Archive for [lang_en]the[/lang_en][lang_fr]la[/lang_fr] ‘[lang_en]Economise[/lang_en][lang_fr]Economiser[/lang_fr]’ Category

Reading your meter

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Tom Harrison, of the Five Percent blog, recently invited me to write a guest-post for his new employers, over at the Energy Circle. I decided to describe what I’ve learnt about my electricity consumption by reading my electricity meter once a week since the beginning of 2009. It turns out you can figure out quite a bit from that alone, follow the link if you want to find out what!

It’s rather appropriate I wrote about my weekly meter-readings. I started doing that after reading some of Tom’s own posts about electricity use. Tom makes frequent reference to using real-time meters to figure out where the money is going. I couldn’t find any smart meters for the French market at that time, so I went with my low-tech approach.

So, thank you Tom, for the inspiration in the first place, and also for the invite to write the post. I hope that despite changing jobs, you’ll still have time to keep your own blog going, it’s one of my favourites!

Free Petrol? Free Pizza!

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

At the end of 2008, I explained how changing my driving habits had effectively given me free petrol for the month of December. Time to review the figures for 2009!

In 2008, my car travelled 10400 km, using 621 litres of petrol. That works out at 47.3 mpg if you’re British, 39.3 mpg if you’re American, and 6.0 litres per 100 km if you’re French. In 2009, the same car travelled 9440 km on 552 litres. I’ll let you do the math, but by my calculation that’s about 2% better on the mileage. More importantly, the total fuel consumption went down by 11%, which is quite a chunk. The difference is worth about $100 (70 euros), enough for another good meal out with Dweezeljazz.

Free pizza for driving less, I can handle that!

According to the 538 blog, the average American family of 4 uses about 2000 US gallons of petrol per year. That’s over 7500 litres. Imagine how many free pizzas they could get if they saved 10% of that?

I’ve also been following my electricity consumption for the past year, and have found that we average about 30 kWh per day. According to Wikipedia’s list of electricity consumption per country, we’re a fair bit lower than the average for France, which would be 40 kWh/day for the two of us. Not bad at all.

I only monitor our electricity use by reading the meter once per week, but that’s enough to start getting useful information on where it all goes. For example, our water-heater broke down in summer, allowing me to estimate how much goes into heating water for us. Some people go much further. Tom Harrison uses a TED 5000, a gadget that can show electricity use by the second as it happens. That’s how he found out that his gas oven uses 300W of electricity. How many people would even guess that a gas oven uses electricity, never mind as much as that?

If you’re interested in checking your own use of resources such as petrol and electricity, there are a number of ways of going about it. You can get an idea of your petrol use by looking at the service-records for your car, the total number of miles on the clock is typically recorded there. If you know how often you fill up your petrol tank (credit-card receipts, perhaps?) you can get a fair estimate of your mileage that way. For electricity or gas, you can look at your bills over the last year to get a starting point (make sure they’re actual readings, not estimates).

Once you know how much you’ve been using in the past, you have a good incentive to reduce it in the future. You can compare your petrol consumption with others by recording your results at fuelly.com. My Astra is there.

link to 10:10 websiteIf you’re serious about wanting to reduce your consumption, why not sign up with the 10:10 campaign (there’s a separate link for people in the UK). The 10:10 campaign wants people, businesses, and other organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010. That’s a modest but significant goal which is easy to achieve, and is intended to focus on actually doing the things that are needed, rather than just talking about them. Over 50,000 people have signed up so far, including Pete Postlethwaite, star of the Age of Stupid film.

It has to be said, the 10:10 website is not very well laid out. It took me ages to find the 10:10 blog, for example. They’re looking for a web developer if you’re interested in helping them improve it. You can actually get a better idea of what it’s about from the Wikipedia 10:10 page, which also lists some of the people and organisations that have comitted themselves to action. They include the British cabinet, the Science Museum, Microsoft UK, the Guardian, and a whole bunch of celebrities. I’ll be checking there again in a few days to see if they’ve added my name to the list.

