Right Turns And Other Simple Tips To Save Money And Environment

by golbguru on April 4, 2007

In the recent issue of TIME magazine, there is an interesting article by the title 51 Things We Can Do. Among the list are some sensible (and worth-a-try) things that will not only make Al Gore happy, but also help you save some money in the long run. What amused me the most was tip #45: Make One Right Turn After Another; here is an excerpt:

In 2004, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. The time spent idling while waiting to turn against oncoming traffic burns fuel and costs millions each year.

In metro New York, UPS has reduced CO2 emissions by 1,000 metric tons since January. Today 83% of UPS facilities are heading in the right direction; within two years, the policy will be adopted nationwide.

If you have difficulty in visualizing it, here is a graphic (MS Office clip art rocks) that might be worth a thought:

right turns and left turns

The image compares two overly-simplified (for the purpose of comparison) ways of making a to and fro journey. In both cases you travel the same distance, but in all probability, choosing the route with all left turns will take more time (unless you are lucky enough to catch protected left green signals at all three intersections).

Huh?…but how’s one vehicle making right turns going to help?

Towards that, here is a bit of insight into why UPS is trying this out (source):

“It seems small, but when you multiply it across 88,0000 vehicles making nearly 15 million deliveries every day during the course of a year, it adds up.”

If 88,000 vehicles making more right turns mean millions of dollars for UPS, it will certainly mean something significant for the US as a whole with about 240,000,000+ vehicles.

Obviously, right turns are nice only in US (and other right-hand traffic countries); similar logic applies to left turns in UK, Japan, and other left-hand traffic countries.

Other handy tips

The TIME article mentions other common sense tips that are worth trying. Some of these tips must have been repeated a million times on different blogs and websites, but TIME’s interesting numbers adds a better perspective from the point of view of motivating people towards applying these tips. Not all of the 51 things mentioned in the article can be easily implemented by the common man, but here are some that most of us can try without drastically altering our lifestyle:

  • Give up those incandescent (filament) light bulbs.

CFLs cost three to five times as much as conventional incandescent bulbs yet use one-quarter the electricity and last several years longer.

say no to incandescent bulbsIf you are worried about whether it makes economical sense to buy the expensive compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs, read this: Save Money On Light Bulbs. With some reasonable assumptions, CF bulbs will actually save you money in the long run. By the way, a similar logic also applies to appliances. Compare appliances based on their power consumption (look for kWh or kilowatt-hour ratings), and extend the comparison over a few years down the line. Power efficient appliances may be expensive at first glance, but may turn out to be cheaper when it comes to operational costs. Also, the rule of thumb is: less power consumption = more environmentally friendly.

  • Some tips for every household.

Open a window instead of running the AC. Adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Caulk and weatherstrip all your doors and windows. Insulate your walls and ceilings. Use the dishwasher only when it’s full. Install low-flow showerheads. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water. Turn down the thermostat on the water heater. At the end of the year, don’t be surprised if your house feels lighter. It just lost 4,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide.

tips for homeForget about the 4,000 lbs of CO2 for a while…you will save a ton of money by implementing these tips. So if you are not so much of a *green-person*, at least try it for the sake of money. And if you don’t care about the savings, think about how much you can contribute towards the environment by reducing 4,000 lbs of CO2.

  • Insulate your water heater

Wrapping your heater in an insulated blanket—one costs about $10 to $20 at home centers—could save your household about 250 lbs. in CO2 emissions annually. Most water heaters more than five years old are constantly losing heat and wasting energy because they lack internal insulation. If the surface feels warm to the touch, get your heater an extra blankie. You’ll both feel better.

water heater tipThis is something I have never thought about…and due to my procrastinating tendency, this will take me some time to implement…but it sounds like a sensible thing to do, so go ahead and try it.

  • Switch off your computers, lights, and other electronic equipment when not in use.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75% of all the electricity consumed in the home is standby power used to keep electronics running when those TVs, DVRs, computers, monitors and stereos are “off.” The average desktop computer, not including the monitor, consumes from 60 to 250 watts a day. Compared with a machine left on 24/7, a computer that is in use four hours a day and turned off the rest of the time would save you about $70 a year. The carbon impact would be even greater. Shutting it off would reduce the machine’s CO2 emissions 83%, to just 63 kg a year.

switch off computersI see this happening day in and day out. I don’t think anyone in my entire building switches of their computers before leaving for the day. There must be more than a 1000 computers in here. Recently, after the university started adding an *energy surcharge* in our tuition bills, some people have started switching off the lights…but only about 25% of the people are doing it.

  • Check tire pressure regularly and get your car tuned-up periodically.

