A litre of petrol produces about 2.3 kilograms of greenhouse gases and more than half our air pollution. So let's use less to offset the emissions we can't avoid.
Our cities and society are built around car travel, yet the cars we drive require a lot of resources to produce and maintain, and the fuels we use are destroying the environment. As responsible, informed people we must "own" our personal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and work to address these through reduction and efficiency in our use of fossil fuels. We should also be prepared to offset as much atmospheric CO2 as possible.
How to do it now!
Drive less, walk, ride and use public transport. If you have to drive, plan to do a number of errands in one trip rather than several trips and save both time and fuel (for the first couple of minutes of a car trip the engine is cold and this results in an increase in fuel consumption per kilometre). Also, avoid peak-hour traffic whenever possible.
Offset your car's carbon emissions. A quick, effective and popular way to address the many tonnes of greenhouse gases we emit is to pay someone to offset this by planting enough trees to absorb our emitted CO2. Companies that provide this service include:
GreenFleet - non-profit - approximately $12.50 per tonne of CO2 offset.
Carbon Neutral - non-profit - approximately $20 per tonne of CO2 offset.
A more effective and permanent (but more expensive) way to offset your emissions is through investments in renewable power generation, which trades your fossil fuel use against reduced fossil fuel use elsewhere.
Importantly, offsets should not be a substitute for reducing the CO2 we emit in the first place!
Conserve fuel and drive economically
Three basic actions can reduce your fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by over 25%: tune your car, drive more slowly, and avoid using your air-conditioner. Basic car maintenance can save fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ensure your car (or bike) is regularly serviced and properly tuned (this can reduce fuel costs and emissions by up to 15 per cent).
Inflate tyres to the maximum recommended pressure.
Travel light - an extra 50kg increases fuel consumption by 2 per cent.
Remove roof racks when not in use to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag.
Drive a smaller, more efficient car.
Careful driving habits can conserve fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Avoid hard acceleration and heavy braking.
If driving a manual, select the correct gear - driving in a lower gear wastes fuel.
Drive more slowly - at 110km/h your car uses 25 per cent more fuel than it would cruising at 90km/h.
Use the air-conditioning sparingly - as it increases fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.
Put the car in neutral (or turn it off) at traffic lights or in gridlocked traffic - this reduces drag on the engine and conserves fuel.
A database on low emission vehicles is available at Green Wheels.
Why is this action important?
Transport accounts for a significant portion of most of our personal CO2 emissions. Reducing the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere is critical if we are to address climate change and the environmental havoc it is causing. Reduced car use, increased car efficiency and carbon neutralising, via offsetting your emissions, can lead to both a carbon and cost-neutral solution. It also helps us understand the services nature provides in absorbing our waste and our role in facilitating this cycle.