Published on May 13th, 2014 | by Jordan

3 Steps to Becoming a Greener, More Eco-friendly Driver

A lot of Canadians don’t think further than the pumps when asked what really runs their cars. Combustion engines and fossil fuels aren’t exactly water-cooler topics, but without meaningful dialogue, it can be hard for people to learn and understand just how harmful CO2 emissions are to our planet.

Simply put, burning fossil fuels (gasoline and diesel) produce carbon dioxide emissions (also known as greenhouse gases) which heat in our atmosphere and increase the earth’s temperature over time. These emissions pollute the air and form smog which affects air quality, the health of living creatures and our environment. It also contributes to the formation of acid rain, the effects of which are felt by fish populations, trees, plants, and soil.

The good news is that technological developments are breaking new ground when it comes to producing cleaner vehicles. Some of the newest cars and SUVs on the road use electric power or biofuel – a type of fuel whose energy can be derived from cleaner-burning and renewable plant-based resources. Realistically, not everyone is in the position to purchase an electric or biofuel-powered vehicle, so we’ve compiled a list of things every car owner can do in order to offset or improve their carbon footprint.

Getting the most out of your tank:
You don’t need to own a hybrid vehicle to be a more eco-friendly driver; reducing your fuel consumption is as easy as making a few small changes to the way you drive. Lighten your load by removing unused roof-racks or trunk clutter, and ensure that your tires are properly inflated – underinflated tires can reduce fuel economy by as much as 25%! Ensuring your vehicle is regularly serviced can significantly boost your fuel economy as well; dirty air filters can reduce mileage up to 20%, where spark plugs in poor condition can bring your efficiency down 12%. When it comes down to it, keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape can greatly impact your fuel consumption. It’s not bad for your wallet either, so it’s a win for you as much as it is the environment.

Reduce, reuse, refine:
Re-refined motor oil reduces the need to tap crude resources and allows environmentally conscious motorists the opportunity to “close the loop” by recycling their used motor oil and purchasing re-refined oil. The refinement process uses up to 85% less energy than producing conventional crude oil from non-renewable resources, and the end result can even exceed North American standards for performance. Re-refined oil is one of the easiest ways to become a more eco-friendly driver and a great way to protect our limited natural resources.

Carbon offsetting:
Even if you make eco-vehicle choices and implement eco-driving strategies to reduce the transportation component of your carbon footprint, chances are your daily activities will still produce a sizeable amount of greenhouse gas. So what can you do? Buying carbon offsets is one option. These offsets represent a reduction in greenhouse gas achieved through investments in renewable energy projects like solar panels, hydro-electricity, tree planting and others. One carbon offset means that one less tonne of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere than there otherwise would have been. For example, if you drive 15 km per day to work, you’ll produce roughly one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions  per year. By purchasing one carbon offset, 5 trees will be planted in order to absorb that amount over the course of their lives. Carbon offsetting alone will not stop climate change, but it’s one thing you can do to start making a difference.

For more eco-driving tips and information about reducing your carbon footprint, check out CAA’s Autogreen program

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