The Guardian are throwing a lot of their weight behind the 10:10 campaign. It’s worth reading their articles by Andrew Simms, Chris Goodall and Ian Katz, among others. I’m convinced 10:10 is worth doing, so I signed up. After all, you can look at it differently, and just think of it as free pizza.

Gardening Update II

Monday, September 7th, 2009

rain

rain

Although we’ve had a heatwave recently here in France, the dominant theme for this summer has been rain. Lots of rain. And yet more
pot-grown beetroot

pot-grown beetroot

rain. With all this rain, I’ve not had to water my terrace-garden very often. I was initially concerned that my plants, being on a west-facing terrace, would get too hot. That has not been a problem! Despite this, I’ve had a fair bit of success in the garden so far. We’ve had lettuce and chard in good quantities since the middle of June, and will still have plenty for some time to come. I planted a second crop of both a while ago, and that is giving me a good succession. We’ve also had our first beetroot, as you can see from the pictures here. They weren’t quite the cricket-balls you can get in the supermarkets, but they were certainly big enough for us. As with everything that comes straight from the garden into the kitchen, they tasted great! There are still plenty more out there, so they’re not done yet!

beetroot and chard leaves

beetroot and chard leaves

The beetroot leaves have been supplementing the chard whenever we want fresh greens. I deliberately planted many of my plants closer together than they say you should on the packet, with the intention of taking a leaf off here and there to keep them from getting overcrowded. This has worked well, more or less, and has allowed me to make good use of the few tubs I have available. Lettuce, chard, and beetroot have rubbed shoulders – or roots – and kept us well supplied. That said, I have to admit that some of the plants were just too close, and I should have left them more room. I’ll know better next year!

lettuce and chard overflowing their pots

lettuce and chard overflowing their pots

Not everything has been entirely successful. The herbs I planted have not grown as fast or well as I had hoped. The thyme has not flowered, which has disappointed me because I was hoping it would attract bees. I think it may have been too cold and wet for it, and it has also been crowded by some of the leafier plants. The rosemary never came up, which is also disappointing because it can provide useful food for bees in winter.

plucked seedlings

plucked seedlings

I lost a number of seedlings, plucked by birds looking for something to eat. I’m guessing that they may have been younger birds, perhaps recent fledglings learning how to forage, because the damage all happened in a short period of time around the end of June. I’ve not lost any later seedlings this way. If they were adults that pull up seedlings regularly, I would expect to have lost some of my later sowings too.

I also had an attack of powdery mildew on the beetroot leaves. Looking around, it seems that one way to deal with that is to spray the plants with milk! Incidentally, if you go looking for the article referenced on that page, the link they give is incorrect. The original paper was in the journal of Crop Protection, not Crop Science. If your Portugese is any good, you can also take a look at a technical note by the same author, which you can get without paying for it!

I’ve mentioned the ants on my sunflowers, they were farming aphids. I read in several places that mint deters ants. Not having any mint to hand at the time, I put down the contents of a few mint tea-bags, and that seemed to do the trick! That same link actually advocates planting sunflowers so the ants will herd aphids onto them, taking them away from other plants. I didn’t read that bit first time round, it seems there’s more to companion-planting than meets the eye!

peas

peas

The peas I planted actually produced some decent pods. I think I will try a few more next year, cascading out of the pots where they will not compete with other plants. The spring-onions are doing well too, as is the basil, of course. We have been having some very good salads lately!

We have 6 large tubs for our terrace garden, plus a number of smaller pots, which provide a good deal of growing space. We shall add more tubs next year. We paid more for the pots and soil than we have saved on the food we have grown so far, but I think that it will only take 3 or 4 years to pay back the initial investment. Meanwhile, we’ve been able to go shopping less often, saving us time, and money on petrol, and we have been able to supplement our table regularly, with good-tasting, pesticide-free produce. All things considered, our first summer of organic terrace gardening has gone very well so far, and it’s not over yet!

