Green Car Care Tips

We often write about the newest electric vehicles and hybrid cars that are revolutionizing the automobile industry, and how these products make going green easier and more fun. But for many, due to financial situations, investing in a new car – especially one that could cost upwards of $40,000 – simply isn't an option.

But for readers who still want to be environmentally conscious, the good news is that there are vehicle maintenance habits and practices that are both greener than conventional methods, and will also save you money in the long run:

  • Don't change the oil every 3,000 miles. Lots of mechanics will tell you that your car needs to come in for an oil change and lube every 3,000 miles, but the fact is that this is antiquated advice. According to AutoMedia.com, most owners can get away with every 5,000 miles, and if they use synthetic oils, every 7,000 miles. This will ensure that you're using less oil, and will save you money on maintenance costs.
  • Keep tires properly inflated. If you've ever ridden a bike with a flat tire, you know how much more work it takes to pedal forward. It's no different with cars: If your tires are under-inflated, you'll see a decrease in gas mileage.
  • Regularly replace air filters. When your car isn't getting enough air, the engine will create a "rich mixture", meaning more gasoline will go into the cylinders, thereby increasing the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of the exhaust pipe.

Make sure to keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information on green living practices.

BMW Debuts The i3, A New Electric Car

Not satisfied to let Tesla dominate the luxury electric car market, BMW has introduced the 2014 i3, a hybrid vehicle which can travel 100 miles without a recharge. For longer trips, the i3 relies on a two-cylinder, 34-horsepower gasoline engine that increases the total distance it can travel without refueling to 200 miles.

With a listed starting price of $41,350 (higher if you want to include the reserve gasoline engine), the i3 is also much more affordable for American consumers than many people had expected from a BMW electric vehicle. The cost makes it competitive with electric vehicles from Chevrolet, Tesla and Fiat, and promises to make it popular with a wider group of drivers, although it's still much more money than the average buyer is willing to pay for any vehicle, gas or electric.

One of the key features of the i3 is the frame, which is made from carbon fiber. It's an expensive material, but it ways half as much as steel and a third less than aluminum. This allows the car to travel farther on less energy than if it had been constructed using more conventional materials.

Another major improvement over other electric cars is the fast recharging time. According to Time Magazine, the i3 will be able to fully recharge in 30 minutes, making it more for consumers who make many shorter but frequent trips around town.

While the driving range of the i3 is still limited compared to the Tesla Model S, it seems likely that the lower price and BMW brand will attract many buyers. In the long run, this will be good for consumers, who can expect car companies to continue competing to put out lower priced models.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue providing the latest news on environmentally friendly products.

Keeping Your Patio Cool And Green In The Summer Heat

While hanging out on a backyard patio is a favorite summer pastime for many Americans, it can be less inviting if you live in an area that doesn't get much shade or a summer breeze. Some residents might consider enclosing the area and adding an air conditioning unit, but this has two distinct disadvantages. One is that it takes away the pleasure of enjoying the fresh air, and the second is that AC is energy intensive and wasteful.

To keep your patio cool without using any electricity or closing it off, consider taking these steps:

  • Cover the area, but not with a solid surface. Instead, use slats of wood or a mesh cloth that can limit sunlight but still allow for airflow.
  • Lay down an all-weather rug to keep the surface extra comfortable and cool to walk on. 
  • Paint the ground surface white or a similarly light color, whether it is concrete, wood or tile. White reflects sunlight, and won't absorb heat the way that a dark surface would. This will keep your patio area from turning into a toaster oven, especially if it features an open roof.
  • Purchase a misting system. These devices can lightly spray and blow water, serving as a more environmentally friendly alternative to air conditioning by using less energy.

Going green doesn't have to mean being uncomfortable in hot weather. You can still enjoy some quality time on your porch or patio by using these clever tips to avoid the heat. Check back with LifeIsGreen.com often for more green living ideas.

Revamping Your Home With Eco-Friendly Painting

Repainting your home is an exciting process, as it gives your house a fresh look without much effort or time. But it's also fraught with dangers in terms of exposure to toxic chemicals and environmental hazards. The kind of paint you buy at Home Depot is typically made with many noxious compounds that can be bad for your health.

