When it comes to conserving money, energy, and waste, one of the best things you can do is decrease your gas consumption.  Most people can’t go buy a more fuel-efficient car right away (though definitely keep it in mind next time you’re in the market for a car).  And most people don’t have the option of walking or biking to work (due to distance, safety and weather concerns).  So the best thing you can do is try to make the vehicle you have more efficient and try to use it less. 

Using it less is just a matter of thinking ahead.  Is this trip necessary?  Can I combine this errand with another?  Can I share the ride with someone else?  What’s the shortest route to my destination?  Can I avoid sitting in traffic or going up large hills?  Aaron and I have actually eliminated our little jaunts around the countryside for the time being.  We miss the alone time together, and getting to see beautiful and interesting things, but it just didn’t make sense to waste gas in that way right now. 

Now, as for making your car more efficient… there is a lot of totally bogus advice out on the internet these days.  But there are some simple ways to make Ol’ Bessie guzzle less petrol. 

Method #1 – Put your car on a weight-loss program.  If you have a luggage rack, bike rack, or ski rack that you use infrequently, take it off.  Empty the crap out of the trunk/hatch/bed/backseat.  Toting around all sorts of things from bags of icemelt (in July) to giant boxes of tools you’ll probably never need, even bags of sports equipment, backpacks full of books, and other assorted junk will weigh you down.  Lose the excess weight.  My suggestion is this:  on a nice day, empty absolutely everything that isn’t attached to the car out of it.  Then, decide what is absolutely necessary for you to have in there right now.  Put that back in.  Then whenever you bring something into the car, make sure that it comes out that same day.  That way, things don’t accumulate and weigh down your vehicle.  It will also make your car a more pleasant place for passengers.  Nobody likes hefting your case of 500 CDs out of the seat before they have a place to sit.

Method #2 – Drive gently.  Take it easy on the brakes and the accelerator.  Don’t speed.  Pretend you have a fish bowl in your passenger seat, and drive as to avoid sloshing the water.  This will not only save your petrol, it will also make your friends love riding with you.  Think ahead when approaching hills. If you need to accelerate, do it before you reach the hill, not while you’re on it.

Method #3 – Don’t idle.  Minimize the amount of time your car spends with its engine running and not moving.  When your car is idling, it is getting 0 miles per gallon.  So cutting back on your idle time will instantly increase your overall gas mileage.  Take care of things like buckling your seatbelt, finding a new CD, putting things in or out of the glove box, etc. BEFORE you start the car.  If you’re waiting for someone, or hanging out in the drive-thru at Mickey D’s, turn off the engine.  15 seconds of idle time uses the same amount of gas as starting up the engine.  So if you’re going to be idling for more than 15 seconds, it makes sense to turn it off.  But be careful if you decide to try this during rush-hour or at an overly long stoplight.  You don’t want to end up being rear-ended because you couldn’t get your car started fast enough to get out of the way of the idiot behind you.

Method #4 (least effective method) – Save energy by not using accessories.  Accessories add to the energy load being required from your engine.  Accessories that do this would include the air conditioning compressor and fan, heater fan, headlights, power windows, & power seats.  Turning these off won’t make a measurable difference when driving short distances, such as around town.  But on a long road-trip, it might give you a little edge.  However, if you’re driving on the highway, and you put your windows down to save on air conditioning, you’re probably just negating your savings by creating air turbulence, which will cause you to use more fuel to overcome it.  I don’t recommend driving long distances without heat either, since your body heat will fog up your windows and obscure your vision.  So really, don’t play with your power windows for fun, and on long trips, consider turning your headlights off during broad daylight.  But for heaven’s sake, please turn them on as dusk approaches, and leave them on until it’s fully daylight.  And of course, per state law in Missouri, if it’s raining or snowing enough to have your wipers on, you must have your headlights on too.