AirCare Colorado Blog
Snow is melting away and as the weather becomes warmer, more opportunities to get around town emerge. If you are looking for more environmentally friendly modes of transportation to help you get to work, the grocery store, to school, wherever, we have ideas that are good for you, and the environment.
Use your feet
The simplest form of transportation, overlooked by many, is walking. Not only does a quick stroll aid in your health and well-being, you can cut air pollution caused by traffic. Walking yields in decreasing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease risks and reduces stress. If you have a little extra time to spare, walking just makes sense!
Biking is a great mode of transportation. Not only does it allow you to get to destinations quickly, you also receive the added bonus of an aerobic workout. Biking promotes well-being for the heart and muscles, increases coordination, mental health and immunity. Denver makes it easy to bike from place to place, with plentiful trails throughout the city and the B-Cycle program.
Ride Along with Some Company
Denver offers great public transit options, from the RTD bus system to the light rail. On average, Americans that choose to travel via public transportation save around 865 million hours in travel time and close to 450 million gallons of fuel each year. With the absence of current public transportation systems, congestion costs would have been an additional $21 billion.
Communities that choose to invest in public transit ultimately reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually, which is equivalent to New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles combined ceasing to use electricity. A single commuter switching their commute to bus or light rail can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent.
The next time the sun is shining and the temperatures are on the rise, choose one of these environmentally friendly modes of transportation. They are good for you and Mother Earth!
Enviromentalists call it “trip linking.” You can call it “Savings.”
Most motorists don't realize that a single one-mile trip to the dry cleaners emits up to 70 percent as much pollution as a ten-mile excursion with several stops. If motorists cut their “cold starts” – starting a vehicle that has been sitting for an hour or more – many tons of pollutants could be removed from the air each day. Just that simple change can make an enormous impact. In fact, a study conducted in the San Francisco Bay area showed that if residents reduced their number of “cold starts” by 25 percent, they could remove up to 97 tons of pollutants from the air each day. What an achievement!
Even better, “trip linking” saves time, money and reduces air pollution – creating savings all around.
Motor vehicles are one of the largest contributors to air pollution. An effective way for non-commuters to reduce automobile pollution is to "Trip-Link," or to combine several small car trips into one larger trip.
Non-commuters include parents taking their kids to school, seniors, shoppers, weekend travelers, church goers . . .in effect, everyone who drives. Commuters, too, add to the non-commuter problem when they leave their office by car during the day to run errands or go out to lunch.
If you must drive, you can reduce your vehicle’s emissions by minimizing "cold starts" and short/single-errand trips. A cold car, one that’s been sitting for an hour or more, pollutes up to five times more than a warm car. This is because the engine's air pollution control device, the catalytic converter, takes several minutes to warm up and work efficiently. By linking trips together and keeping your car engine warm, you can avoid cold starts.
Trip Linking is easy, and it will save you time and money. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Keep a running list of errands you need to do.
- Give yourself enough time and plan ahead.
- Think before you drive: "Do I really need to make this trip?" "How can I combine this errand with another trip I'll be making this week?"
- Try to match items on your list that are located near each other.
For example, if your child's school is located near your dry cleaner and post office, three trips could be linked together into one!
The Denver area’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus service provides alternative transportation for those who do not have or do not wish to use a car. From everyday commutes to specialty rides, RTD has a variety of metro area schedules and routes to take you where you need to go fast and hassle-free; 365 days a year. All buses are wheelchair accessible and have bike racks for your convenience.
You know that RTD can carry more people at one time than a single car or truck, reducing the number of automobiles discharging emissions into the air, but did you know RTD is taking notable measures to be the most sustainable mode of transportation in the country?
Not only does RTD use alternative fuels such as electric propulsion and low sulfur diesel fuel in conjunction with hybrid-electric engine technology, but they have been named the leaders in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories.
RTD’s engine technology is constantly evolving. The biodiesel bus engines lower exhaust emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The fleet of 16th Street mall buses operate on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and electric motors to further combat our carbon footprint. These buses can carry 116 people running on an engine that is comparable to the engine size of the Toyota Prius Hybrid; and they are free to use.
This public transportation is so efficient it produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide and 50 percent less carbon dioxide per passenger mile than private vehicles.