(part of) my garden

(part of) my garden

Heatwaves, Pollution, and Money to Burn

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

heatwave in France

heatwave in France

France is just coming out of a heatwave at the moment. Whenever I think of a heatwave, two things come to mind. The first is the film ‘Grumpy Old Men‘, with Jack lemmon and Walther Matthau. The film starts with the classic Irving Berlin song “We’re having a heatwave”, while they’re bundled up against the snow and ice. We were singing that a lot this winter.

The second thing that comes to mind is the heatwave of 2003, though that was far worse than this one. That one killed tens of thousands of people across Europe, I’m not sure this one has caused any extra deaths yet?

Even if it’s not as strong as the one six years ago, this has still been an unpleasantly hot time. A large part of the south of France has been under yellow or orange alert, meaning that people have been advised to take extra precautions against the heat. Things like staying out of the sun, drinking plenty of water, avoiding strenuous activity in the hotter part of the day. I’ve been playing it safe, and avoiding exerting myself altogether. The only exception has been to water the plants on the terrace. Come to think of it, that’s been hard work, they have needed a lot of water every day this past week!

Several measures were imposed in France to help people cope with the heatwave, from the small-scale to industrial. In some areas, exterior painting with solvent-based paints, and use of petrol-driven garden equipment was banned, while the heatwave ran its course. Industries were told to reduce the amount of pollution they produce, and car-drivers were ordered to reduce speed by 20 mph on major roads, for the same reason. Since the pollution from these sources is made worse by the strong sunlight, this is particularly important at times like this.

Geneva suburbs under smog

Geneva suburbs under smog

The same suburbs on a clear day

The same suburbs on a clear day

But what about when it isn’t so hot? Doesn’t pollution from all these sources matter then? It might be worse in a heatwave, but pollution from cars is dangerous at any time. What if people drove slower all the time, so they always produced less pollution? That’s something easy that we can all do. You can reduce your own contribution to pollution quite a bit that way, and save yourself some money in the process.

Last summer, when petrol prices were high, drivers in France reduced their consumption by 15%. Curiously, that drop in petrol consumption continued into September, even after the price of of petrol came back down again. I don’t know if that trend continues today, I hope so, but I haven’t been able to find out anything.

I know from my own experience that you can save a lot of your fuel costs just by driving gently, and anticipating changes in the traffic around you. My car is 18 years old, but I get on average 48 MPG (UK gallons, that’s 40 MPG in US gallons, or 5.90 l/100km) by driving gently. According to the US government, that’s almost the same as a 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid.

I track my fuel consumption at Fuelly.com, you can find me there among the Opel Astras. Fuelly is very easy to use, whenever you fill your petrol tank you just note the mileage, date, and amount of fuel, then enter it into fuelly and it does the maths for you. It’s a great way to see how much petrol you really are using, and to compare yourself with other people. I can see there that, compared to Honda Civic Hybrids that people have registered, I actually get better mileage than one third of them. That’s not bad for such an old car!

You might think that it’s not worth much effort conserving petrol in an old car, but that’s not true. It’s actually easier to make good gains from an older car than from a newer one. Why? Because MPG is a deceptive quantity, and it’s more instructive to think about the amount of petrol it takes to travel a given distance (Gallons Per Mile, or GPM), instead. The more petrol you use to start with, the easier it is to improve, so drivers of older cars can make bigger gains.

For example, if your car does 20 MPG, you need 5 gallons of petrol to travel 100 miles. If you can improve your mileage by 5 MPG, to 25 MPG, you need only 4 gallons of petrol to travel that same 100 miles. You save one gallon. If your car did 40 MPG instead, you would have needed only 2.5 gallons to travel that same 100 miles in the first place. To make a saving of one gallon with that car, you would have to improve your mileage to 67 MPG, an increase of 27 MPG, not 5. Small savings on high-consumption make a big difference.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy an economical car if you can afford it, certainly you should. But if you can’t afford to replace your old banger, you can avoid wasting a lot of money just by paying attention to the way you drive. Why don’t you try it, you might enjoy it? Unless you have money to burn, reducing petrol consumption is a winner all round.

