Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Day 88 – Maximize Automobile Efficiency

City Suburban Auto


We all can’t go out and buy a hybrid vehicle, and public transportation is often not an option.  What are we supposed to do?  Maximize your automobile efficiency! 

Here are some tips for maximizing automobile efficiency from the owner of City Suburban Auto, 5674 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago, IL 60646 Phone: (773) 355-5550.

1. Change engine oil regularly.  Check your owner’s manual.  Most shops recommend doing this every 3,000 miles.  It prolongs the life of your engine and can save money over the long run.

2. Rotate tires.  Every 6,000 miles is usually recommended.

3. Check and replace air filter if dirty.

4. Make sure tires are properly inflated.  Check this every 1-2 weeks.  Many gas stations have areas for checking this.  Properly inflated tires help you get better gas mileage.

5. Check spark plugs for wear.

6. Make sure your brake system is functioning properly.

7. Check and fill all fluids.  Letting this go too long can damage your vehicle.

8. Check alignment.

9. Make sure there are no exhaust restrictions.  Many states have required emissions tests.

10. Check steering & suspension components. 

11. Make sure your battery is free of corrosion and that your charging system is working.

12. Make sure there are no hazardous fluid leaks.  Even small leaks can allow hazardous fluids to enter the eco system. 

Thank you to City Suburban Auto for the great advice!  My husband and I keep our cars maintained regularly, and you should, too.  It’s better for your car and for the environment.

Day 62 – Take Public Transportation

C'Mon, Ride the Train


Are you aware of public transportation options in your town?  Sometimes we just grab the car and go because it seems to be so convenient.  However, one of my neighbors saves a lot of money each year by using only one car.  Although most people in our community drive to where they need to go, we actually have a good transportation system that can take us from about a block from our home to the grocery stores, train stations, indoor shopping center, and many places beyond. 

Riding the train can be particularly fun.  Sometimes there are special weekend rates that will allow you unlimited rides.  My friend and I meet up on the train that goes through both of our towns and are able to get to downtown Chicago together without driving there and paying for parking.  Another friend works in the city but gets a stopover in my town and we meet for dinner before sending her on the next leg of her journey home.  It is so convenient! 

If your town does not have public transportation, consider starting a bus system.  It could be that you start with one specially licensed bus driver to drive a bus around town once a week to start and see how it goes.  Once the word gets around, I am certain that more and more people will take the bus instead of driving!

Day 44 – No Idle Zone

Idle Free Zone

The sign on the bottom says, “Idle Free Zone, Please turn off your engine, Idling wastes fuel and money, Idling is bad for your engine, Idling hurts the environment.”  This sign is posted outside of our local community center in the pickup and drop off location.  Similar signs are posted in front of the schools throughout my town.

You’ve probably done it, too.  You sit in your car and let it run while you’re waiting for someone to come out of a building.  You wait in line at a drive-thru fast food restaurant or at the drive up window at the bank.  Maybe you arrive too early for an appointment and sit in your car letting it run so you can have a little extra air conditioning or heat.  In some rural towns in America to this day, some people run into the grocery store for a quick something letting their car run outside in the winter with the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked.  (I am serious about this last one.  I know people who do this and am happy that their town is safe enough for it!)

Idling is bad for your engine.  Read your automobile manual.  My car is not supposed to be idle for more than about 5 minutes.  This includes letting the engine warm up in the winter when the best thing to do is supposedly to start driving and not go very fast until the engine warms up.

Idling is bad for the environment and the people around the idling vehicles.  Think about it.  Idling the car uses gasoline and gasoline usage equals carbon emissions and other pollutants.  These pollutants, of which carbon monoxide (CO) is one, are poisonous enough so that if you let your car run in the garage with the door closed and stay in there, you will die.  Also, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam or for a freight train, turn your car off whenever possible.  Multiple vehicles in an area with engines running can lead to immediate toxin build up in the surrounding air.  This can be enough to cloud your judgment in the case of really bad traffic jams.

So, in summary, skip drive-thru windows and just go inside, turn off your car (and take the keys, please) when you go into the store or if you are stopped by a freight train, and if not for yourself then for the children stop idling your car at schools and community centers.

Day 19 – Bus #11 (Walking!)

People Walking


One day my husband and I were going somewhere and I asked how we were going to get there.  His response was, “Bus #11.”  A strange look must have crossed my face when I didn’t recognize the bus number.  He smiled and pointed down at his legs one at a time saying, “One, one.”  We were walking! 