Think of the gas money RTD can help you save. Withdaily and monthly passes and ticket books, you can buy rides in bulk and do your part to keep the air clean.
There is one more great thing about Denver’s RTD – they actually “walk-the-walk” by being a truly an environmentally conscientious organization. RTD’s vehicles aren’t the only part of their system that is conscious of the environment. The RTD facilities use energy reducing heating and lighting, and are creatively designed to be environmentally friendly. They also have recycle programs for oil, engine fluids, and tires along with their office supplies and equipment.
From the factory to the streets, RTD is functioning with the environment in mind.
So next time you jump in your car, think of all the ways RTD is providing to make it easier and more cost efficient to just simply catch the bus.
With gas prices over $3.00/gallon for the entire year, it’s hard not to cringe while filling up your tank. As everyone’s looking for ways to save, here are some tips on how to save gas so that your trips to the gas station are not quite as frequent.
Maintain your vehicle – Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance guidelines. By regularly checking the condition of your air filter, vacuum and coolant hoses, oil, oil filter, fluids, belts, tires, etc. you will ensure that your car gets the best possible fuel economy. To sign up for a chance to win $300 in vehicle maintenance, go to Maintenance Matters
Avoid idling – If you are going to be in one place for more than 60 seconds, consider turning off your engine. Despite popular belief, idling uses more gas than restarting the engine. Instead of letting your car “warm up” in the wintertime, pull on some gloves and a coat and start driving. Your car will warm up much faster when it’s in motion. Another suggestion is to bypass the drive-thru line and go inside. Often times, this is a quicker option anyway.
Use alternate forms of transportation – Whenever possible walk, ride your bike, take a bus, or carpool. Although at times it may seem like too much work or less convenient to leave your car behind, just think about the impact it can have on your wallet and your health. If you’re not familiar with public transportation in your area why don’t you spend a weekend exploring your town by bus? You may find things you’ve never seen before and you will become more comfortable taking public transportation at the same time.
Run all your errands at once – When running around town take a few minutes to plan your route out ahead of time. If it’s close enough to walk between places, park your car and go on foot. If you don’t particularly enjoy walking make it worth your while by stopping at a coffee shop or ice cream parlor along the way. This will not only save you gas, but loads of time!
Learn to be a fluid driver – sudden stops and starts put more strain on your gas tank as well as your vehicle as a whole. By gradually starting and trying your best to anticipate stops you will not only be a safer driver but save yourself money as well.
With some simple behavior changes, you can really make a difference on the amount of gas you consume and make a difference on your wallet.
At one time or another, we’ve all been driving behind a smoking vehicle, and we’re not talking about a Ferrari Testarossa. The kind we are talking about are the vehicles that have visible emissions coming out of the tailpipe. You close your windows and sunroof, you even close the vents, but you can still smell the fumes.
A gasoline-powered vehicle spewing smoke for more than five seconds is not only foul-smelling, it can also makes the air unhealthy to breathe. The color of the smoke can help pinpoint the source of the problem.
White Smoke: Possible diagnosis - anti-freeze may be burning in the piston cylinder. While this may not mean anything to you, a mechanic will find that this has happened because of a cracked head, blown gasket or cylinder block. (Don’t be confused by the visible vapor that vehicles exhaust when cold-started in cold weather. Visible vapor is water and will disappear after a few seconds; smoke, on the other hand, doesn’t dissipate as quickly and leaves both a foul smell and haze.)
Blue/Gray Smoke: Possible diagnosis - Blue smoke, which is a rare and very odd sight to see, is caused by the burning of oil in the combustion chamber. Normal causes of this are weak piston rings, bad valve guides, bad valve seals or plugged up engines usually due to a lack of oil changes.
Black/Gray Smoke: The most common kind. Possible diagnosis - Thick black smoke usually means that there is too much fuel and not enough air in the combustion chamber. In rare cases, this can be caused by weak fuel pressure causing fuel to 'drip' from injectors rather than 'spray'.
The answer to eliminating the smoking vehicle is to keep up with the recommended maintenance of your vehicle to help reduce the emissions of harmful air pollutants. In addition, keeping your vehicle in good repair results in improved engine life, lower fuel and overall maintenance costs. A well maintained vehicle should not emit visible exhaust.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is offering $300 in vehicle maintenance for people that ‘like’ their promotional announcement on their Facebook page. This is a chance for you to save some money on maintenance and/or repairs, and help the environment with one easy click.
