Guide to help you reduce your carbon emissions

The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to a wide scale disruption of our daily lives – some of us remain at home, while others continue to work on the front-line, tackling the effects of this nasty virus. Whichever category you fall into, you will be aware of the obvious restrictions now facing you in our society – no longer are we able to visit friends, go out to eat, or readily travel around the country.

But what does this mean for the environment?

The limitations on travel in the UK, announced by the Prime Minister have led to a drastically different climate whereby many people have stopped driving until absolutely necessary to purchase necessities, care for vulnerable people and get to and from work (Key workers). Therefore, the upshot (if there is one) of this pandemic is the positive effects on carbon emissions and the environment.

But just because we are all producing less emissions, it doesn’t mean we can’t all make changes to how we drive, to further help the environment in the long-term; we can apply these simple changes long after Covid-19 has left our shores.

There’s no need to ditch your vehicle, but we want to help inform you how to reduce your carbon emission with small changes to your driving style and behaviour:

1)    Turn your engine off when idle

It may seem like a wonderful idea to keep yourself warm whilst you wait for the supermarkets to open, or just sit in your parked car following a stressful day, but this is a dangerous practice for the environment.

EDF have found that ‘idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting your engine’, so if you are sat waiting for a number of minutes, we recommend turning off the engine completely. Do not worry – the heat inside the car will not instantly disappear.

2) Remove extra baggage

Whether emotional or physical baggage, leave it at home.

Simply put, the heavier your car becomes, the more power needs to be exerted to drive. You do not need to strip your car completely, and make it a racing spec, but throw out those non-essentials that have just been sitting in the back footwells of your car.

Autoblog saw that ‘eliminating ten percent of the weight provides a 4.1 percent mileage boost and a dramatically significant twenty percent weight decrease improved fuel economy by 8.4 percent’. We doubt you can reduce the weight by 20%, unless you happen to be carrying a baby elephant but we recommend you take out anything unnecessary.

3) Stay away from air conditioning

Those of you lucky enough to enjoy air conditioning on the upcoming sweltering summer’s days are probably angrily reading this and outraged at the thought of being pried away from your beloved air-con.

But when the air conditioning system is being used, your engine will use more fuel.

However, do not risk your well-being by refusing to be un-ecological, while the sweat drips from your brow. Instead, you may want to crack a window open (if you are travelling at a slower speed). 

This saving on your air-con does not ring true for high speeds though – we are sure you have all experienced the tremendous bellow that comes from accidentally opening your window on the motorway, and accompanying panic as you scramble to quickly close it before your car takes off. 

The noise is not the only side effect of driving with windows open at high speeds; drag on your car will increase dramatically too. With this in mind, Kwik Fit recommends ‘[that] for optimum fuel efficiency, it’s windows down at low speeds, air-con on at high speeds.’

4) Plan your journey

Saving money can often start at the planning stage; driving on non-congested routes and outside of peak times can go very far to help reduce your carbon footprint. The less time you spend in the car, the better, from a carbon emissions perspective.

But planning does not solely relate to time spent in your vehicle, it can also help you plan the most eco-friendly route possible. This choice of road will often determine how fuel-efficient you are according to the RAC; driving on the motorway in top gear tops all other road types in the UK.

So, when planning your route, try to opt for the motorways if possible – of course, there is no point making a huge detour to use the motorway if another route is far shorter.

5) Sharing a ride

This is a tale as old as time – share your car. Reducing the number of cars on the road, by offering a lift to other drivers (i.e. colleagues or friends) will help improve your overall carbon footprint. This can offer additional benefits in monetary terms too – sharing a ride often means sharing the cost of the trip, or parking too.

This can often be seen as a less-convenient way of travel, and relies on other people’s abilities to stick to a schedule, but if you are serious about being environmentally friendly, this can be a great way of reducing your carbon footprint.

This is not currently recommended due to social distancing, put in place by the Government; however, once this virus has passed, we recommend this method of travel as a great alternative to public transport.

6) Don’t be deflated

Performing basic checks on your vehicle can have some great economic and ecological benefits; if the pressure is too low, tyres wear out much quicker than usual which also affects fuel consumption, find out how much here.

Properly inflating your tyres will, therefore, have a variety of benefits: by saving annoying tyre replacements, and most of all, soothing your conscience.

Following this guidance will provide you with a series of tips to help reduce your carbon footprint. Many of these tips mean making very simple changes to your current driving habits, but have the benefit of reaping great rewards, as well as monetary benefits.

We cannot pretend that driving is an incredibly ecological method of travel, as it often ranks amongst the highest contributors to the greenhouse effects. But unfortunately, many key workers, and shoppers require a car, without which they may be stuck.

So, if you do need to travel, try to make small changes today and be safe in the knowledge that you are making a positive impact on your carbon footprint, long after Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the UK.