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An Ecologist's Guide to Buying a Green Car

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 23 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Environmentally Friendly Ecologist Green

Cars are not environmentally friendly. Anyone who asks an ecologist for advice on buying a green car may be pointed in the direction of the nearest bicycle shop. Nevertheless, the car industry has made great strides in recent years to cut down on emissions. Fuel is cleaner and cars have better aerodynamics and are more fuel-efficient. Some cars are more damaging to the environment than others, of course, so green fanatic Lesley Harrington has provided some tips for those keen to go green.

For Those in the Market for a Used Car, What is the Greenest One to Buy?
Answer: “One that is very fuel efficient and has low carbon dioxide emissions. Generally speaking, the smaller a car is, the more fuel efficient it is and the lower the emissions will be, so don’t buy a six-seat people carrier with a huge boot if you only need two seats and a small boot. The size of the engine can have just as big a bearing as the size of the car. Most makes and models will offer a range of engines that vary in carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy.”

Thinking More in Terms of Fuel Type, is a Car Powered by Petrol, Diesel, Electricity, Bioethanol or a Petrol-electric Hybrid Best for the Environment?
Answer: “At the moment, it comes down to a straight choice between petrol and diesel as far as I’m concerned. Yes, these other types of cars exist, but not in significant enough numbers in the used car market to be taken seriously. For the vast majority of people buying a second-hand car in this country it will come down to a choice between petrol and diesel. Both will damage the environment, but in different ways. Diesel engines tend to produce less carbon dioxide but more air pollutants than their petrol counterparts. I suppose those who drive long distances on motorways should go for a diesel engine for the greater fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions, whereas those driving about town should think about the air quality and buy a petrol engine.”

What Advice do you Have for Drivers Who Want to be as Green as Possible When Getting About Town?
Answer: “Leave the car at home and walk or get on your bike! Seriously, though, leaving the car at home once in a while does help the environment. Also, if it’s a regular commute, think about car sharing. If it is completely necessary to drive, don’t carry any unnecessary weight in the car, keep the tyres pumped up to the correct pressure, cut your speed and don’t over rev the engine. Remember that all these actions can save money as well as the environment.”

What is Your Top Tip for Being a Green Car Owner?
Answer: “Keep the same car for as long as possible and look after it, because the longer you keep a car, the lower the carbon dioxide impact of its manufacture.”

Finally, What Kind of Car do You Drive?
Answer: “As yet there is no truly environmentally-friendly car on the market. I gave up my car – it was a little red Fiesta – years ago and either walk, pedal or use public transport to get where I’m going.”

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