If you do see a smoking vehicle, Rest assured, there is an action you can take; the State of Colorado has a Smoking Vehicle Hotline for motorists to report smoking vehicles either on line or by telephone at (303) 692-3211.
Living inColorado, we are able to enjoy the great outdoors. We like to take a hike, ride a bike and even climb to a peak called Pike. To be able to enjoy being outside, we cannot take for granted the air quality that we breathe.
Whether you are concerned about the environment or just want to be able to enjoy outdoor activities, one of the tangible things you can do to improve air quality is to reduce your vehicle emissions. Here are four things you can do TODAY to reduce your auto emissions.
Reduce the amount of time you are in your vehicle. If you are running an errand, why not consider actually running. Alternatively, you could ride a bicycle, join a carpool or become an RTD expert using public transportation. Since our automobiles are a major source of pollution, removing vehicles from the road will have the greatest impact on air quality.
Plan your route. If you are driving, take a little extra time before you begin and plan the shortest route possible to efficiently complete your task. Most people are on auto-pilot when it comes to their daily travel routine, however with a little effort you can reduce the amount of money you spend on gas while saving the environment. Remember – no backtracking!
Keep your vehicle is good operating condition by doing routine maintenance. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing the oil every 7,500 miles in passenger car under ideal driving conditions. How many of us really drive under ideal conditions? For maximum protection, most oil companies say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three to six months regardless of what type of driving you do.
Reduce the amount of time your car idles. An idling car is terrible for emissions. There are some simple fixes: avoiding drive-thru lanes, avoiding travel during rush hour and if you are idling for more than a minute – consider turning off your engine. Common sense tells us that we don’t need to turn off the engine at a red light, but 60 seconds of idling is a good rule of thumb to consider turning off the engine.
There are many more ways to reduce your auto emissions ranging from buying fuel-efficient cars, to alternative energy vehicles, to simple gasoline additives. Whatever you decide to do, know that making small changes in how you control your automobile usage has direct effect on our air quality and can also save you money at the pump.
Have you ever driven to the nearest drive-thru coffee shop in the morning and seen a line of 15 cars waiting at the drive-thru window and none parked in the lot? While everyone else sits in line for 20-30 minutes waiting to order their morning cup of java you could run inside, head straight to the counter, and be out of there with a latte and a muffin in just five minutes. While everyone else is sitting there idling away his or her gas you will have saved half a gallon of gas just by going inside!
As Americans we spend a fair amount of drive time stuck in the drive-thru line or in traffic. Do you ever consider the affect your idling has on the environment, air quality, or your wallet? Let’s get the facts straight and bust some myths. Did you know that for every two minutes your car idles you lose the same amount of fuel needed to drive about one mile? In fact, ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.
Myth #1: You should warm up your engine before driving.
It really only takes 30 seconds for your engine to warm up and this is best done while driving. In order for a vehicle to perform well other moving parts such as wheel bearings, tires and transmission need to warm up as well. This does not happen until the vehicle is in motion. Idling only wastes gas and is actually very hard on other components of your vehicle (LEaP).
Myth #2: Idling is good for your engine.
Idling can damage engine components such as cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems. When idling an engine does not operate at full temperature, which means that fuel is only partly combusted, and leads to fuel residue buildup on cylinder walls and damages other parts of the engine. Idling also allows water to condense in the exhaust, which eventually corrodes and reduces the life of the exhaust system (LEaP).
Myth #3: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is harder on it than to leave it running.
The price of fuel wasted idling is more expensive than the cost of component wear that results from restarting the engine. Also, restarting your engine has little impact on engine components such as the battery and the starter motor, both of which can be damaged by excessive idling (LEaP).
A few other things to consider when idling:
- It is important to keep your engine well tuned since a poorly tuned engine uses up to 15% more energy when idling.
- Turning off the air conditioner when idling can reduce emissions by 13%, which of course improves air quality.
- Idling emits pollutants that can exacerbate symptoms of asthma and allergies (California Energy Commission).
Have you ever been curious about what pollutants are measured when your vehicle is on the treadmill during the emissions inspection? Take a look at the Vehicle Inspection Report provided at the end of the inspection, and you’ll see that they are carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). But why?