But it doesn't need to be this way. There are many options out there for homeowners looking to improve the look of their interior design without coming in contact with poisonous substances. Here are some things to look for when you're purchasing new paints:

  • Avoid volatile organic compounds (VOC). These are common in the colorants used in many mass-produced paint brands, and it used to be difficult to obtain products without them or with very low levels. But now it is very easy to purchase milk- and clay-based paints that are just as durable and long-lasting. Some brands include Farrow & Ball, Marston & Langinger and C2 LoVo Paint.
  • Make sure to wear skin, eye and breathing protection. Particularly if you're sanding off old paint and wallpaper, the dust can contain some of the toxic chemicals you were trying to avoid by using environmentally friendly products.
  • Recycle rags and dispose of them properly when you're finished. Some of the products you use may not be suitable for landfills and should be gotten rid of at a toxic waste disposal center.

Lastly, make sure you pay tribute to green living by painting one of your rooms green!

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide updates and information about environmentally friendly products and services.

Alaska Airlines To Purchase Sustainable Biofuels For Hawaii Flights

Part of going green is making sure that you support businesses that utilize sustainable, responsible practices, even if doing so requires higher costs than sticking with conventional methods for delivering products and services.

If you're traveling this summer and wondering which airline is greenest, you may want to check out Alaska Airlines. The company announced on July 24 that it had reached an agreement with Hawai`i BioEnergy to purchase 10 million gallons of biofuel a year to power its jets. The agreement will go into effect as soon as 2018, when Hawai'i BioEnergy receives regulatory approval to increase its production to meet this new demand.

"Alaska Airlines shares our goals of environmental responsibility and our commitment to sustainable, local energy production," Joel Matsunaga, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hawai`i BioEnergy, said in a news release. "The development and commercialization of local, renewable energy is of critical importance to Hawaii, given the state imports 95 percent of its energy needs.

Alaska Airlines has been at the forefront of promoting green flying through the use of renewable energy sources such as biofuel. The company uses a 20 percent blend of biofuel, which is typically made from wood or used cooking oil, on 75 daily flights. Doing so reduces the carbon footprint of their airplanes. They also do this at considerable expense, as biofuels cost roughly six times as much as conventional jet fuel.

According to the press release, Alaska Airlines has shrunk their carbon emissions by 30 percent since 2011.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more news about renewable energy products and services!

New EPA Chief Seeks To Make Climate Change The Number One Priority Of Agency

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy, an administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to succeed Lisa Jackson as the head of the agency. Her appointment follows an extended fight between Senate Republicans and President Obama over her nomination, which was delayed because of opposition over how best to confront climate change and promote renewable energy infrastructure.

McCarthy, a Boston native, will be taking over the EPA at a time when its attention is devoted almost singularly to the goal of mitigating the disastrous effects of climate change. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling stated that greenhouse gases qualified as a pollutant, and that therefore the Agency had the authority to regulate emissions. Because legislative solutions to the problem have been slow to materialize due to political opposition, President Obama is seeking to use executive power through his cabinet departments to make an impact on the problem.

McCarthy will be in an extremely important position, as she'll be able to dictate rules and regulations regarding things like coal plant emissions, automobile mileage standards and other measures that are meant to combat climate change.

According to The Hill, a political news site, McCarthy delivered a welcome message and remarks to EPA employees in a video after her appointment.

"This agency has the courage to act. We can make it happen — but we need all hands on deck," McCarthy said. "Together we can and we will rise to today's challenges, working as one EPA."

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide updates on the EPA's efforts to encourage American citizens and businesses into going green.

3 Eco-Friendly Bath Products Keep You And The Planet Clean

Heading to the supermarket or drugstore to replenish your supply of bath products can sometimes be a daunting task, with so many brands and types of gels, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and other hygiene items to choose from. One aspect of these purchases that you should think about if you're concerned about green living is whether the products you use are eco-friendly.

Many of the biggest salon brands use chemicals which can be damaging for the environment when they rinse off your skin and go down the drain. Furthermore, some of these substances may not even be that good for your health. So, we've created a list of some great bath products that will leave you feeling clean and fresh without using toxins that could harm you or the planet:

Shampoo – Dead Sea Spa Magik Shampoo contains minerals to moisturize your scalp and normalize the oil and moisture balance of your hair. The manufacturers only use organic ingredients, and it contains no parabens, chemicals found in many pharmaceutical products which have been linked to breast cancer.

