Green driving tips you actually use?

Written by erin


For the past several years, we’ve published lots of green driving tips. So have others, and I’ve read many of them. Even so, I openly confess to enthusiastic early adoption of many such tips but fairly poor long-term persistent use.

Examples of my failures include slipshod attention to tire pressure, using my car as an auxiliary storage location, replacing my worn, low rolling resistance tires with a set that hug the road a little better, and driving faster than I should.

On the other hand, I count several successes: increased use of cruise control on my Prius, practicing super-smooth shifting on my manual transmission, and performing routine maintenance tasks (other than tire pressure adjustments) with clocklike precision.

As we approach the summer season, I want to solicit your successes with fuel-efficient driving so we can publish a roundup of practices our readers find practical. Send them our way, either by commenting below or by sending email to [email protected] We look forward to sharing.

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  1. Amanda De Rito

    So essentially, you are suggesting that I drive like my mother- slow and steady. I guess it’s just another way my mother has been proved right.

  2. PaulS

    After much thought about this subject, trying to come up with something that is memorable and works for a wide variety of personality types, I have come up with this phrase:
    There are many many tricks that can be used to decrease the amount of gas consumed during a trip to work, the store, school, etc. But if you just keep in mind “DRIVE GENTLY”, you’ll incorporate many of them automatically.
    Imagine (or put) a cup of water on the dashboard on seat next to you. Drive gently enough to keep it upright.
    For those thinking “I can’t stand people who drive slowly, it’s so annoying!” I say, try driving gently for just one trip. You’ll be surprised by
    a) It won’t take as much longer than you think to get where you’re going.
    b) You’ll feel a little more relaxed when you get out of the car.
    c) Remember: You’re saving MONEY.
    The trade off is the time to get somewhere vs how much gas you consume getting there. Take a bit more time, save a bit more gas (and MONEY).
    So: Drive gently.

  3. mbghtri

    When shopping, never drive by an empty parking space to see if there is one closer to the door. Most people drive up and down the rows of parking, hoping to find that elusive spot near the entrance of the establishment. I learned long ago that taking an open spot near the entrance/exit of the parking lot and walking an extra few yards uses much less fuel than driving in circles. It is also much easier to get in and out of the parking lot.
    As long as you are healthy enough to walk the distance, just take the first open spot you find.

  4. Eco-Ethics

    Ride a bike

  5. Breeze Olsson

    The best trick i know is to keep my coffee thermos open on the cup holder of my car. When I drive, I have to maneuver patiently enough not to spill/splash any liquid. of course… sometimes it backfires and I have to wipe the entire center section of the car, but then again, there is no down side to actually cleaning up the car once in a while! 😉

  6. T.J. Trimble

    Really, in the end, it comes down to a very simple thing: how much you press the gas pedal. While I like the ideas about having an open cup of something in the car — in reality, you want to go around turns quickly (and spill the water/coffee) because it means you’re braking less.
    The point: accelerate less, brake less. Keep the car at a constant speed as much as possible, look ahead to make sure you won’t have to accelerate to catch up (or make a light) or stop suddenly (to stop at a light). The less you brake, the less you have to accelerate. The less you accelerate, the less gas you use.
    Also, Costco and surely other membership-oriented stores offer free air for your tires — so you can just stop by the tire center whenever you’re there and get your tires filled.

  7. Becky C. (Sol Vista YSC)

    I am one of the people required to use the VSS (Vehicle Scheduling System. I input every trip made in our Impala and also input mileage for our transport van. According to Kelley Waite we are receiving incentives thru the clean air program as a result of our efforts, resulting in cost savings.
    We are also trying to car pool as much as possible.

  8. Lucas CP

    I use the stop light timing technique every time I drive, with quite a bit of success. I always look as far ahead in the distance as possible and let off the gas so I can coast up to and through the light. Making it through a long series of lights without coming to a full stop is quite satisfying too. Also, increasing your following distance helps a lot so you don’t have to drive as sporadically as the car in front of you.

  9. Kim

    And you don’t forget where you parked nearly as often if you have a “regular” spot! 😉
    As far as the topic at hand, I agree with PaulS. I tick off all sorts of people by only driving 2-3 mph over the speed limit (but fewer than if I drive the exact speed limit, hence the nudge up).
    And the illustration above (far right) shows my other tried-and-true trick: look ahead, otherwise a lot of times you’re just in a big hurry to stop.
    Other than that, I’ve really been trying to plan my trips so that I only make one trip to accomplish several errands and plan the route well so I don’t have to backtrack.

  10. Melissa G

    While I have inadvertantly been practicing green driving for years, it’s mostly due to the fact that I have owned a series of older, less than reliable cars. As a result, I can’t always count on smooth accelerations and noise free braking so instead, I focus on keeping the car at a constant speed without braking or accelerating too much.
    Unfortunately, I live in a city and pedestrians and bicyclist often get in the way with their illegal jaywalking and running red lights. I can’t keep my car at a constant speed when I have to constantly brake for reckless pedestrians and bikers. While I do bike and walk quite frequently, I wish all pedestrians and bicyclists were conscientious of vehicles and thought twice about jay walking. My old car and the environment would appreciate the gesture!

  11. PaulS

    The problem with trying to maintain speed is it wastes gas going up hills. Slow down gradually as you are going up hill (obviously this doesn’t apply to very long hills), and then speed back up after the crest. You gain most of the small amount of time lost slowing down, while using little gas, by using the down slope to increase speed back to your previous speed. Then, if the down hill is long enough, coast, ideally with the car in neutral (tho’ I’ve heard that some cars shut off the fuel injectors when coasting while in gear).
    Driving gently I get 39 mpg in my 2000 Corolla and 34 in my ’92 Saab.

  12. Anonymous

    maybe more like your grandmother…

  13. dan

    I can get much better mileage on my prius by not using the cruise. the engine is on much more often when I think that it should be off when I use the cruise. It irks me off when I’m driving it and then engine is running and I think that it should be off. I’d like a switch that lets me turn it off regardless, but then I’d forget to turn it on or something, but my blood boils when the engine is on and I’m going downhill or something.
    driving my prius and watching my real time mileage has improved the mileage on my other cars quite a bit. in my civic I was getting about 30 or 31 mpg (combined) and now I average about 36 or 37.
    also, a huge improvement in mileage on the highway is to just slow down. in my prius, I get about 42 doing 73 or 74 on the open highway, about 45 doing 69 or 70, and about 48 or 49 doing 65. If I get about 3 or 4 seconds behind a semi doing 65, that goes up to about 55 or 56 mpg… I don’t tailgate, but 3 or 4 seconds gives me a good draft and makes a big difference. I always try to have a car in front of me, even if it’s a smaller one. I’d rather let them push the bulk of the air than me…

  14. BobboMax

    @ dan,
    Ref drafting the car (or truck) ahead, as long as you don’t cause a rear-ender, it actually benefits the other car too- that’s why NASCAR teammates draft each other. So you can draft without feeling concerned about exploiting the car ahead… as long as you don’t cause a wreck.
    I’ve often thought it would be nice to have BlueTooth brakes- when the car ahead brakes, it sends a signal to your car, which can then brake with computer reflexes, rather than sloooooow human reflexes.

  15. beforewisdom

    Like the Samy Haggar song goes “I can’t drive 55!”.
    What works for me is consolidating car trips.
    Even when I am not thinking of being green it saves me *time*.

  16. beforewisdom

    Well, before you go out driving fill up on whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit a few times a week instead of eating meat.

    Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius (PDF). A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week

    ( see this URL for citations)