Drive greener?

I’ve heard that changing your car’s oil “every 3,000 miles” has earned criticism for not being green. Can you shed some light on this?

Hmmm, green driving. That’s like saying nutritious fast-food or natural deodorant: It just doesn’t quite work. But I know your type: You like to sit in the long, zero-miles-per-gallon commute while you listen to NPR, sip fair-trade coffee from a Sigg Switzerland Thermo Mug and think: How can I buy my way toward green greatness today? Hint: Buy a bike.

But where was I? Ah yes, the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s 3,000 Mile Myth campaign. CIWMB communications director Jon Myers said that the 3,000-mile oil-change standard is “outdated” for cars made since the year 2000, and that 74 percent of Californians change their oil too frequently. A 2005 CIWMB study concluded that California wastes 153.5 million gallons of oil annually. But Myers acknowledged that a car’s oil-change frequency should be based on the type of driving one does.

“We’re not trying to be the oil experts,” Myers said. “We’re asking people to go to the people who know their car better than anyone else: the people who made their car and their engine.”

Richard Pfand, service manager of Goodyear Auto Service Center in downtown Sacramento said correct oil change “depends on the year, make and model of the car and … how hard you’re driving, on temperature, on the oil’s solid content, on whether the engine is worn out.” Pfand also noted that the services which accompany an oil change—tire inflation, tire-tread analysis, correct alignment—should be done every 3,000 miles.

So what are Pfand’s recommendations for driving greener? “Drive less. Don’t tailgate … no hard acceleration and no hard stopping. Take a bicycle like I do,” he said.

You should also keep your tires inflated (not too low, not too high); avoid stop-and-go driving, which consumes fuel; MapQuest driving directions to avoid making pointless, gas-guzzling circles around the neighborhood; and substitute a rolled-down window for the car’s air conditioner.

But there are ways to simply drive less. If you can’t part with your suburban box of a home, talk to your employer about telecommuting. And remember that the greenest wheels are those of a bike.