Shaving Gel – While there are a few brands that make eco-friendly shaving cream, it may be worth your time to simply make it yourself! Lovelyish, a beauty and lifestyle site, has a recipe that involves simple, natural ingredients like cocoa butter, almond oil and baking soda. Best of all, it's cheap to do!

Sun Block – The Honest Company's SPF 30 sunscreen is biodegradable and "reef-friendly" meaning that when it washes off in ocean water, it won't harm marine life or ecosystems.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information on environmentally friendly products!

The Three Best Hybrid Cars

Although the Toyota Prius has become the most ubiquitous gas-electric hybrid car in America, it is hardly the only one worth talking about. In fact, there are a number of models that have come out recently that deserve just as much attention, and according to some reviewers, a few manufacturers have actually surpassed the Prius in terms of quality, handling, comfort and fuel economy.

Below is a list of some of the most notable hybrids currently on the market:

  • 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid: This model was rated the 2013 Best Hybrid Car for the Money and Best Hybrid Car for Families by U.S. News and World Report, and it's not hard to see why. Featuring a 188 horsepower engine that achieves 47 miles per gallon (mpg) on both city streets and the highway, the Fusion also comes in at a very affordable $25,000, depending on which extra features you elect to install. Reviewers have compared its power and handling favorably to the Prius, which is thought by some to be a bit underpowered, even for a hybrid.
  • 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid: CNet praised the Jetta Hybrid for its acceleration and mileage (42 mpg streets/48 mpg highway), though the reviewer felt that the price premium over the standard Jetta without a hybrid engine was rather large, as the hybrid model costs about $31,000.
  • 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid: Offering more space than many of the other automobiles in this category, the Camry does have slightly lower mileage than its competitors (43 mpg city/39 mpg freeway) but makes up for it with a roomy interior cabin, making it a great choice for families.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to bring you news and updates on the best environmentally friendly products.

Be More Energy Efficient While Staying Cool This Summer

One of the challenges for anyone who is going green is to stay cool in the summer without using excess energy. After all, running an air conditioner (AC) uses quite a bit of electricity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 5 percent of all power produced in the United States goes specifically to cooling rooms with AC. Unfortunately, the U.S. still has a relatively small renewable energy portfolio, so most of that electricity comes from fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas.

With that in mind, we've assembled a list of some tips you can follow to save energy this summer without affecting your quality of life or comfort:

  • Hire a professional: Maintenance on an AC unit should be handled by a license professional, who should check your system every year to ensure proper airflow and avoid malfunctions.
  • Install a programmable thermostat: These devices will allow you to set temperatures ahead of time, and more expensive units will learn your preferences over time and adjust the indoor climate accordingly.
  • Place AC units in the shade: If you're considering having a central AC system installed on your home, have the main unit situated in the shade. According to Tom's Mechanical, an HVAC contractor, this can lower your air conditioner's power usage by 10 percent.
  • Purchase Energy Star Products: These are machines and devices that are certified to use less electricity than older, out-of-date units.

By following this advice, you'll be able to reduce your carbon footprint while also lowering your utility bill.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more updates on renewable energy news and conservation tips.

Advocate For Bike Lanes In Your City

One of the best methods of going green is to ditch your car and hop on your bicycle. Bikes produce zero carbon emissions, run on muscle power, take up much less space than automobiles and get you in shape. A daily ride to and from the office can give you the daily workout you've always planned to get but never had time to complete, and bicycling is far cheaper than driving a car everyday, as you can typically get a decent bike at retail stores for under 200 dollars.

But one of the major problems for people in many cities is that their town doesn't have good bike lanes. If you live in an urban area like Seattle or Boston, bike lanes make it much easier to get to and from work or school, but smaller towns with more emphasis on car travel are less likely to have dedicated space for cyclists. So how does one advocate for adding these to city streets?

You should:

  • Determine which city agencies and officials have jurisdiction over bike lanes and transportation. Sometimes this power lies with the mayor, and others with the city council. It's important to know who you should be appealing to when requesting these kinds of policy changes.
  • Find out if other citizens in your area have asked for new lanes. There are tons of biking blogs on the internet, many devoted to the cycling community in specific cities. Connect with these people, as strength in numbers is important when advocating for higher biking infrastructure spending.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com often for more news and updates about green living ideas.