In my efforts to be as zero-waste and green as possible, I’ve started the slow process of trying to identify the “problem areas” in my life. That is, places where I make a lot of waste. I started off at home:
Food waste – build a worm bin and start turning food waste into compost. Check!
Plastic waste – buy fewer plastic products, search out alternative brands that use less plastic packaging, always buy used if at all possible….Check!
Personal waste – I’ve switched up my whole personal routine to use nothing but a bar of soap and some vinegar rinse. No more plastic bottles, chemical-y shampoos and washes, etc. Check!
Personal transportation – Ooohhh……I drive a ’94 Toyota Pickup with a custom exhaust (bought it that way) and extra large tires (also, came with the truck). No check.
So, what to do about my personal transportation? In Alaska because of the sheer scale of our landscape, most things are incredibly far apart. The public bus system doesn’t run out to where I live, and I’m just not hardcore enough to bike or ski the three miles to school when it’s -50F outside (seriously though, some people are!). So, I drive. Now, I do make major efforts to drive as little as possible, to carpool with Tom or M whenever possible, and to condense all chores into one trip once and sometimes twice a week. However, I’m still driving an old pickup with mileage reduced modifications on it. So what to do?
|My fuel usage spreadsheet|
Well, a few things.
First, I try not to let my truck idle unnecessarily. Idling eats up a LOT of fuel for almost no purpose (other than to warm up the vehicle briefly). I also plug my truck in at night whenever it is below 0 degrees. This helps the fluids stay thin and warm(ish) and flow more easily in the morning. Takes up some electricity, but cuts way down on pollution. Finally, I try not to use my 4wd as often as possible to help save fuel. With a truck as old as mine, it really does seem to make a difference.
Finally, I’ve also started keeping track of my gas expenditures and mileage per tank. I’ve created a simple spreadsheet that allows me to keep track of the date I fill up, the amount I spend, the number of miles I traveled on the last tank, and the number of gallons I purchase with each fill up. I also make some general notes of the driving conditions, and whether or not it was particular cold (idle time) or icy (4wd usage). I’m hoping every six months I can evaluate how much fuel I’m using and make alterations to my driving habits to help cut it down. In the long run, being more accountable for my fuel usage will also help save me some money, and I’m never one to turn down savings.
I’ve also participated in a bike loan program through UAF in the past, and plan to do so again this summer. That way, I should get at least six miles of bike riding in per day, plus I won’t be using my truck! Good for me and the climate.
What methods do you use to account for your use of fuel? How do you cut down on your driving time? Share your thoughts in the comments!