% decrease in fuel economy, which adds up quickly at the gas pump.
At the carwash... carwash, yeah! It is actually better for the environment to wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash than in the driveway at home. By mixing air with water half and half, carwash businesses use 60% less water in the process than you do just rinsing off your car. Commercial car washes are also required by law to send their waste water to treatment, while the average home job wastes approximately 116 gallons of water that typically run off through the sewer system into natural waterways.
Carpooling or car sharing. By arranging a carpool even one or two days a week — not only for commuting to work but to also port the kids back and forth to school — you will be developing a habit that can make a measurable positive impact on the environment. If carpooling is not an option for you, talk with your employer about the possibility of telecommuting one day a week. Many companies are embracing the benefits of allowing employees the flexibility to work from home occasionally.
Bicycles. If you can swing it, you will make an enormous impact on preserving our environment by biking to work. This earth-friendly transportation option will also result in a huge benefit to your health and wellbeing.
Go Metro! If biking the entire way to work is not feasible, check out your public transportation options. Get the best of both worlds by riding your bike to a transit center and hopping on a bus with your bike in tow. Bike shorts = optional.
Minimize short-distance car trips. If you just need to pick up a few items from the store, bike down the road instead of climbing into the car. Make quick trips like these a family event by getting the kids to ride along with you.