If you can boost your gas mileage from 20 to 24 m.p.g., your old heap will put 200 fewer pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

check tire pressureTire pressure gages costs about a dollar in most stores, air is free at most gas stations, and it doesn’t take more than five minutes to check your tire pressure. I think procrastination is the only barrier here. Drive sensibly; speeding eats up a lot of gas and is not very efficient. Better mileage = more savings, reducing 200 lbs of CO2 = cleaner conscience. :)

  • Manage and pay your bills online.

If every U.S. home viewed and paid its bills online, the switch would cut solid waste by 1.6 billion tons a year and curb greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.1 million tons a year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

pay your bills onlineApart from the environmental concerns, there is also an organizational factor associated with this. With online transactions, you don’t need to sort important pieces of mail from a ton of junk ones, or worry about shredding paper statements, or worry about USPS not delivering your payment check on time…all small things, but with major *headache* potential. This also saves a small amount of money on postage stamps.

  • Say no to plastic grocery bags and yes to cloth or paper bags (this one won’t save you money..but it’s worth doing it for the environment).

Every year, more than 500 billion plastic bags are distributed, and less than 3% of those bags are recycled. They are typically made of polyethylene and can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade in landfills that emit harmful greenhouse gases. Reducing your contribution to plastic-bag pollution is as simple as using a cloth bag (or one made of biodegradable plant-based materials) instead of wasting plastic ones.

say no to plasticJust saying “I use recyclable plastic bags” is not enough. Even recycling plants take up a lot of energy. Therefore, it makes sense to reuse them as much as possible before recycling. Thin plastic bags won’t last long when you start reusing them…that’s where reusable cloth and paper bags (paper bags made from recycled paper) come into picture. Try them, they are not expensive at all.

  • Live a sensible life.

Live simply. Meditate. Consume less. Think more. Get to know your neighbors. Borrow when you need to and lend when asked.

think moreThis is tip #51 in the list…sounds exceedingly simple and yet it’s the most difficult thing to act on. I would modify the words “consume less” to “consume sensibly”. Live your life well…but live it sensibly. Hey! wait a minute, it says…”Think more”? But, aren’t we Americans? ;)

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blain Reinkensmeyer 04.04.07 at 10:38 am

Golb, this is great info man. I never even thought about some of this stuff. The right turns only for example makes a lot of sense. I am one of those “open the windows instead of run AC” kind of people!

2 Blain Reinkensmeyer 04.04.07 at 10:39 am

Not 2 mention a big “save the world” kind of person, I wonder how much energy is saved by recycling, probably something ridiculous…

3 Jeremy 04.04.07 at 10:54 am

Interesting. I almost always plan my trips around town to make as few left turns as possible but never thought about the cost savings.

I simply do it out of convenience. I hate sitting at a busy street without a light waiting to make a left turn across traffic, it drives me nuts. It is even worse when you are behind someone who needs about a half mile gap between cars to pull out. That is frustrating, so I just plan to make right turns.

Good to know that by doing that I could be saving money, even if it is only pennies. The decreased blood pressure alone is enough of a reward.

4 golbguru 04.04.07 at 1:23 pm

Blain: I must have read some/part of this info before, but this is the first time I was *conscious* about the facts. So this time I might act on them. I have tried driving without AC, but in this part of the country there are only a few days you can go without your car AC. :)

Jeremy: I hear ya; I have chosen a few right turns in the past…but the money factor never came to my mind. The UPS story kind felt interesting…and hence the motivation for the post.

5 dimes 04.04.07 at 7:28 pm

You have to make right turns around here because the traffic is so bad you will NEVER be able to turn left.

And just for kicks, tell me how long it would take for me to exhale 4000 lbs of carbon dioxide, or 200 lbs, or whatever else is cited in this article. If I could nullify the effect of my car’s efficiency in ten aerobic workouts, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle, does it?

6 invincible 04.04.07 at 8:26 pm

I simply hate waiting at green light to make left turn. In my locality you have very few hard green (left arrow) lights and almost always u have to ‘yield’ on green to make a left turn.
During peak hrs it becomes almost impossible to yield n take left so u end up waiting for a yellow or sometimes even red.

Back home, we have traffic lights which display a countdown on digital clock so u can turn off ur engine and save gas. Not seen that here, may be mostly due to sensor operated lights.

Even for a right turn, u have to STOP if it’s red and only then proceed. So you need to kill all ur engine power and start from lowest gear. But it helps on green and thank God for that !!