Gardening update

Friday, June 19th, 2009
spring onions

spring onions

Back in April, I described my gardening plans for this year. Time for an update! It’s been seven weeks since then, so I ought really to be well advanced with my plants. Unfortunately, we have not had access to our terrace all that time because of work that needed doing on it, so I’m rather behind with the schedule. Still, there is progress to show, and here it is.

I bought the seeds, here they are, most of them. I was interested to see that some of the seeds on offer were ‘certified organic’, like the beetroot here on the left. I’d never heard of organic seeds before, but if that means they don’t use pesticide or fertilisers to raise the stock, that gets my vote.

seed packets

seed packets

more seed packets

more seed packets

 
pots on terrace

pots on terrace

I also got some big pots. I have had the white one you see here for some time, and I recall it was expensive when I got it. It seems pots still are expensive, which is why I’m not getting more until I am convinced I can produce something in them. The brown pots are huge, they hold 120 litres of compost each, that’s over four cubic feet. I would have preferred white pots that would absorb less heat, but despite the number of garden centres in our area it’s not easy to find something suitable. Large pots will hold a lot of water, so plants will survive better in the summer heat. Our balcony takes the full force of the summer sun, so that’s an important consideration!

lettuce

lettuce

Our local organic store, Satoriz, now sells organic compost, which is a great idea. It’s good stuff, but it can’t be used on its own because it needs something mixed with it to help it drain well. On its own, it tends to pack solid when its wet, forming a solid layer like a dried-up river bed. That’s not good because the soil doesn’t breath or absorb water properly when it’s like that, it needs to be open and porous. Still, it’s good to know that ‘organic’ is really entering every part of the home-food-growers’ domain, and I will definitely be using this compost as a regular part of my gardening.

chard

chard

When you fill a pot as big as these with new soil, it’s a good idea to make sure the soil is thoroughly wet before you plant anything. The compost sold by garden centres is normally very dry so it weighs less, people are more likely to buy it if they can carry it. When it’s that dry it can take a lot of water to soak it thoroughly, these big pots actually took 30 litres of water before anything drained out the bottom, that’s one quarter of their volume in soil! I watered them 3 or 4 times over a day or so before I was happy enough to plant in them.

beetroot

beetroot

The lettuce is growing strongly, as are the chard and beetroot. I’ve already thinned them out, but I may still have to thin the lettuce some more, they’re growing very vigorously. The spring onions have sprung, as you can see at the top of the post. You can see a sunflower growing well in the white pot above, but I can’t take the credit for that one, it’s a seed that found its way into the pot somehow and sprouted without asking permission. The sunflowers I planted are a dwarf variety, they shouldn’t grow to more than about 18 inches/45 cm high, and you can’t see them over the edge of the pot yet.

nasturtium

nasturtium

peas

peas

I also have some peas coming through. I had not intended to plant peas, but we bought some for eating and there were a few that were sprouting, so we thought we’d give them a try. They’re doing very well, in fact they’re currently the biggest plants I have out there.

The french marigolds are doing well, and I did plant nasturtiums, which have also come up. The thyme, sage, rosemary, and basil have sprouted too, but they have been a bit disappointing with their germination, slow to come through and slow to get on with the job. The mint hasn’t come up at all, but that’s my only no-show this year, so I can’t really complain.

ants on sunflower

ants on sunflower

Since the herbs were supposed to be our organic pest-deterrent, that leaves the other plants a bit vulnerable at the moment. The sunflower that that seeded itself is harbouring aphids, which are being looked after by ants. That’s not good, so I need to do something about them, and would welcome any suggestions for dealing with them. I’m pretty certain the ants aren’t nesting in the pot, there are only a few of them, so I don’t have a nest to eradicate, just a few visitors.

