Thursday, January 03, 2008

Let's See It In Lights: Slow Down to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Driving around during my Christmas vacation (often fruitlessly, but that’s another story), I got to thinking about all these new-ish signs on the highways that tell you in lights if there’s a traffic jam ahead or when construction is scheduled for the near future, and specifically I thought about how they can be used when there’s no traffic jam or construction work.

What prompted this were comments Bryan and Sam made to this post from last month, in which I linked to a Gristmill post that showed that trading in an SUV that gets 16 mpg for one that gets 23 mpg saves twice as much gas as trading in a car that gets 32 for a hybrid that gets 47. Bryan and Sam pointed out that if you really want to use less gas, you should slow down too.

Can people be persuaded to do so? Would they be more willing to drive slowly if they were reminded that by doing so they can help fight global climate change?

What if the highway signs occasionally said something like, “Slow down. Driving 55 instead of 65 reduces the carbon footprint of your trip by 15%.”

Or something (I made up the 15 percent but somebody smarter than me can figure out the real number).

I think some people will go for it. And the more people that go for it, the more conspicuous the non-compliers will be, which might result in a form of peer pressure.

I tried it one day after Christmas when my son and I went to see the Siberian tigers at the Beardsley Park Zoo, in Bridgeport (this was a couple of days after the tiger fatality in San Francisco, and we were mainly interested in looking at the huge beasts and imagining what we’d do if…). On the Merritt, I set the car’s cruise control at 55 (the speed limit, which of course nobody obeys). I don’t know how much gas I saved but I sure felt self-righteous, and the truth is, with all the slow-downs on the Merritt, we didn’t really lose any time by maxing-out at 55.

Note to the New York State Department of Transportation and the Connecticut Department of Transportation: You ought to try it.

Slow down. Driving 55 instead of 65 reduces the carbon footprint of your trip.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tamara said...

What a cool idea.

I'm glad you enjoyed the big cats, BTW.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,
You're probably improving your gas mileage by 5mph, maybe a little more, depending on the car and the speeds. On a 100-mile trip, you saved maybe 1 gallon of gas. Some will scoff and say why bother, but it all adds up. Over the course of a year, you may save 40 gallons more. That might represent 10% of your gas purchases for the year.

There are 10 million cars registered in NYS. NYS drivers consume about 5.5 billion gallons of gasoline each year. If these drivers could save 10% per year, that's substantial.

To paraphrase Geoff Styles, there is no silver bullet but there are potentially many silver pellets.

6:54 PM  

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