Walking is great exercise.  We also walk to destinations like the library or local pharmacy whenever possible.  It is different from our biking errands because we can carry more for shorter distances, we don’t have to worry about parking the bike, and of course it is more calming and relaxing. 

How many miles or kilometers do you walk?  I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I use a pedometer.  This is a device that counts your steps and can calculate (with prior input of your step length) how far you have walked.  I think you’ll be surprised at the great distances you go without realizing it.  You can also get even more steps in your day by walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator and if you do drive somewhere, by parking farther away from the entrance to your destination. 

Which of your errands are walkable?  Try Bus #11!  It is free and always on time.

Day 12 – Bike Your Drive

Save Fossil Fuels by Running Errands on a Bicycle

How far away is the grocery store?  How about the post office?  Your local library?  Around here, these common errand destinations are only 1-2 miles away.  Figure out how far away your common destinations are from your home by using the trip set on your car or by mapping your route online using a website like or

The next consideration is exercise.  What if your workout routine included biking instead of driving to all of your errands?  This biker uses a backpack for the items collected on his errands, but bicycle baskets are also an option.  I personally feel a sense of accomplishment when I bike or walk instead of driving.  The miles add up over time, and I know that I am saving money on gasoline and saving fossil fuels, too!

Here are some tips for purchasing a bicycle:

1.  Choose comfort!  My bike which is similar to this one includes seat suspension, a comfortable seat with a cutout to reduce pressure, shifting mechanism built into the handles, hybrid tires for both around town and forest preserve use, and higher handle bars so that I don’t get sore shoulders after long rides.
2.  Pay attention to size.  Just like clothes, a bike has to be a good fit.  I recommend going to a specialty bike shop where the sales clerks know how to fit you for a bike.
3.  You get what you pay for.  Spending a couple hundred dollars for a good bike is worth it for regular riders.  I never rode my old 10-speed as much as I now ride my comfy hybrid.  Going back to comfort, features like seat suspension cost more, but I’m more likely to keep going on my bike if I’m comfortable.  My bike and the bike shown in the picture above are by Giant which I have found to be a great balance between features and price. 

Tips for bicycle safety:

1.  Always wear a helmet!  If you ever fall and your helmet has any impact however slight, get a new one because the cushioning may have been damaged.
2.  Use hand signals.  Here is a link to a great visual on hand signals. 
3.  Don’t ride in the middle of the lane.  This is where auto fluids accumulate on the roads, and this area is more slippery.  Pay attention to the street the next time you are outside and you’ll see that the middle of the lane is usually darker because of these fluids.
4.  When you ride on the road, follow all traffic signals.  You’re subject to all of the other rules of the road just like motorists.
5.  When you ride on bike trails and need to pass, shout a friendly, “on your left,” and pass on the left.  Give pedestrians and other riders plenty of notice so that they’re not startled.
6.  If you ride at night, use a light.  This is the law in many areas.  You need headlights and lighted turn signals to ride your bike at night.  Wearing lighter clothing also helps others to see you in dimmer lighting.

I use a speedometer/odometer to show me how fast I go and how many miles I travel on my bike.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I know how many miles I have saved versus driving my car.  Have fun, and let me know about your bike your drive experience!

Day 6 – Consolidate Trips

Parked Cars

We can’t all have eco-friendly cars today.  In fact, part of going green is using what you’ve got for as long as possible keeping items out of junk yards and landfills.  We also can’t always walk or ride a bicycle, although I’ll talk about these options in upcoming posts.  So the next best thing to do is consolidate trips!

A few days ago, I drove to the bank to make a deposit, to a coffee shop for my tea, and to a grocery store to purchase event tickets.  When I arrived at the grocery store, I realized that my bank and favorite coffee shop both have satellite locations inside this store!  Now, on some level I knew this since I’ve been going to this store on occasion for several years.  However, usually I am not doing these three particular errands on the same day.

What I learned from this is that I sometimes run errands out of habit rather than by a plan.  I need to pay attention to where I’m going ahead of time and stop and ask myself some questions first.  What do I need and where are all of my options located?  Can I avoid this trip and wait a few days until the regular shopping day?  Even if it costs a little more, is it worth my time and energy to buy some items on my list at a store already on my route?  Do I really need this item?

With a little forethought and a couple of minutes of extra planning, we can save time, energy, and carbon emissions.  I’m saving my carbon emissions for a vacation!