Choices that will save money and help the environment

Share the ride

Firstly, a great way to reduce your carbon footprint during your commute is to car share or take public transportation. Give your neighbour, colleague and friends a lift or ask for one yourself.  When it’s your turn to be the passenger, you'll have the benefit of free time during the commute to read, rest or eat breakfast. Car sharing saves on petrol and reduces traffic on road. They’re many sites on the internet that provide a car sharing service to help you find other people in your area going your way. Obviously take precautions before getting in a car with a stranger.

Walk or cycle

Get those walking shoes out and walk where you can, It saves money whilst having great health benefits. Since the Olympics, a lot of people cycle to work, cycling is a great alternative to the car. In this epidemic of obesity, research shows that active commuters (people who walk or cycle to work) tend to be slimmer and fitter.

Plan trips and combine errands

If you must drive, with a few minutes of forward planning, you'll not only spend less time behind the wheel, but both you and the environment will save on fuel and Co2 emissions. Vehicles are least fuel efficient and most polluting at the start of trips and on short trips. One reason for this is that catalytic converters (which reduce air pollution emissions) do not operate properly until they have warmed up. Trips of less than three miles generally do not allow the engine to reach its peak operating temperature. Try as much as possible to “Trip chain" this means combining drives to work, appointments, shopping and errands into as few trips as possible.

Plan your driving journeys by jotting down your errands and activities for the following week. If you know you have to visit the supermarket, plan to go after work when there is less traffic or when you’re taking the kids to their evening club, you can link both errands and save fuel. When combining multiple trips, do the longest leg first and work your way back, this ensures the vehicle is warmed up as much as possible before subjecting it to multiple starts and stops.

Leave in plenty of time for your journey

Try leaving for your destination a little early so you don't feel pressure to drive faster. One of the most important barriers to driving safely and economically is rushing. Driving efficiently can be much more relaxing which reduces stress but as suggested above you need to plan in advance and allow a bit of extra time for your journey.

Avoid peak traffic

If you have the option, stagger your work hours to avoid travelling during peak traffic times. Roads full of other drivers means you have fewer options for using driving techniques that reduce fuel consumption.  By avoiding peak times, you’ll spend less time sitting in traffic, consume less fuel, and avoid additional stress.

Take the road less travelled

Generally speaking, if you have the option of choosing lightly travelled roads over busier ones, you give yourself more flexibility to employ a wider range of fuel saving techniques than if you are surrounded by other vehicles. You may even find that a somewhat longer, lightly travelled route may result in lower overall amount of fuel used than the shorter, busier route.

Avoid bad weather

Avoid driving in inclement weather if possible, as rain, snow or slush can dramatically increase rolling resistance.

Side-step Drive-Thru’s

You can save on fuel by avoiding the drive-thru window and parking your car instead. Every minute that you sit in a drive-thru line with your engine running is dumping unnecessary emissions into the atmosphere while wasting expensive fuel.

Warming the Engine

Many drivers still think it is good practice to warm a car up by letting the engine idle before heading off, but it is simply unnecessary for modern cars. Don’t start the engine until you're settled in the car and adjusted your seat, seatbelt, mirrors and your passengers are settled in and belted up. Also, don't start the engine until there's actually an opportunity to start driving, for example, wait until there’s a gap in traffic for when your exiting your driveway or parking space. 

Track your fuel consumption

One of the first steps in improving efficiency is tracking fuel consumption. Get in the habit of saving all your fuel receipts, recording distance travelled and fuel economy (MPG). There are many in-car options and apps available for vehicles that will help you monitor your fuel consumption.

Make fuel economy a game or challenge by competing against your friends and family, this can do wonders for increasing motivation to learn more and to refine your eco-driving skills.

Click to read further in this series - What is Eco Driving