Be A Green Driver

So, you're a car driver. Does this mean you're in trouble with the Environment Police? Not necessarily says Anna Semlyen. You can still take on a shade of green.

In 1996 used to pay an all-in cost of £48 each week to have the privilege of a small second-hand car. The F-reg Astra was mailnly use fo those occasional long trips. Cost was I initially reviewed my travel habits, but then sustainability came into play.

Okay, some journeys are car-based with no sensible alternative, but they are fewer than we think! We should be asking whether our purposes could be fulfilled more locally, whether journeys could be linked together and whether better use can be made of the car in general.

So how can you be an envionmentally friendly car driver. First try to limit the total miles driven to save money, be healthy and green. Using the phone, post, fax or internet more, e g to buy books. Working from home, growing food and home exercise are green too. Could you localise by living near others, work and facilities? Definitely go to the nearest possible place or meet midway as these are cheap and convenient. For instance, meeting at a station café might mean neither person needs to drive and you share the travel costs. Shorter distances also mean walking or cycling are likely to be more attractive.

Flexibility can often be a source of saving on travel. For example flexi-time, compressed working and waiting to link tasks in a planned way are all beneficial. Also try buying predominantly local goods and services to shorten the transport chain.

Group membership (e.g. family, neighbours, colleagues) and home delivery have great advantages. Trust them to: collect/deliver; share vehicles; be honest about fees and good company, so that everyone, except couriers, moves less often and less distance. Examples are lift and car share, car pools, car clubs, cycle loan schemes and rotas e.g. to escort children or get take aways. The idea is to share with (rather than burden) other group members. Taxi or hire are the back-ups!

So, systematically eliminate unnecessary trips and switch modes by noting all car journeys for a fortnight. Headings are: day; time; purpose; from; to; miles and cost. Plan options for regular trips with directories and advice, e.g. from the Council's TravelWise. Choose the best modes, partners, maps, directions, routes, frequencies, timetables, stops, costs, clothes and a plan B. 'Going green' on the first trip sets the day's travel habits.

A second aim is to minimise the damage done by driving. You'll do this in the smallest, lightest, safest and best maintained vehicle available. Private cars should satisfy usual, not peak transport needs - when a trailer or hire is appropriate.

Slowing down reduces damage. Whatever the limit, go at a speed suited to conditions. Crashes increase if you drink, take certain prescription or other drugs, are tired, have a Sports Utility Vehicle, 'bull bars' or phone and drive. Be seen with bright paint work and lights. Consider getting your sight and/or prescriptions checked. Avoid 'rat runs' down residential or country lanes to reduce fear and noise.

Energy efficient tips are route planning and to avoid idling - switch off your engine if still for a minute or more. Steady driving, a regular service, engine tune, emissions check, correctly pressured tyres, aerodynamic styling and not using automatic transmission or 'air-con' all save fuel. A catalytic converter cuts some fumes but not the main climate change gas (carbon dioxide) and has only around a 50,000 mile life. Diesel's particulates do most to harm respiratory health and so diesel is not recommended. The Energy Saving Trust advise on cleaner fuels (0345 277 200).

Perhaps drive off-peak to cut congestion and waiting time? Finally, please park considerately.

A 'package' of personal traffic reduction measures and some careful restructuring of your life will work best. It takes time, but do persevere and good luck. Soon you'll rejoice in your success at greener travel, be a good role model and enjoy a better quality of life.

Cutting Your Car Use by Anna Semlyen, is an evidence-based guide with a 200+ source directory and space for local details. It is £3.95, with bulk discounts (01803 863260). greenbooks@gn.apc.org www.greenbooks.co.uk

Anna Semlyen is an author, traffic reduction researcher and yoga teacher. Car-free by choice, she travels mainly by folding bike. See www.cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk or mail info@cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk

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