Fortunately, other characters, such as this enormous slug, have not found their way into my little garden. That’s one advantage of an exposed, hot terrace, it forms a natural barrier to some pests. I don’t think my lettuce would last long if this guy found them!

slug

slug

So I’m not competing with the local farmers yet, but even since I took these photos a couple of days ago the plants have grown quite a bit. It won’t be long before I’m getting a few lettuce leaves at least. I know other people out there who are blogging about their organic gardens, The Natural Patriot has already started harvesting goodies from his. The Earth Home Dwellers are having a go too, but I don’t know how they’re getting on. C’mon guys, tell us, I’m curious!

If anyone else is growing their own organic vegetables out there I’d love to know how you’re doing?

It’s not easy being green

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

The “Bein’ Green” song was written in 1970 and sung by Kermit the Frog in the first season of Sesame Street. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. Frank Sinatra did a version of it in 1971 on his Sinatra & Company album and many other artists have performed it. In recent years, it’s been picked up by the environmental movement, given its obvious connotations. It’s even been used in an EDF advert last year.

Those immortal words take on new meaning these days, when the difficulty of being green is all about how we can act in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. This is often made difficult by apparently conflicting information. For example, do I throw out my old fridge because it’s inefficient, or do I use it till it falls apart? If I throw it out I can save energy with a newer model, but I create more waste (even if it can be recycled) and another fridge has to be made to fulfill my needs. The British alone throw out about 3 million fridges per year, so this is not a trivial concern.

I looked it up on google. It seems that fridges manufactured in or after 2000 shouldn’t be replaced for some time yet. Fridges purchased in or before 1985 definitely should be replaced, as replacing them could pay you back in less than 2 years in savings on your electricity bill. Between 1985 and 2000, it’s not so clear cut. Many domestic appliances didn’t have an energy rating until the early 1990s, but a fridge in good condition may still have life left in it.

So how do you know if you should throw your fridge out or not? For the purely financial aspect of saving energy, there’s a calculator at www.energystar.gov that can help you decide. Unfortunately, it’s tailored to the US market, so europeans will have a harder time using it. You can take a more direct approach, and actually measure the consumption of your current fridge, and compare it against other models.

Tom Harrison has a really informative blog (“fivepercent”) which illustrates the effectiveness of this approach. He has reduced his electricity use by 50% in 4 years, and his use of water by a similar fraction. One post refers to measuring power consumption minute-by-minute using a Cent-a-meter, so you can see which devices are really responsible for your consumption. This gadget works for US and european voltages, and Tom estimates that it can pay for itself in less than a year, even if you are already frugal with your electricity.

Toms approach to everything illustrates the importance of actually measuring the things you are trying to save money on. You could simply do some of the right things, like turning off lights in empty rooms, but when you measure your use of electricity (or water, petrol, etc) you will learn just how effective you are being. I have done this myself with my petrol consumption, and I can testify that it is a powerful incentive to save more. I’ve also started tracking my use of water and electricity by reading my meters regularly. Not as precise a method as Tom, but it’s a start.

The cold weather we have experienced recently has caused record demands for electricity (about 92,000 MW), and EDF announced that they may introduce power-cuts to save electricity. That peak could be eliminated by savings of 10% or more per person, which would mean no power cuts would be necessary. 10% is not much to ask for, even Tom managed to find an extra 10% after four years of actively trying to save electricity!

Maybe it’s not so hard to be green after all…

(British) Farmers fear EU pesticide rules

Saturday, January 17th, 2009
an organically grown carrot

an organically grown carrot

The BBC published an article on Tuesday with the title Farmers fear EU pesticide rules. Interestingly, a few hours later they changed the title to “Euro MPs back pesticide controls”. This concerns the very law that I mentioned in a previous post, “Optimism“.

It’s a shame the BBC changed the title, but the story still made it out into the world with that title, so i feel I am allowed to refer to it as such. So why should British farmers fear these rules? The majority of the EU states welcomes them, as do I, though the MEPs don’t ask me for my opinion.

