• New Year's Resolution: Eco-fy Your Ride

    After a season of overindulgence and hyperconsumption (The parties! The food! The shopping!), nothing feels better than to plan for a new year (Fresh goals! Cleaner habits! Lighter living!). And what better way to live clean than to go green? When it comes to your car, reducing your carbon footprint is easier than you think—it just takes a few tweaks to your ride and your driving habits. Here are 10 simple ways to go green in the new year and eco-fy your ride (whether or not you get that hot new hybrid for Christmas).

    1. Get Your Car's Eco Report Card. Want to know exactly how much air pollution and greenhouse gas your car emits? Check the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide to find out.
    2. Power off. Chillin' in your car with the engine on or leaving it running when lingering in a long drive-thru line releases pointless pollutants in the air. Spare the air by turning your car off when having end-of-the-night conversations with your friends and opt to run indoors to pick up your burger instead.
    3. Fill Your Tires. More than half of the cars on the road have low tire pressure. How does this hurt our environment? The less air in the tires, the harder your engine has to work to make a car run. And the harder your engine works, the more gas is burned. More burned gas means more carbon monoxide in the air.
    4. Tighten Your Gas Cap. If you don't hear a click when putting the gas cap back on after re-fueling, it's likely that your car will leak evaporated fuel into the atmosphere.
    5. Get Gas-Station Smart. Pay attention to when and how you refuel. On hot days (they'll be here before you know it), gas up your car early in the morning or late at night—less fumes evaporate at these times, when smog most easily forms. Topping off your tank emits toxic fumes into the air—so don't over fill your tank. And on Ozone Action Days, avoid the gas station altogether—choose to fill up at a less environmentally-fragile time.
    6. Keep Your Air Filter Clean. This simple move boosts your gas mileage by 10 percent. What's more, checking the cleanliness of your air filter is as easy as taking out the recycling. Check In The Driver's Seat for tips on how to do it yourself.
    7. Drive Calmly. The faster you drive, the worse your gas mileage. Studies show that aggressive driving can reduce your fuel efficiency by 30 percent when driving on freeways. Mellow out and spare the air.
    8. Clean Out Your Car. Fuel economy is cut by 2 percent for every 100 pounds of junk in your trunk. Unless you're headed to the mountains, keep your snowboarding gear at home.
    9. Don't Wash Your Own Car. Really. Mechanical car washes use less water than hand washing does. Many car washes recycle water and most have a cleaner way of disposing of the gunky runoff than you might at home.
    10. Spring for a Tune Up. There are so many systems and parts that can go wrong in our cars. A fresh tune up can improve gas mileage by 4 percent. By making sure everything is running at the most efficient rate, you're ensuring your car is polluting the least amount possible.
  • Read more from Erika Stalder

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    DriversEd.com guest columnist Erika Stalder is an author, advice columnist and blogger who writes about teen life, lust and adventures behind the wheel. Her latest book, In The Driver's Seat: A Girl's Guide To Her First Car helps turn new drivers into savvy ones.

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