Got green guilt and want to tweak your car’s carbon emissions? Us, too.

If you’re going large, you can make substantial changes like going hybrid or using biofuel.

“There are now hybrids to match almost any need,” says Tree Hugger[1]. “Two-door, four-door, SUV, luxury sedan.” These vehicles travel further on the same amount of fuel as their conventional counterpart, which means they save you cash on fuel. They also have cleaner emissions.

Tree Hugger also notes that diesel engines can run on straight vegetable oil, though you will most likely need to make modifications to the engine to use it, at your own expense.

Even though biofuel can be scarce and hybrid cars expensive, there are lots of other ways you can make a difference to the environment WITH your fossil-fuelled car. But first, a quick explanation on fossil fuels. The oil and petrol or diesel we use to power our vehicles releases great volumes of carbon in the form of exhaust fumes. In the atmosphere, carbon traps the sun’s UV rays and warms the air, the ocean and the earth. The warmer the atmosphere, the more unpredictable the weather patterns. This is commonly called Climate Change and it causes phenomena like drought, crop failure, and natural disasters like floods, to happen more frequently in more places.

Eek! Want to know how to reduce your carbon contribution and still arrive at your destination in time? Here are a few ways you can ensure a greener drive:

  1. Don’t overfill it. Your fuel tank, that is. Overfilling can force fuel into the emissions canister which is designed to reduce the amount of crude fumes escaping into the air.
  2. Fill it up – with people. Carpooling saves fuel and bucks, but it also takes other cars off the road. It’s a fantastic way to share greenspiration and have a good laugh along the way.
  3. Inflate the tyres properly. “Under-inflated tires don’t roll as efficiently as fully inflated ones,” warns Popular Mechanics[2], “so your engine has to work harder to get them moving.” Check the type of tyre and the load in your car and adjust accordingly. BONUS: properly filled tyres last longer.
  4. Make sure that your car is serviced regularly for optimum engine and fuel efficiency so that you get more out of every drop of fuel your car burns. It’s great for your resale value, and it’s great for Mother Nature.
  5. Reduce the overall weight when you can. Been carting heavy boxes around in the boot? Drop them off at the charity store today. It will lighten your load. The heavier your car, the more fuel it consumes.
  6. Turn the aircon off. Easy in winter, a challenge in the South African summer. Popular Mechanics is on it. “A/C increases the strain on your car’s electrical system,” it says[3], “which makes the engine work harder to compensate, leading to higher fuel consumption.” If it’s really hot and you need the aircon on to avoid passing out, check that the system pressure and refrigerants levels aren’t too high or low. An A/C system that isn’t maintained doesn’t work as efficiently as one that is.
  7. Go to the carwash. Instead of using your own resources, use a company that is doing this in an efficient way. A car wash optimises its use of resources because it not only makes environmental sense, it makes business sense. Going greener is not only about using less fuel, it’s about using less water, less electricity, and the right products. Help small businesses and the earth by finding an eco-friendly car wash the next time your road-weary drive needs a bit of a clean. A company that uses water sparingly and makes use of certified environmentally friendly polishes, detergents and powders, is a double win.
  8. Drive differently. Always the first one away when the light goes green? Prone to dicing complete strangers on a double-lane road? Curb your competitiveness and help the planet cope. The faster you go, the lower your vehicle’s fuel economy meaning less mileage per litre of fuel used. Most cars lose optimum fuel economy over 80 kilometres per hour[i]. And even if you don’t do these things, maybe you let your petrol engine idle while you catch up with the neighbour at the gate? You’re getting no mileage there, and still belching carbon-heavy air. And if you plan your trips in advance, you can combine them so that you do more in a single trip and don’t have to double back. Also, use cruise control if you have it – it optimises fuel consumption at higher speeds by keeping the speed consistent.

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