June 6, 2008

Step #2 - Reduce your emissions

Change #1

Until recently, Rob drove a Chevy Tahoe. Although we really did like the comfort and spaciousness of the big bohemoth, we did not like it's gas mileage (15-17 mpg). We also found that we only rarely had much more than just the two of us to haul around. So about four months ago we made the decision that it was time to get rid of the big behemoth and trade it for a greener vehicle.

We looked and we looked, and finally settled on the Toyota Camry hybrid or the Prius. We test-drove both, rented a Prius for a weekend, and talked it over for what seemed like weeks. It seems that we just couldn't decide between the two until one day...Ding!...On went the lightbulb and it came to us that if we couldn't decide between the two, maybe we should just pick the one that is better for the planet. Voila - decision made. Since the new Prius arrived in our driveway, Rob has literally tripled his gas mileage. Now he's working on getting much higher gas mileage as the engine wears in.

We've found that we now take the Prius on all our errands except the dirty ones - my Matrix has a fairly large, plastic-lined trunk area, which makes it perfect for hauling plants and bags of mulch.

Change #2

But we didn't stop there. I've given up my parking pass and started taking public transportation to work. I started this last summer, when I thought I'd try out the brand new extension of our regional light rail system. The first line ran between the airport and downtown, which was great, but it didn't seem to serve most of the people who commute by car to work. The new line, however, ends about four miles our house.

My driving commute included 20 minutes of drive time, plus five minutes to walk from the parking garage to the office. Between the drive to the train station and the 45 minute train ride downtown, my commute is roughly one hour. The added 35 minutes each way are tough on the days when I just want to go home, throw on some old clothes and work in the yard. On the other hand, the ride time does seem to help me decompress on the way home, so I tend to arrive home a tad happier and a little less stressed out. I think it's a good trade-off.

Last year I switched back to driving when the shorter days came. I have a hard time convincing myself that the extra hour of train time was worth it when it means I have zero time at home in the daylight. Does that seem like a cop-out? Hard to tell...but at least I'm reducing my mileage during 6 months out of the year.

Change #3

Even when I commute to work every day, I drive a maximum of about 8,500 miles a year. I can go anywhere from 4-6 months without needing an oil change, and by then the little sticker that the oil change folks placed on my windshield is long since illegible. This means that I have a hard time remembering to get my oil changed or my tires rotated on a regular basis. Although I probably should have known this, I had no idea that forgetting to take my car in would seriously affect my mileage.

About six weeks ago I was cleaning out my glove box, pulled out an old receipt and realized that it had been over 5,000 miles since my last oil change. I took the car in and had them change the oil and oil filter, and rotate and balance my tires. Ever since, my gas mileage has increased from 30 mpg to 36 mpg, a 20% increase.

I'll be checking my tire pressure and keeping track of scheduled oil changes and tire rotations from now on.

The Results (so far)

Between these two changes, we should be able to cut our household gasoline use and vehicle-related emissions by more than 50%. Not too shabby, but I know we can do better. We're currently pondering an electric lawnmower, so that may be our next move toward household gas independence.

Does anyone out there have any other suggestions for our next step in our personal gas use and emissions reduction?

1 comment:

Chile said...

One way you might be able to remind yourself to check the oil is to make a note on the calendar. There are usually a few empty boxes at the beginning or end of the month. Jot down something like "Oil change needed at X miles" to remind you to go check the odometer. You could also put checking tire pressure on the calendar too.

Good changes so far!