Monday, August 20, 2007

Day Fifty-One - The Runaround

Combine Errands and Map Them Out to Save Gas

You may have noticed that I do a lot of posts that relate to saving gas. That's because now that we've switched to wind energy, I'm pretty sure the minivan is the biggest polluter in the household. Fortunately for me, there are a lot of things I can do to improve my gas mileage or, better yet, reduce the miles I drive.

Did you know that your car uses more gas when the engine is cold than when it is warm? According to the Department of Energy, several short trips all begun with a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a single, longer trip that covers the same distance. So I am going to create two "Errand Days" per week when I can get it all done. They will probably be long days, but I'll save lots of miles (and wear and tear) on the van.

As you know, I've got two little ones at home, ages two and four. I'm a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) who manages the household and, therefore, runs all the errands. And believe me, there are a lot of them! There's also kid activities like tumble and dance class, playgroups, preschool and the occasional birthday party. Adding to the stress is that we're still kind of "new" here and I don't always know the quickest route from point A to point B.

Enter my friend, mapquest. When I have errands to run that really take me around town I can hop online and plan out my trip. A tad OCD-ish? You bet. That's why I like it! Anyhow, you can input your starting and ending destination, but then it lets you add other stops to you route. Don't forget to add your home address back in again, so you'll get your total miles, including the trip home from your last errand. Once you've got all your stops keyed in, take a look at the map and see if re-arranging them a bit reduces the miles traveled.


You'll be surprised at how shaving off a couple miles here or there and not doubling-back can really add up. I tried it last week when I had errands to run on the other side of town and by just switching the location of a chain store I hit (after all, they're all the same), I saved 6 miles. May not seem like a lot, but multiply that by two errand runs per week and that's 625 miles per year. That's about 25 gallons of gasoline saved, or 475 pounds of CO2.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

Yeah, it doesn't sound it, but this one is a little difficult because it takes some planning, and that means you can't just wake up and head out the door. However, I've found that it's pretty mindless work that can be done on the laptop at night, while drinking a beer and watching tv. And what red-blooded, lazy American doesn't like to do that?

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