Many of us have started to become more eco-conscious over the last few years — and about time. Thanks to the beyond-her-years wisdom of Greta Thurnberg, worrying climate change reports, inaction from the government, and David Attenborough’s nature documentaries making us cry on the reg, the planet’s wellbeing is rapidly rising to the top of our priority list.
And although we try to make positive changes where we can, there is one big problem that is hard to mitigate: driving.
While driving is one of the worst ways to travel in terms of environmental impact, in a lot of situations, it’s just not practical to use public transport or ride a bike. So how can you become a more eco-friendly driver and turn this mode of transport that is generally considered bad for the environment more sustainable?
Here, we’ve taken a look at some great — and achievable — steps that regular drivers can take to become more sustainable.
Plan your driving route
Whenever you have to drive somewhere, take some time before you go to plan your route.
Even if it’s a journey you’ve made hundreds of times, you might be surprised to find a quicker, more efficient route. You might find a shortcut you didn’t know about or realise a slightly different route is a few miles longer but a whole lot quicker.
And try to plan your trip to avoid rush hour traffic in cities and on the motorways — you’ll save yourself time and waste less petrol.
Maintain your car
Small bits of car maintenance that sometimes get overlooked can make a real difference to how many miles per gallon (MPG) your car can do. Increasing how far you can drive on the same amount of fuel is a good starting point for becoming more sustainable.
Ensure that your tires are always fully inflated. When your tires are underinflated it means the car’s engine has to work harder to make them turn, which uses up more fuel. Keeping them properly inflated makes it safer to drive, helps your tires last longer, and increases your MPG.
Keeping your car well maintained including using the recommended motor oil for your car and replacing air filters regularly will make small but noticeable improvements to your MPG.
Accelerating quickly and breaking suddenly burns through a lot more petrol than if you can stick to a steady speed. Try to stay within the speed limits at all times and brake slowly to save money and make your driving more sustainable.
Use a fuel card
Fuel cards are simply credit cards limited to paying for fuel, that can help drivers make small changes to become more sustainable (plus, if you’re also looking to save money on petrol then fuel cards are an option that can make a real difference).
With all your fuel purchases recorded in one system, it can give you a better overview of how much fuel you are using. You’ll be able to find ways of reducing your journeys, optimising routes, and cutting down your fuel consumption.
And it also cuts down on the amount of paperwork if you’re driving for work — there’s no need to collect paper receipts and invoices or fill in expenses forms.
Obviously, this isn’t one you can practice in times of COVID, but once lockdowns and limitations are lifted, then lift-sharing is a great option for you.
If catching the bus or cycling to work isn’t a change that is possible for you, then find out if you can share lifts with any of your colleagues. There’s a good chance that someone from your office will be driving a similar route each day and it’ll make your commute more sustainable. Plus you’ll both be able to save money on petrol.
Many cities even have lanes exclusively for cars with two or more passengers during rush hour so it could even speed up your journey. And if you don’t know anyone you can share a ride with, you can use car-sharing sites to find people making similar journeys near you.
Switch off the air conditioning
As tempting as it is to sit in a cool, air conditioned car during the summer months, it has a serious impact on the environment. As well as burning more fuel, air conditioning systems are also using greenhouse gases that frequently escape into the atmosphere, especially from your car.
However, it’s not quite as simple as just winding down your windows 24/7 — that can actually cause more drag on your car and use more petrol, completely defeating the object of not using air con in the first place.
The best advice is to have the windows down when you’re driving slower in cities, but when you get over 55mph switching on the air conditioning is actually more sustainable.
Choose an electric car
And finally, if you’re ready to make some bigger changes to become a more sustainable driver then you should consider investing in an electric car.
It’s an expensive upfront cost, but over their lifetime electric cars produce far less pollution and offer a far more environmentally friendly way to drive.
Driving sustainable requires some planning and consideration, but by following these simple steps you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and also save yourself some money. Win win.