Sustainable lifestyles: Driving green |

Sustainable lifestyles: Driving green

Nikki Florio
Toyota Motor Corp. / The hybrid-electric Toyota Prius led the way in fuel economy with 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 mpg on the highway, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy said Tuesday.

While attending the grand opening of the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences in Incline Village this past weekend, I was amazed by the number of eco-friendly vehicles that were there.

While walking through the parking lot, I noticed that many of the attendees, donors and sponsors who have, and gave, millions of dollars to help build that foundation, and could have all been driving Cayennes and Escalades, chose to drive Honda Hybrids, Toyota Priuses, and other smart vehicles.

We, as Americans, have the privilege of taking and having more than we need and at times, more than we could ever use. It is our manner of choice that makes us worthy, or not, of respect or title in regard to intelligence, in the end.

While we hold only 5 percent of the world’s population, we emit more than 25 percent of the global warming gases. The primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities in the United States is carbon dioxide (about 85 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions). The largest source of carbon dioxide, and of overall greenhouse gas emissions, is fossil fuel combustion.

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Quick Info:

— New large SUVs produce 60 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than standard-sized vehicles, while efficient models like the Honda Insight can cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 50 percent.

— Every gallon of gas emits 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

— The fuel economy average of all new vehicles, has declined over the past 10 years according to the EPA, being 22.1 mpg in 1987-88, dropping to 21.0 in 2005.

— About 20 percent of U.S carbon dioxide emissions come from the burning of gasoline in internal-combustion engines of minivans, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and jeeps.

— A new Dodge Durango SUV (5.9-liter engine) that gets 12 mpg in the city will emit an estimated 800 pounds of carbon dioxide over a distance of 500 miles. A Honda Insight that gets 61 mpg will only emit about 161 pounds of carbon dioxide over the same distance.

This year has been beneficial for green corporations like the alternative fuels and auto industry. Toyota and Honda are propelling hybrid/alternative vehicles into the 21st century. Companies like Peugeot have hybrid diesels, which get 80 mpg in the city.

Why are U.S. manufacturers taking so long to get on the fuel-efficiency bus? The answer is integral ties with oil and agricultural industries.

Why buy what you buy?

Choosing a vehicle that matches your lifestyle is important, but knowing about advertising manipulation is equally important.

For example, when companies that make SUVs told consumers about crash tests and safety of the vehicles, they left out several other important safety variables including roll-over tendencies (eight times greater), the likelihood of running over children (four times greater), the capacity of accidentally killing other people (37 percent higher), and the outstanding strain on the environment.

Millions of SUVs have been purchased over the last decade for reasons ranging from tremendous tax breaks, to ego expansion, to the safety myth, to the best reason to buy – utilization of vehicles.

Some jobs require the use of large SUVs and trucks. Farmers, contractors, carpenters, teachers and other businesses or business owners who utilize and move equipment or products cannot get away with driving smaller vehicles with less power.

What are some of the highest emission vehicles? Hummers I and II, Ford F-150, Ford F-250, F-350, Escalade, Tahoe, Range Rover, Sequoia, Durango, Suburban, Navigator, Excursion, Range Rover, Yukon and Yukon XL.

Who’s Green?

Honda has the highest overall fuel efficiency; vehicles average 25 mpg on the highway.

Toyota has several great fuel-efficient hybrid models (complete hybrid line by 2010). Toyota’s Sequoia and Land Cruiser are not green vehicles.

While Ford is doing well with its hybrid and plans to introduce the Mazda Tribute SUV in 2007 and Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan sedans in 2008, it has stepped down from plans to have 250,000 hybrids on the road by the end of 2010.


The Ford company is now focusing on other fuels like ethanol, “clean” diesel and bio-diesel. The aforementioned companies are teaming up with Monsanto for the Live Green, Go Yellow campaign. Monsanto grows genetically modified corn, soy, wheat, oats, tomatoes, cotton and other fruits and vegetables and has been seen by many environmental watchdog groups as the most dangerous agricultural corporation in the world. Monsanto’s E-85 (85 percent ethanol) will be produced by mass production and mono-cropping GM corn and soy, which makes these fuels environmentally destructive to soils and biodiversity in staggering proportions.

How can owners improve fuel economy and reduce emissions?

Reduce highway speeds, decrease abrupt accelerating and breaking, keep your car tuned and tires properly inflated, use additives such as Ethos, which increases fuel economy while reducing emissions. Utilize non-gmo biofuel companies: Bently Biofuels and Simple Fuels.

The best way to help keep our planet healthy when it comes to transportation is of course, to not use our vehicles if we don’t need to.

Happy trails.

– Nikki Florio is founder and director of the Tahoe Regional Environmental Education Program. Her column appears every Wednesday in the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She can be reached at (530) 314-9400 or by e-mail at

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