Cars are the second largest source of carbon emission. Ideally, you could reduce your carbon footprint by going for an alternative means of transport -- thereby keeping a check on your carbon commute. The other option is to buy an eco friendly vehicle or a green car. But if you are not in a position to opt for these two choices and you have to use your car to commute, then go for green driving.
The Netherlands Ministry of Spatial Planning, Housing and the Environment has defined green driving or eco-driving as “a driving style designed to reduce fuel consumption, cut emissions and improve safety.”
 Growing Importance of Green Driving
It has been estimated green driving can reduce fuel consumption by 25% and CO2 emissions by as much as 20%. This way motorists will not just save money, but also do their bit towards protecting the planet. In the original 15 European Union member states, it was found that a 10% decrease in fuel consumption translates into 25 billion litres of fuel and 50 mega-tonnes carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The European Climate Change Programme has calculated that if there was a Europe-wide adoption of eco-driving across present EU member states, there would be a saving of 25 billion litres of fuel by 2010.
The emphasis on green driving is not just restricted to conscious citizens. Governments across the world are taking initiatives to encourage green driving. In the United Kingdom, the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) outlined a set of recommendations to encourage green driving. It proposes that governments could play a role in promoting greater adherence to the 70mph speed limit on the roads. According to the CfIT, 56 per cent of drivers exceed the 70mph limit on motorways, with 19 per cent of them going at speeds of more than 80mph. It observes that enforcing just the speed limit could save around one million tonnes of carbon a year.
 Tips for Eco-Friendly Driving
Eco-friendly driving is not just limited to the time you are driving, but what you do before and after your car journey is also relevant. At the heart of driving green is good maintenance.
Prior to Driving
- Plan your journey and know the route to your destination. Motorists waste 350,000 tonnes of fuel per year getting lost.
- Avoid making short trips as short trips of less than 10 km increase fuel consumption by 20% in summer and by 50% in winter. The solution is to combine several short trips and make one long trip.
- Avoid traveling during the rush hours.
- Go for a regular maintenance. Get your vehicle's emission control system checked periodically. Ensure that the exhaust system is inspected. This might not be included in regular maintenance.
- Check your tyres regularly. Ensure that they are not too worn.
- Ensure that your tyres are inflated to the pressure recommended for the vehicle (This information is often printed inside the door frame or in the owner's manual.) The fuel efficiency of your vehicle increases by 5% if the tyres are inflated to the proper level.
- Buy low-rolling-resistance (LRR) replacement tires. If you switch to regular replacement tires, it will lower the vehicle's fuel efficiency by as much as 4 percent.
- Check the mileage of your vehicle every few weeks. If the mileage falls below the usual level, then get your vehicle checked for minor problems.
- Remove unnecessary items from the boot of your car. Every 45kg taken off the car can save 1% on fuel.
- You do not need to fill the petrol tank to its capacity every time you go for a refill. Fill a little over the required quantity and do away with the unnecessary load on your car.
- Do not go for premium, high-octane fuels unless your owner's manual says otherwise.
- Be sure to check for worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low brake fluid reserve and low transmission fluid; have your wheels aligned and tires rotated; and replace the air filter if needed. Make sure all used vehicle fluids are recycled or disposed of safely.
- Replace the oil and oil filter regularly to improve fuel economy.
- Don't overfill the gas tank or try to top it off beyond where the automatic nozzle clicks off. Spilled gasoline evaporates to aggravate smog formation and can leak into groundwater.
- Use a low-level blend of ethanol and gasoline. This is commonly referred to as "gasohol". Most conventional automobiles and high trucks can use gasoline blended with up to 10% ethanol, without any modification to their fuel systems or engines, and still be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
- Have your CFC air conditioners serviced by a garage with equipment to recover the CFCs.
- Drive at 70mph rather than 85mph. You can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 40%. If you slow down, you can reduce co2 emissions even further as driving at 70mph uses up to 30% more petrol than driving at 50mph.
- If you have to drive at higher speeds, shut the windows and sunroof and open the air vents instead.
- Minimise idling. An idle engine generates 80% more pollution than when the vehicle is in motion. Idling can also be minimized by rolling slowly to a stop in queues, and by switching off the engine whnever possible. However, if you still have to leave your engine in an idle state, then do so for no more than 30 seconds – and that too during its initial start. Incidentally, car engines warm up faster when they are in motion.
- You do not need to warm up your engine i.e. to step on the gas pedal before starting the engine as most have automatic chokes.
- Turn off your air-conditioning as it uses 15% more fuel. In fact, all on board electronics use extra fuel. Your rear screen heater for example adds 5% to the fuel consumption.
- Change gear at the right time; 15% fuel saving can accrue from consistently changing gear between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm.
- Accelerate evenly and smoothly and avoid braking sharply. Think ahead to avoid sharp braking - it just wastes energy.
- If your vehicle has overdrive gear, use it at cruising speeds. If you have a manual gear system, change to a higher gear as soon as possible. Running in a higher gear decreases the rpm (rotation per minute) and will decrease fuel use and engine wear.
- When driving down hill, leave the accelerator and let gravity move the vehicle.
- The owner's manual for a 1992 Ford Taurus recommends the following upshifts for best fuel economy when accelerating:
- First to Second - 27 km/h
- Second to Third - 44 km/h
- Third to Fourth - 56 km/h
- Fourth to Fifth - 70 km/h
If you have a habit of routinely and needlessly shifting down through each of the gears in turn, check it.
After the Drive
- To keep your car cool in summer, park it in the shade to minimize evaporation of fuel.
- To keep your car warm in winter and cool in summer, park your vehicle in a garage if you have one.
- Use windshield shades to cut down on summer heat and help keep the frost off in the winter when parking outdoors.
 Did You Know?
- Traffic lights are programmed to change according to the speed limit. After being stopped at one red light, if you drive on at a sedate speed you will usually find that by the time you reach the next few sets of lights, they will be turning green for you.
- The engine with a block heater allows easier starting and more rapid warm-up, and greatly reduces engine wear.
- Catalytic converters take at least 6 miles to become effective. 61% of journeys undertaken in the United States are under 2 miles and 40% of trips in the UK are of less than 3 miles.
- Minimum emissions occur between 40-60 miles per hour and increase with higher speeds.
- Tyres can lose about 1 pound of pressure in a month, so check the air pressure regularly and always before going on a long trip or carrying heavy loads.
- It has been estimated that a 16 kilometre trip taken in heavy traffic over 30 minutes generates seven grams of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The same trip in light traffic over 11 minutes produces only two grams of VOCs (a 250% decrease).
- Every 6000 miles a car generates its own weight in CO2. Give your car a holiday.
- A dirty air filter can cause an engine to consume over 2% more fuel. Rural vehicles traveling on dusty roads will need air filter changes more often.
- One second of high-powered driving can produce nearly the same volume of carbon monoxide emissions as a half hour of normal driving.
- A 50% reduction in gear change reduces fuel consumption by a saving of 7%.
- Carrying around an extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by about 1 percent.
- For every 3 pounds below recommended pressure, fuel economy goes down by about 1 percent.
- Government to encourage 'eco-driving'
- Life in the green lane