Getting Around Greener: Part 2 – Driving Greener

About this series: As a BTG supporter, you understand that our transportation choices have tremendous ecological impacts, but you may not be aware of the latest innovations and improvements in your options. With this series, we hope to help you find new ways to both lower your individual impact now and move us all toward a sustainable transportation system as soon as possible. Please send us your suggestions.

In Part 1, we looked at options for getting around without a car at least some of the time as well as how some of us may even be able to avoid owning a car entirely.

Now, in Part 2, we look at how to drive greener when you do and what to consider when trying to decide whether to keep your current car or buy a new one.

Green Driving and Maintenance

The first step to getting around greener with a car is to make sure your driving style is energy-efficient and your current car is properly maintained. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy offers excellent Green Driving and Maintenance tips.

Is it greener to buy a new car or to keep driving my old one?

The next question people often ask is, “Is it greener to buy a new car or to keep driving my old one?” Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer to that question. If your car is more than seven years old and you would buy something of equal size or smaller, the answer is likely “yes,” especially if you choose a high-MPG hybrid. Modern cars are substantially more fuel-efficient than comparable older cars. Consequently, you will reduce your overall energy use and the global warming pollution you produce by buying a new car. The general rule is that 85-90% of a vehicle’s life-cycle energy use occurs while the car is being operated. Just 10-15% occurs during manufacturing and disposal. Modern cars also emit much less smog-forming air pollution than older cars.

Another option is a late-model used car (and there are late-model used hybrids available), giving you most of the benefits of recent improvements in efficiency and pollution control without being responsible for the energy it takes to manufacture a brand-new car.
And remember to right-size when you buy a car, choosing the passenger and carrying capacity you need frequently and renting or borrowing a larger vehicle when you need more. The money you save on gasoline year-round by driving a smaller automobile should easily pay for the occasional rental.

Next: In Part 3, we’ll address the question, “Is It Time to Buy a Plug-in Electric Car?”