7 invincible 04.04.07 at 8:39 pm

I had this strange feeling of actually calculating how much u save preventively.
e.g. Filling gas from a cheaper gas station.
Buying groceries from Walmart (or similar) instead of Giant (or anyother convenience store).
Saving power by switching off (or hibernating) ur laptop.
Saving gas (& mileage) by working from home
(but u waste more electricity etc).
Car pooling (this is very efficient as long as everyone is cooperative and contributing, else we have ppl here who wd leech on you for free rides). Incidentally it is very environ friendly.
Switching off unnecessary lamps/tube lights.
Switching off TV while cooking/talking on phone.
I’vent seen anyone turning off the engine at traffic lights although many times u know u have to wait for almost a minute.
Some ppl quip that the fuel injection is microchip controlled, so it doesn’t suck excessive fuel while idling (i disagree) and the re-ignition takes in more fuel (which i strongly disagree).
If u hv any data on this, can you update me?

8 plonkee 04.05.07 at 3:30 am

I’m researching a new fridge purchase, and I’ve found that the energy efficient ones are no more expensive than non-efficient ones. I had a similar experience when I last bought a washing machine.

9 golbguru 04.05.07 at 9:28 am

Dimes: Are you looking for excuses to stop exercising? ;)

Here are your numbers (source Wikipedia)

According to a study by the USDA,[3] an average person’s respiration generates approximately 450 liters (roughly 900 grams) of carbon dioxide per day.

An hour of rigorous exercise will make you breathe faster and will increase that to say 1134 grams (or 2.5 pounds) per day. At that rate it’s just 80 days to generate 200 pounds of CO2. :) ..May be you could try not breathing at all or something.

If you just consider CO2 for your aerobic workouts…that should come to about 0.5 pounds a day. At that rate it will take about 400 days to nullify your car’s efficiency. So go ahead and love those workouts without guilt. :)

10 golbguru 04.05.07 at 9:37 am

Invincible: I love those countdown signals…and often wonder why they are not popular in US.

As for stopping at red lights…I think you are on the right track. Here is something that will encourage your thoughts:

Canadians are Becoming Idle-Free!

And on this blog:

Americans, however, have their thinking stuck in the 1950s, when it really did use a lot of gas to kick a carburetor into life. Nowadays, though, all cars are made with fuel injection, and starting a warm engine is nothing. Ask your mechanic, and they’ll shrug. Starting and stopping more often will wear on your starter, but the money you’ll save on gas will help you replace it a few months sooner, and the emissions you save will make a big difference.

Plonkee: Glad to hear that. I hope people realize it fast and clear themselves of the misconception that all green things are expensive.

11 saving advice 04.06.07 at 3:33 am

Does this apply to me Japan where we drive on the opposite side of the road? ;)

12 The Digerati Life 04.07.07 at 10:12 am

Looks like I’ll need to use another article for my weekly roundup now that this is going to be in the Fof! :D Definitely a very intriguing post!

13 Best CD Rates 04.09.07 at 2:11 am

i hate waiting at the stoplight, so i usually try to avoid right turns as much as possible, anyway

14 David 04.09.07 at 9:09 am

Even better than wrapping your water heater is replacing it with a tankless water heater when your old one finally self-destructs (all water heaters eventually corrode and leak — it’s constantly holding water, there ain’t no getting around it). It heats the water on the fly which saves energy and it also means you’ll never run out of hot water!

15 frugal zeitgeist 04.10.07 at 3:18 pm

Wow. Very, very cool. Thanks for sharing.

16 lou, NJ 11.12.07 at 3:26 pm

Great suggestions!
I installed the flourescent spotlights and they are great. They use 25W instead of 100W however they take about 7 minutes to get to full brightness which is a pain when someone comes to the door or i have to put out the garbage.
Also i dont worry too much about interior lighting in the winter since the heat loss in the lamp goes toward heating. The house is a closed system and the house uses the heat from the lights, refrigerator, TV, computer etc. In reality it replaces the heat from my oil system. pay either way!! In the summer (if you have a/c) lighting works against you.

17 Ellen S. 05.09.10 at 5:38 am

The concept of “saving money” is easier said than done for most people. I understand that it is ‘easy and logical’ for some people, but I also understand it can be a difficult habit to break for others.

If you’re looking to save money or change your lifestyle, my advice is to take it in “baby-steps” because it won’t happen overnight. Here are some tips that helped me out.

1. Always pay more than the minimum on any credit card payments – if you don’t believe me you can calculate it for yourself (http://www.csgnetwork.com/creditcardmincalc.html)
2. Use coupons when grocery shopping
3. Try online shopping – it’s saves on gas & they have bigger markdowns (http://www.shoptivity.com)
4. Read a book – it’s cheaper than going to a movie (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/)
5. Know your budget! (https://www.dl.ed.gov/borrower/BudgetCalculator.do)

Good luck and happy savings!

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