It’s easy to to think that individuals can’t make a difference when it comes to the issue of global warming. How often do we hear reports of governments and large companies making sweeping changes to help reduce their carbon pollution compared to smaller micro schemes? I often question the impact of individuals only to realise that real measurable change will only happen when everybody acts together. It is entirely possible to travel in an environmentally responsible way whereby you save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s a list of ideas and techniques that when applied to your life will save you money and help protect our environment.
Use your own steam!
Protecting the environment doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive and time consuming. In fact, you can hack your habits to great effect and start making a difference in the morning. You’ll be doing your general fitness and health a favour as well as that of the environment.
1. Where possible, walk: Start with the simplest option first. Don’t drive everywhere, walk those small trips. In stating the obvious, by leaving the car behind and simply walking or riding a bike you are doing both yourself and the environment good. Not only will you save money on fuel and the general upkeep of car but other knock on effects include the improved outdoor air quality and reduction on road congestion.
2. Get on your bike: You’ll not always be able to walk to your destination. Jump on your bike for those trips where you’d normally be jumping into the car without a second thought. You’ll develop your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, reduce congestion and generate zero emissions.
We might as well face up to the fact that we live in a car culture, and it won’t change overnight. Fortunately there are a multitude of ways in which you can vastly improve the fuel efficiency of a vehicle so it can drive further on less fuel, emit fewer greenhouse gases and save you some money. Here are a few to get you started.
3. Get ready first, then go: How many times have you jumped into the car and realised your laptop or bag is still inside the house, then left the car idling while you fetch it? Plenty of times, it happens to us all. While you’ll never stop this from happening ever again, you can reduce the emissions by making sure you have everything you need before starting the engine.
4. Put your seatbelt on before starting engine: I read some time ago that on average we waste several hundred pounds / dollars (x2) of fuel by starting the engine and then putting on a seatbelt. Optimise your efficiency and maximise savings by securing your seatbelt first.
5. Improve MPG: Most road users don’t have a clue about how to look after their car never mind improving the Miles Per Gallon it can achieve. That sort of knowledge doesn’t need to remain within the car sub-culture. You can easily improve the MPG on any car by keeping tyres inflated to their manufacturer-specified pressure, employ steady acceleration and drive at a steady speed that requires fewer gear changes.
6. Don’t idle the engine: A modern car is designed to work efficiently as soon as it starts, so you don’t need to start the engine and let it warm up before you drive. Not even on cold winter mornings.
7. Smooth gear changes: shift up a gear when you hit 2500rpm for petrol cars and 2000rpm for diesel cars. Research indicates that a car travelling at 37mph in third gear uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would at the same speed in fifth gear.
8. Turn off air con: A car engine generates enough pollution without having to power an onboard air conditioning unit. It might be hot outside, but if you want to be serious about protecting the environment you’ll just have to keep the air conditioning turned off! Need further impetus? You’ll save money by driving for longer because of improved fuel efficiency.
9. Don’t charge electricals off car battery: It might be convenient, but charging your iPod / mobile / laptop / whatever off the car battery greatly increases fuel consumption. Of course you’ll still indirectly generate emissions when charging electrical gadgets at home, but it is still more efficient than doing so in a car.
10. Drive with windows up: This sounds so trivial, but it has been proven to work. If you keep your windows up your car will be subject to less drag, which improves the aerodynamic profile of the vehicle. Therefore, cars driven with the windows up are proven to achieve much higher MPG.
11. Remove rook racks: If you have roof racks installed on your car, remove them. If you surf / ski / snowboard, stow the boards inside the car. Roof racks increase the car’s weight and reduce aerodynamic efficiency, which increases the amount of fuel burnt to power the car.
12. Service regularly: This one can’t be overstated enough. If you want to make sure that your car performs at peak efficiency then you’ll have to get it serviced on a regular basis. Get the oil checked, swap out the brakes, check the exhaust etc. The idea is that a well-kept car will consume less fuel, pump out fewer greenhouse gases and also last longer, which in the longterm helps the environment and your bank balance.
14. Alternative forms of fuel: Refuel your car with an alternative form of fuel such as biodiesel instead of diesel. It can be quite expensive in the short term but it is possible to refit your vehicle to run on gas, ethanol or used fats and vegetable oils. This tactic is especially good if the fuels are locally produced.
15. Use premium fuel: If it is not possible to change the type of fuel your car can run on to bio, purchase the more expensive but environmentally friendly premium petrols. While these are still produced from oil, they are more efficient and much cleaner.