Apparently, they fear the rise in price that would follow the drop in productivity, even to the point that the ‘British carrot’ could become extinct. Why, then, does the Soil Association believe otherwise? The Soil Association is an organisation that supports and promotes organic farming. They published a report in October 2008 entitled “England And Wales Under Organic Agriculture”, in which they discuss the consequences (email them if you want a copy, it’s not available for download). They point out that going completely organic could, for the UK, reduce the use of fertilizers by 95%, spraying by 98%, and increase jobs by 73%. There are many other benefits, not least of which is a huge reduction in the carbon footprint of their food.

The common objection to going organic is that yields would decline. This report shows that they would not suffer as much as is often claimed, Britain would not starve. It might even be better off with the right balance of farming techniques, there’s plenty of scope. If the Argentinians can manage to raise organic beef on large farms and export it around the world, surely Britain can do likewise?

Unfortunately, the soil-association report doesn’t mention the fate of the British carrot, so I don’t know what would happen there.

France is not so scared of going organic, it seems. The French are putting 12 million euros annually into turning their farms organic. They want organic production to grow considerably in the near future. France is the biggest consumer of pesticides in europe, but they don’t seem to be scared of running out of carrots as they change their ways.

Shopping at Satoriz with Jasmine

Shopping at Satoriz with Jasmine

Personally, I buy most of my food from a French organic chain, Satoriz (Jasmine often came with us). Their prices are reasonable, the quality is good, and they have a full range of organic products, from soap and baby food to beer and wine. Oh yes, and carrots, like the one at the top of this post. I’ve also noticed that the food I buy from there tastes better than food I get from elsewhere. Satoriz have a lot of shops in my area, and have recently opened a large new outlet. I hope they continue to do well.

America, too, has an agricultural system strongly based in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As Obama prepares to be sworn in as president, there are people calling on him to reform the way the USA produces food, citing largely the same reasons.

So if all the French, the Argentinians, and the USA think they can produce food without so many chemicals, I have to wonder what the British farmers have to fear? Surely they aren’t really scared for their carrots?

A Christmas gift suggestion

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Carved watermelon in the Maldives
Carved watermelon in the Maldives

It’s Christmas again, and already where I live there’s been enough snow to build an army of snowmen. I like snow, but I’ve also spent a few Christmases in the Maldives, where snow is only to be found in the encyclopaedia.

The Maldives is an Islamic state, so the usual religious connotations of Christmas do not feature in the festivities. The resort islands don’t have particularly big shops, so the traditional Christmas shopping isn’t an option either. That doesn’t stop them from getting into the spirit of things and throwing a really good party, people certainly manage to have a good time. You can see how much effort they put into things by the photo at the top of this post, that’s an exquisitely-carved water-melon.

A 'Christmas Tree' in Coco-Palm resort
A ‘Christmas Tree’ in Coco-Palm resort

Regular readers of this blog (both of them) will know that I’ve written about the Maldives before, and the uncertain fate that awaits them at the hands of global warming and rising sea-levels. It’s easy to forget such things at this time of year, but that would be a shame. The wrapping and packaging that accompanies much of what we buy these days is a great contributor to the damage we do to our environment, and Christmas gifts are no exception. It would be great to be able to give gifts that didn’t have all that wrapping but still expressed the sentiment of caring and giving that Christmas is supposed to be about.

Gift-vouchers are one way of doing that, but some people prefer to choose the actual gift they give, and a voucher doesn’t fulfill that need. Here’s a suggestion then, how about visiting www.magnatunes.com and buying some music for someone?

You can buy music at many places on the web, of course, but magnatunes.com adds a new dimension to the game. You can listen to all the music they offer, in high quality, for free, and decide what you like before you buy. You can then download the album of your choice in full CD-quality, or in a variety of formats. You decide exactly how much you pay for it, from $5 upwards per album, and the musician gets 50% of whatever you pay. They even encourage you to make copies to give to friends so their music gets more exposure!

