Travel is often seen as an essential part of modern life. We need to travel to work and as part of our jobs. Many of use also travel to the shops, meet friends, and for leisure and recreation. Our travel choices can have a big impact on the environment, our own carbon footprint and health. Research by the Environmental Transport Association found that people in cars suffer three times as much pollution because they are sitting in a line of exhaust fumes from the car in front.
Does it have to be by car?
Walking is the cheapest and most efficient ways to get around, as it does not require any special equipment and does not produce any more pollution e.g, much from The most popular reason for walking is to go shopping (23%) followed by personal business or accompanying another person.
People living in households with a car walk less than those in households without a car: 261km/163 miles per year compared to 424km/265 miles. However men who are the main driver of a company car walk at least of all/221km/331 miles per year on average.
Smarter driving techniques
Research by DEFRA suggest that carbon dioxide emissions from private cars rose by 4% between 1990 and 2006. Over the same period road traffic volumes have increased by 20%. (Source: DEFRA indicators in your pocket)
By driving using “eco driving” or smarter driving techniques can save you about £190.00 a year in petrol or diesel. Research by the Energy Saving Trust suggests that 50% of drivers felt they would drive more efficiently if they were better informed about “eco driving techniques” and 48% would be prepared to pay for lesson in smarter driving techniques. Here are a few eco driving tips to get you on your way.
- Check your revs before changing gears – aim for around 2,500 rpm for petrol cars and 2,000 rpm for diesel cars. Changing up at these relatively low revolutions saves fuel because an engine’s internal friction increases with engine speed. With modern engines its more efficient to change gear at the recommended revs, even if to achieve a reasonable level of acceleration you have to compensate by accelerating harder.
- Watch your speed and slow down! Speeds above approximately 40 – 45 mph fuel consumption increases with speed because air resistance and engine friction also increase with speed. The effect can be dramatic – for example cars consume approximately 15% more fuel at 70mph than they do at 50mph.
Think ahead and anticipate road conditions – avoiding sharp acceleration and heavy breaking. This will save fuel, wear and tear on engine and breaks, and help reduce accidents. In an urban environment this can make a tremendous amount of difference since driving at constant low speeds requires very little fuel or power.
Step off the accelerator early. When slowing down or driving downhill a modern vehicle recognises that it does not need to power the wheels so reduces fuel flow to the engine to virtually zero. This uses less fuel than coasting in neutral. Therefore the advice is to always step off the accelerator as early as possible, e.g, when approaching a red light or roundabout.
- Use air conditioning sparingly as it significantly increases fuel consumption. Air conditioning systems use mechanical power from vehicle engines to drive their compressors. These compressors significantly increase fuel consumption. Research by Agency of Environmental Management in France found that for the typical use over 12 months of a car with air conditioning would consume about 5% more fuel than the same car without a/c. However at high speeds typically 45 – 50 mph opening a window is likely to cause fuel consumption to increase due to increased air resistance.
- Declutter your car and travel light! Vehicle manufacturers go to a great deal or trouble to ensure their car designs are as aerodynamic as possible, even looking at items such as door handles and badges. Therefore it’s no surprise that large items such as roof racks, roof boxes and bike carriers greatly increase fuel consumption at medium to high speeds. Researchers in Spain concluded that at 75mph, a typical roof rack can increase fuel consumption by 16%, and a roof box by 39%. Therefore remember to remove roof boxes, roof racks, bike racks etc when not it use. Carrying excess weight also increases fuel consumption so remember to remove large items, e.g, tools or golf clubs when not required.
- Turn off in a jam. Re-starting a modern engine incurs virtually no penalty in terms of fuel consumption so whenever you turn your engine off – even for a few seconds – you will be saving fuel. For older vehicles with carburettors, which were common until the 1980’s, re-starting the engine would use more fuel as some unburned fuel would pass straight through the engine. As a legacy of this many older drivers are resistant to the idea that turning off the engine for a short time can save fuel.
- Check your tyre pressure regularly - under-inflated tyres are dangerous. Tyres under-inflated by 25% will typically increase fuel consumption by around 2%. Its easy check your tyre pressure using an inexpensive tyre gauge and foot pump. Alternatively you can make use of digital air pumps available at many garages.
- Can you walk or cycle instead? Try to avoid short journeys, or if this is not possible, combine them because a cold engine burns more fuel and produces more emissions.
- Plan your route to minimise the chances of getting lost. Make sure you have a road atlas or use one of the many online route planning tools. “Sav – navs” can be a useful aid if you regularly drive to unfamiliar places.
(Source: Energy Saving Trust)
Buy a greener car
The type of car you own, the way you drive it and the fuel you use can have a big impact on the emissions it produces. Personal car travel produces 13 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions and it contributes to local air pollution and congestion.
Buying a greener car doesn't mean you have to compromise. More fuel efficient cars use less fuel so they produce fewer emissions, as well as saving you money on fuel bills and on Vehicle Tax. When you’re looking at the fuel efficiency of a car remember that generally smaller cars and smaller engines are more fuel efficient.
Try a greener fuel
There are many types of more efficient fuels available. The main ones are:
- Electric Cars or “Smart Cars” do not produce any emissions when they are driven but does produce emissions when the electricity is generated.
- Hybrid – these cars have a petrol engine combined with a battery. They have a high level of fuel efficiency without compromising on performance, e.g, Honda Civic and Toyota Prius
- LPG – currently not available for purchase in the UK but petrol cars can be converted. The use of LPG has been known to increase air quality but the car has to be engineered and maintained.
Air travel currently accounts for 6.3% of the of UK’s total CO2 emissions. This figure is set to increase to 10 – 16% of carbon emissions by 2020. One long haul flight has less of an environmental impact than several short haul flights. If you do fly, consider buying a carbon credit to off set the impact of your flight. For example a return flight from London to Los Angeles produces 3.48 tonnes of carbon dioxide and costs £30.64 to buy carbon offsets.
Remember carbon credits “put back” the carbon used in a flight. You should still consider if the flight is really necessary.