The Cost of Driving – Gas
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Contrary to popular advertising, you really can save the planet by spending less of your money. Have you ever been shopping for a product, but then done a deep dive down the sustainability rabbit-hole?
Is this from sustainably sourced cork? Which leads to the least carbon emissions/deforestation or greatest support of the local economy? Cork, bamboo, or local hardwood from a sustainable managed forest? Buy local, fair trade, sustainably sourced, non gmo (ugh, this one drives me crazy!). Which one is best? I’ve been there.
How can we as the consumer have time to research all of the trends corporations are promoting? I know I don’t want to be lining the pockets of the latest tycoon chopping down all the trees in my backyard, much less stealing the farmland from a subsistence farmer.
Well, here’s a crazy approach:
Buy less stuff.
Use what you have.
If you buy fewer items and spend less of your hard-earned money, you are overcoming the highly engineered marketing campaigns of our corporate overlords. Conveniently requiring you to spend less of your limited time devoted to serving those corporate overlords for a paycheck.
Social Engineering and Finances
Social engineering is the practice of influencing behaviors and attitudes on a large scale.
Corporations are profiting greatly from us millennials who are more willing to shell out money if it “helps” our health and the environment. (I have an insider seat as the lone millennial on an industry advisory board. I get to hear Boomers and Gen-Xers brag about how they trick us, and are now selling fewer products for greater profits thanks to our bleeding hearts.)
Don’t worry, I know there are plenty of you Boomers and Gen-Xers who are also trying to do your part for the planet! It’s amazing to see my Aunt and Uncle (Baby Boomers) who have continued practicing the reuse tactics their parents learned and endured growing up in the depression. I’ve learned so much from observing and working with them.
Ad campaigns are highly engineered to draw at your heartstrings and make you spend your money. Heck, even while writing this blog I think about social engineering and how I can use my words to better relate to and engage with you (I promise to use my powers for good).
What’s the Ultimate Environmentally Friendly Practice?
Buy less stuff.
It really is that simple. Pause, and really evaluate if you need that item. Hint: you probably don’t.
You’ve survived this long without it. Also, if something wears out and stops working, even if you used it all the time, do you already have a substitute of similar quality? Don’t run to the store to solve every problem.
Today I’m going to do a deeper dive into one of my least favorite things to buy: gasoline.
Swiping My Card for Gas
It is easy to think that buying gas for your car is a necessary expense, and not something in your control. I have to say, every month when I review my spending I cringe at how much of my money goes towards gasoline. I break it out separate from car maintenance since we buy gas every month, and I want that expense to be highly visible.
If you don’t acknowledge your failures, you are destined to repeat them.
We live in a suburban home that is about a 3 mile bike ride to the nearest store, 5 miles to most stores and 10 miles from our jobs. Our family and friends live anywhere from 4 to thousands of miles away. We live in Michigan = heavy snowfall/cold weather in the winter. We also live as far from a Great Lake as possible in the state = longer summer drives to enjoy the best things our state has to offer.
Inevitably, we spend money on gas.
I’m not planning on ever getting that cost down to zero for the year. And I don’t want to (or can afford to) run out and buy an expensive new electric car. But I should acknowledge and hopefully improve on my spending at the gas station. (So, readers, hold me accountable! Please 🙂 )
By reviewing this, I also get to celebrate the improvements I’ve made, they may be small, but that doesn’t mean they are insubstantial. I could have easily continued (or increased) my driving habits. Challenging everything pays off.
Financial Cost of Gas
We’ve cut our gas spending by $19.32/month from 2015 – now. Gas prices have varied in my area, but have generally increased (implying these calculations will be conservative). We’ve reduced our driving intentionally to save that money. Before we get in our cars we run through a few questions:
- Do we really want to go where we are going? Would we rather have a night at home?
- Can we bike?
On an errand:
- Do we really need what we are headed out to get? Do we have a substitute in the house?
- Are we going to spend money that we don’t want to spend?
- Can we bike?
We’ve also cut back substantially on our weekend trips, now we question:
- Do we really want to go there?
- Can we conquer more than one thing with this trip?
- Is carpooling an option?
By simply working through these questions we’ve reduced our average monthly gas spending by $19.32 or $232/year. This means we get to save $5,800 less to pull the early retirement trigger. This is small beans in terms of our spending reduction, but no less amazing.
Would you reduce your driving to save money today and need less money tomorrow?
Environmental Costs of Gas
Fortunately, this is all a fairly easy comparison since we’ve owned the same cars every year that we’ve tracked spending. I checked the stats on our two cars this morning:
Chevy Cobalt – 31 mpg average
Chevy HHR – 26 mpg average
Average Cost of Gas: $2.35/gallon
If we conservatively assume that all of the reduced driving was in the HHR (I’m an engineer, I like safety factors) we can easily figure out how many fewer miles we are driving each month:
Cost per mile = Price of gas / mpg = 2.35 / 26 = $0.0904 per mile
Then we can figure out how many miles we’ve cut on average each month:
Miles Reduced = Dollars Saved / Cost per Mile = $19.32 / $0.0904 = 214 miles/month
We now drive 2,560 miles less each year
Looking at CO2 emission reduction related to driving is easy (aka why I started on this topic even though this barely accounts for our spending reduction).
Each gallon of gasoline burned equates to 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) (source: www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/contentincludes/co2_inc.htm).
Our driving less equates to:
Reduction of Gallons of Gasoline = Dollars Saved / Price of Gas = $19.32 / $2.35/gallon = 8.221 gallons less per month = 98.7 gallons of gasoline less per year
CO2 Reduction = Gallons Reduced per Year * Pounds of CO2 Produced per Gallon of Gasoline = 98.7 gallons * 20 pounds/gallon = 1,973 pounds of CO2 less
We’ve reduced our CO2 production by almost 1 ton/year, imagine if everyone did that.
Why does this even matter?
Well, climate change is real, and humans are predominately to blame for the rapid changing. But, since humans are mostly to blame, us humans can also make a big impact! So, our household is working to reduce our impact now!
By driving less we have already freed up one acre of U.S. forest to sequester other carbon dioxide! Check out this website to see the impact you’ve already made: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator.
If you are contemplating making a lifestyle change, check out what it would equal. Every bit counts:
- Drive less
- Consume less
- Consider your choices more
You don’t have to be perfect to make an impact and help protect the planet. People put value on money. What’s money worth if the planet’s environment becomes inhospitable to human life? I’m thinking future generations would gladly thank you for leaving them a smaller fortune if it means the air they are breathing doesn’t burn their lungs.
Did I go too judgy and negative? I argue no, that I should probably be shouting from the rooftops even louder, but our home isn’t perfect, and you shouldn’t expect to be either.
Today (and tomorrow, etc.): I will work to reduce my driving even more.
The best thing!?! This is still some pretty low hanging fruit we can continue to reduce. This will help us save money and reduce our environmental impact.
And, there’s more to car ownership than gas. See my post here about all the costs of car ownership we’ve incurred over the past three years 🙁 !
What choice are you going to make to help your wallet and the planet?