This is all legal, they work directly with musicians in a business model that’s very different from the way the big record labels work. They seem to be successful with it too.

So why not take the time to listen to some music for free and choose an album or two to download for someone as a gift? If you present it to them on a re-writeable CD or a USB stick you can give them music you have chosen for them with zero waste, much kinder to the environment. Seismic Anamoly is one of my personal favourites (and yes, that is how he spells it), and I also like Ambient Teknology (yes, that is how he spells it).

A parting shot, why not also put out a little Christmas gift for the birds? I cleared the snow from a section of our garden wall and put out some bird-food a few days ago. This robin has been a regular visitor ever since.

Merry Christmas!

A robin on my garden wall
A robin on my garden wall

Free Petrol in December

Thursday, December 11th, 2008
Cherry Tree by Steps
Cherry Tree by Steps

I get free petrol this month. In fact, I expect to get free petrol every December from now on. I didn’t win the lottery, and I don’t have a company car, so how do I manage it?

About a year ago I read some articles on the web about how driving differently can reduce petrol consumption, with all the benefits that entails. I hadn’t thought about it much until then, but I decided to give it a go. Now I find I can travel about 8 or 9% further than before for the same amount of petrol.

That may not sound like a lot, but one month is 8.3% of a year, so as I see it, my petrol is free this month. I think I’ll use some of the money to take Dweezeljazz out to dinner.

There are several pages on the web now that discuss driving economically. There’s one from the BBC which has a graph of CO2 emissions versus speed. It shows that the most fuel-efficient speeds for driving are about 35-50 mph (60-80 kph).

Sheep and Trees
Sheep and Trees

There’s a more detailed BBC article and an an article in French that discuss the same topic. Between them, they make a number of suggestions

  • drive smoothly, accelerating and braking gently
  • remove the roof-rack and any excess weight
  • check your tyre pressure
  • change your air filter regularly
  • don’t leave the engine idling unnecessarily
  • change gear early, maintain constant speeds when possible
  • use engine-braking rather than your foot. Modern cars will reduce the petrol injection when engine-braking
  • opening the windows or using the air-conditioning will increase consumption
  • know your route, to avoid unnecessary use of the car
  • avoid unnecessary trips, especially short ones which don’t give the engine time to warm up
Cherry Blossom On Steps
Cherry Blossom On Steps

Driving economically not only saves petrol, it also reduces wear and tear on the car in general. It reduces your emissions of greenhouse-gasses and other pollutants, and makes the roads safer for pedestrians and other road-users.

Driving economically is one thing, but the last two points in the list above address the issue from a different perspective, consuming less petrol by avoiding use of the car. There are other ways to do that too, such as car-pooling, or sharing a shopping trip with a friend or neighbour. If you work flexible hours you may be able to adopt a schedule that avoids you getting caught in rush-hour traffic.

Flowers
Flowers

There’s another way to save petrol with the car, that’s to not drive it all the way to where you’re going. Instead of driving to my office, I now park my car over a kilometre away and walk the rest of the distance. It adds 15 minutes to my journey, but I get a lot of good exercise in the process. Getting that exercise by other means would undoubtedly take more time than that out of my day. Instead of just walking along the road, I have a route from the car to the office which avoids traffic, so I’m not breathing so much vehicle pollution. It’s not flat either, so I get even more exercise from the steps I climb up and down every day.

Tree in Autumn
Tree in Autumn

It’s actually a very pleasant walk, I get to see many interesting things on the way. All the photographs in this post were taken on that walk at one time or another. I get to see things like this daily, but I wouldn’t see them at all if I simply drove all the way to my office.

According to the BBC, driving economically can reduce petrol consumption by 10-15%. Apparently, Ford themselves believe people could reduce their consumption by up to 25%. I know I could try harder, and maybe, if I do, I will have free petrol earlier next year.

I’d like that, Dweezeljazz and I know a number of good restaurants nearby.