It’s all about your health. Both CO and NOx are pollutants that have been demonstrated to be harmful to your health and the environment – so much so that there are federal health-based standards for them. Hydrocarbons (as well as NOx) are two of the primary components that lead to ground-level ozone pollution – another pollutant with a federal health-based standard. What follows is a little info about each pollutant.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) – Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas emitted when fuel is burned (this is called combustion). It reduces the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to organs and tissues.
- Motor vehicle exhaust (accounts for about 50 percent of CO nationwide)
- Non-road vehicles
Health Effects Include:
- Chest pain
- Impaired coordination and vision
- Confusion, dizziness and nausea
- Reduced oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues
- Aggravation of heart disease
Ozone – The naturally-occurring ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, ozone at ground level is a pollutant.
Sources: Ozone is not emitted directly from a source like other pollutants, but forms as a secondary pollutant. Certain “precursor” pollutants like hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides react chemically in sunlight to form ozone.
- Motor Vehicles
- Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Activities
- Industrial Activities
- Paints, Solvents, Degreasing Agents and Cleaning Fluids
Health Effects Include:
- Chest pain
- Throat irritation
- Aggravation of lung diseases like asthma
- Decreased lung function
Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) – Nitrogen oxides are a group of highly-reactive gases formed when nitrogen and oxygen in the air are combined in high-temperature combustion. Nitrogen dioxide is the component of greatest concern because it forms quickly from emissions from cars, trucks, buses, off-road equipment and power plants.
- On- and Off-road Vehicles
- Combustion Sources (power plants, oil and gas activities)
Health Effects Include:
- Throat Irritation
- Respiratory Distress
- Aggravation of heart and lung diseases
The quality of our air has a direct impact upon our health. Educating ourselves about the most common pollutants, their sources, their effects and what strategies are being used to reduce them is an important part of the effort to improve public health and the environment.
Did you know that a leaky gas cap can lose up to a gallon of gas every 15 days through evaporation? That is equal to approximately two tanks of gas each year. Or, put into other terms, that equals 30 gallons of gasoline and 200 pounds of evaporative emissions, which adds significantly to the amount of ground-level ozone in the air.
Now you may be wondering, “what is ground-level ozone?” Ground-level ozone is created when emissions from industry, automobiles, and other gas powered engines mix with sunshine, which causes a chemical reaction, creating a harmful, ground-level pollutant. Ground-level ozone is not to be confused with the ozone layer in the atmosphere, which protects us from UV rays.
Although automobiles are just one source of ground-level ozone, it has been determined that one of the simplest ways to make a significant impact on pollution levels is to replace faulty or missing gas caps. According to the U.S. Car Care Council, 147 million gallons of gasoline could be saved if everyone in the U.S. replaced their faulty gas caps. In Colorado alone 3,200 cars per month fail the gas cap portion of their emissions test due to faulty or missing gas caps. By replacing each of these caps the Denver Metropolitan area could reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCS) by 2.5 tons per day!
So what can we do? This summer when you go in for an emissions test at any Envirotest emissions testing center, your car will undergo a gas cap test. Anyone who fails will receive a $10 coupon to Napa Auto Parts to buy a new gas cap. Vehicles that fail are required to retest, but can do so free of charge within 10 days of the original inspection. Brian Marsh, general manager for Envirotest Systems says of the program, “Not only will customers with failing caps receive an essentially free new cap, but also the new cap is going to save them money in the long run.”
For more information visit www.aircarecolorado.com today.
In honor of Bike to Work Day on June 27th we interviewed some local bicyclists. Each of these people rides their bike to work on a daily basis and have become lifestyle cyclists for very different reasons. They are each an inspiration for anyone who wants to ride more and drive less.
Name: Joe Bagley
Occupation: Owner, New World Sports, a bicycle rental company in Fort Collins; Massage therapist
Hometown: Fort Collins
Age: 38 years old
Bio: Joe is a semi-pro cross-country and ultra endurance mountain bike racer with over 10 years racing experience. He trains year round in Fort Collins and travels the world with an adventurous spirit.
What does biking do for you? It allows me to travel faster than walking without using any type of non-renewable resources.
