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Spring Cleaning: Commute Your Driving Sins

If you can’t ditch your car, you’re not alone. But there are things you can do to clean up your gas usage.

This challenge is in partnership with Levi's ®


Global warming is getting worse, and so are our commutes. The 2010 American Community Survey showed that in 2009 the number of commuters driving alone increased half a percentage point to 76.6 percent, a total of about 100 million people. Meanwhile, the percentage who took public transportation slightly decreased to 4.9 percent.

Of course, you already know some of the easiest ways to help curb pollution. Carpool. Take the bus. Take the metro. Bike to work at least once a week and get fit in the process. (The first few days on the road can be intimidating, but follow a few simple tips and confidence will follow.) Or make your other car an electric bike. Walk, and enjoy some spring air. Our December human infographic on traffic in Los Angeles showed how much better traffic flow would become if just 3 percent of the city’s drivers switched to taking public transportation or biking to work.

If you can’t ditch your car, you’re not alone. There are 808 cars for every 1000 people in the U.S, second only to Monaco. Transportation counts for 28 percent of America’s total energy use, and the average car only travels 22.5 miles per gallon. Twenty percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from transportation. And one gallon of gasoline takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce, so you may be inadvertently using more than 500 gallons of water every time you fill up. But there are things you can do to clean up your car’s gas usage:

  • Usually, the older your car is, the less fuel-efficient it is. If you keep your speed at 55 or below, your car won’t have to work as hard and you’ll save gas. (Are you really in a hurry to get to work, anyway?) If you’re waiting for a train to pass or are stuck behind a police blockage, turn off your engine. Avoid sudden stops or quick revs of your engine. And make sure your car is up to date as far as installing clean air filters and getting regular maintenance and tune-ups. Lastly, keep your tires fully inflated; being low on air can be a huge gas suck.
  • If you’re ready to switch to a greener car, the Environmental Protection Agency’s green vehicle guide can help you find the right one for you, or evaluate how earth-friendly your current car is. Or check out greencars.org for an extensive list of vehicles rated by environmental standards. The Toyota Prius tops the list, traveling 51 mpg, followed by the Honda Insight and the Scion IQ. Electric cars only make up a tiny fraction of vehicles on the road in America, but the Mitsubishi I-Miev electric car won the top spot for greenest vehicle of 2012.
  • April isn’t just Spring Cleaning Month, it’s also—who knew—National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the Department of Transportation. Texting or talking while driving means more accidents, which means more rubbernecking, slower traffic and wasted gas for the rest of us. So, a basic way to clean up your commute is simply to focus on the task at hand.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Molbot

To learn more about how you can save water every day, click here and take the Water<Less Challenge.

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