16. Carpool: Organised carpooling with your co-workers has quite a few advantages. You actively reduce air pollution, increase outdoor air quality by having 1 car on the road instead of 4. Also, carpooling saves you money and everybody can do it – you might even form some new friendships. You can use a variety of tools online to arrange or find carpooling opportunities – especially on Facebook
17. Hybrid Options: Opt for a hybrid hire car on your next holiday. Not only will you be reducing emissions while you drive, but you will be sending a positive message to the car hire industry by your endorsement of the ‘green’ car. Plus, you get to test drive a hybrid and put it through the motions! Make a more substantial commitment and consider a new hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or get one of the ultra efficient small cars such as Citroen C4.
It’s widely considered to be the holy grail of environmentalism, but it’s sadly not quite there yet. Governments take big back handers from the car lobbyists, so we shouldn’t expect the world’s public transport networks to get massively better any time. Of course, there are cities around the world where the local government has invested heavily in public transport infrastructure – but you probably don’t live near one. Here are a few ways to maximise the positive environmental impact of what public transport is available to you.
18. Bus: Public transport is rarely as good as it could be, but (where possible) using public bus transport is great way of getting about. Most towns and cities have adequate bus coverage. Furthermore, you won’t get lost just as easy when the driver knows where they’re going!
19. Tram: Many European cities such as Manchester, Dublin, Athens, Rome, Lisbon and Paris have extensive tram networks. In North America there are many cities with tram networks including San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Count yourself lucky if you live in one these cities, trams are a great way of getting around.
20. Trains instead of planes: Many haven’t realised this yet but those good old trains emit much less pollution and can carry more passengers than aircraft. Using the train network is a viable option, especially if journeying city-to-city within Europe and places like Japan where the infrastructure is good and the trains are reliable. Also, there’s a saving on hassle because train travel can allow you to use your time to travel instead of standing in a queue at checkin or customs.
21. Subway: The list of cities in the Americas and Europe with mass rapid transport systems (both over and underground) is extensive. In most inner cities it is futile to try and drive anywhere so you might as well use public transport to get around. It just so happens that this is much more green. And it’s good to be green™.
It’s a fact of life that there are some trips where air travel is the only feasible way to get there, without taking up a large chunk of your precious time. However convenient air travel undoubtedly is, you should remember that during your trip hundreds of tons of damaging greenhouse gases are pumped out into the atmosphere. Scientific evidence suggests that the effects of distributing gases at 30,000ft+ are considerable. Here are a few tips to fly as green as possible.
22. Online instead of face to face: There are so many different online meeting solutions that let you chat, video conference, share and edit documents with presenters and delegates. These are so good that you can conduct business from your desk instead of flying. Of course there will be times when you simply must go and meet the person, but if every business could replace some flights with an online meeting things will start looking up for our shared environment.
23. Think about where you are going: Sure, you need a break on the beach. But do you have to fly to Egypt when you can catch a train to somewhere in France or Spain? For our American friends, why not vacation in Florida or North / South Carolina instead of the Caribbean? If you can choose a destination closer to home you might not need to fly at all and take the train instead.
24. Combine work and play: If you just have to attend a meeting somewhere overseas, why not book a few days off after the meeting and stay there for a week or so? That way you get the best of both worlds and you don’t have to fly as much, which will massively reduce your carbon footprint.
25. Carbon offset flights: Many airlines are waking up to carbon offsetting and passing some of the expense on to their passengers. If you are so inclined (and can afford it) you can pay a little extra for your flight and the airline will take your extra money and invest it directly into planting trees. Companies such as Treeflights exist in the UK to do just that, planting trees in Wales and Peru.
26. Travelling to the airport: Most hub and regional airports have good public transport links, which means you can catch the bus or train instead of driving to the airport and adding to your carbon footprint even more.
27. Pack light: Your luggage is weighed at checkin so that the amount of fuel needed for the flight can be calculated. Rudimentary mathematics suggests that when it comes to luggage and emissions, less is more.
28. Air travel ticketing: Simple, choose an electronic ticket rather than a paper ticket and thereby reduce the need for paper to be wasted.
When you are done travelling and you’ve arrived, keep up with your green habits. One of the biggest contributors to global warming is sloppy environmental practices at home, so you need to continue turning off lights and being good to the environment. This is especially important in poorer countries with underdeveloped infrastructure. You should remember that while your hotel has no shortage of water and electricity, the villagers nearby aren’t so fortunate.
29. Hotel: During your hotel stay, try not to waste energy unnecessarily by continuing what you perhaps already practice at home. You can do this by turning off the tv, switching all the lights off and turning the A/C or heat down where you go out. Also, you could opt for short showers and use your own toiletries instead of the small and usually over-packaged small hotel toiletries.
30. Stay green: There are lots of green hotels around the world. Why not stay somewhere that actively promotes the green lifestyle when you’re away?
31. Taking home memories: Avoid disposable cameras and bring your own digital camera. Like any other modern device which takes loads of energy to make and only get used once before being dumped, disposable cameras are rather wasteful.