Do you find that you can get most places you need to go with a bike? Yep
How long has bicycling been a part of your lifestyle? My entire life, since I was old enough to start riding.
What are some of your greatest biking accomplishments? Definitely the Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat, which I’ve done three times and the Colorado Trail Race (470 miles and 65,000' of elevation gain winding through the Colorado Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango).
What would you say are the major health benefits to riding your bike? Physical fitness, not burning fossil fuels… I guess those are the two big ones.
How much money do you save a year by biking? Oh geeze, I don’t know, probably about $500.
What is your advice to someone who wants to ride more? Ease into it slow and be patient, because it gets easier. Make sure that you have your bike very well tuned and flat resistant tires so that you can get where you need to be on time and not have to deal with inconvenient mechanical issues. Learn how to commute to work without cycle specific clothes. This way biking will become a part of your daily routine without becoming a hassle.
Name: Chris Van Woerkom
Occupation: Recently retired from Agilent Technologies. VanWoerkom worked at Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Technologies for 35 years in a wide variety of positions in marketing and technical marketing.
Age: 57 years old
What does biking do for you? I bike in order to get in shape and clear my mind. When I’m riding my bike it’s like I’m meditating.
Do you find that you can get most places you need to go with a bike? Yeah, for the most part.
How long has bicycling been a part of your lifestyle? I’ve been biking seriously since about 1971, so for about 41 years.
What are some of your greatest biking accomplishments? I’ve participated in Ride the Rockies (an annual bicycle tour that takes 2,000 cyclists on a 6-7 day ride through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains) three times. In college I participated in the Davis Double Century (a 200 mile organized bike ride starting and ending in Davis, California) three times. But perhaps my greatest accomplishment has been converting a handful of people into lifestyle bicyclists.
What would you say are the major health benefits to riding your bike? Well, biking is obviously a great cardio workout, and its great for your mental health as well. When you’re riding you seldom have to stop for traffic and because of this it’s less stressful than driving. I don’t have to deal with stop and go traffic, so I am able to think about the day and like I said before more or less meditate.
I heard that you won a biking award at work. What was the award? On Bike to Work Day they gave me the award for the Most Avid Biker. I drove to work a total of five days that year.
What is your advice to someone who wants to ride more? Start easy and enjoy the ride. Biking lets you look around, so take some time to smell the roses.
How much money do you save a year by biking? Well, on the surface it’s actually not that much, maybe $300 in gas. But if you factor in the price of an oil change and other wear and tear I’d say probably about $400-500. Then again, if you really want to get into it, consider how often you need to buy a car and how much less wear it gets sitting in the garage. That means that you could potentially add a few years to the life of your car and save thousands of dollars.
Name: Alyse Houghton
Occupation: Receptionist at Floyd’s 99 Barber Shop
Age: 23 years old
What does biking do for you? It is my main means of transportation. It helps sustain me in many ways since I don’t have a car. It’s entertaining and fun and it’s good for your health, gives me exercise, unintentional exercise, haha! I mean I bike because I have to, but I get a great workout at the same time.
Do you find that you can get most places you need to go with a bike? Within Denver, yes, but once a week I catch a ride to Loveland to visit my boyfriend and my family.
Just out of curiosity, why don’t you have a car? When I moved to Cap Hill it was way more of a pain to have one than not and I honesty couldn’t afford license plates for it. So, I drove it to my mom’s place and it’s been there for two years now. For the longest time I just walked everywhere but having a bike allows me to get where I need to go.
How long has bicycling been a part of your lifestyle? To this extent, probably for six months. Obviously I’ve been biking forever, but I got my bike six months ago and it has been my only vehicle ever since.
What are some of your greatest biking accomplishments? Accomplishments, um, I don’t know, I rode 17 miles one day. And I can ride with my dog, that’s cool. I’m not a serious biker, but those are big accomplishments for me.
What would you say are the major health benefits to riding your bike? Well, it’s as simple as just getting a little bit of cardio exercise in and as complex as having a sustainable pollutant free way to travel.
What is your advice to someone who wants to ride more? Move to Capital Hill (Denver), get a bike and get rid of your car. You will ride a lot!
How much money do you save a year by biking? I would say $2,000 easily. I’m not paying insurance, not paying for gas, not paying for car repairs. And parking tickets, I didn’t even factor parking tickets. I save lots of money!