Sunday, January 7, 2007

Auto-shop 101 WEEK

While we're on the topic of driving, here are some super-fast ways you will instantly lower your carbon dioxide footprint before you even cut any miles out. (But I am still waiting to hear what people are pledging for the driving diet...come on-buck up, folks!)

Apparently, by checking monthly to make sure your tires are appropriately inflated, you will save 250 pounds of CO2 a year and over $800 because your gas mileage will be that much better! I have no idea what the proper amount of inflation is, so I'll be asking a friendly mechanic for guidance on that one.

I'm always skeptical at EZ Lube when they tell me I need a new air filter, but perhaps they weren't just trying to rip me off. Maybe they were even trying to help me save money, because you will save an estimated $150 annually and, most importantly, 800-1000 pounds of CO2 a year! My car knowledge is in the sub-zero range, but apparently, a functioning air filter improves horsepower and gas mileage by getting rid of the bad particulates in the air before they hit the engine. And you don't even have to pay the guys at Jiffy Lube to do it--here's an article on how to change it yourself:

If you're carrying around your life in your backseat or trunk, your gas mileage is not as good as it could be. Obviously, extra weight lowers fuel efficiency. And cleaning out clutter from your car will just make you feel better anyway.

Clearly, when you idle, your MPG is 0. Apparently, even on a very cold winter day, 30 seconds of idling is the most you need to warm up your car, and according to the Department of Energy, "The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it." If you frequent drive-through restaurants, banks, pharmacies, or whatever, turn off your engine while waiting.

I can't even count the number of times AAA has bailed me out in my 10+ years of driving. Ah, the memories...There have been the innumerable keys locked in the car, the poor judgement leading to empty gas tanks on the freeway (yes, more than once), and numerous mysterious mechanical failures. I hate to always be the bearer of bad news, but it is now widely reported that AAA uses its members' dues and popular name to lobby against clean air regulations (they pretty much deny that cars even pollute), FOR more highways, and against public transportation. Geez, they even oppose bike paths! They are basically highway lobbyists...and you are too, if you pay them dues! But there is fortunately an alternate auto club that is actually FOR the environment (thanks greenLA girl for the tip). Better World Club donates 1% of their revenue to environmental cleanup and advocacy. They support environmental legislation, alternative transportation and cleaner air. They give discounts to hybrid owners and for hybrid rentals, offer roadside bicycle assistance, help you offset your CO2 emissions, and give you $40 gas coupons for joining. All that, and they provide the same basic services as AAA--roadside assistance, towing, those cool "triptix" maps, and discounts on hotels and other travel services. The cost of membership is the same or less than AAA, and they use many of the same local towing companies, so the response time is also around 30 minutes. You can still have the peace of mind that you will be rescued off the side of the road without unwittingly being a part of an anti-environmental lobby! I'm making the switch!


Emipants said...

your tip on better world club could NOT have come at a better time! Renewing my AAA membership was at the top of my list of things to do--but no more! I'll make the switch too!

Shauna said...

aaaaah! I just renewed our AAA membership. We'll be switching next time around.

Becky L. said...

Here are a couple things I've been trying to do, too...

According to, driving the speed limit (65mph as opposed to my usual 75-80mph) increases your fuel efficiency by 15 percent.

Another cool thing that Emily introduced me to is a TerraPass ( -- they calculate your annual carbon emissions for driving, and then you can buy a credit to help offset the pollution. The money funds renewable energy projects like wind farms. They also have flight and home passes, and are independently audited so you know your money isn't lining someone's pockets.