June 20, 2011 in Features

Do Your Part: New, greener machine, but not one I expected

Terri Bennett McClatchy
 
Down to Earth

• For more on local green living, see www.downtoearthnw.com.

These ever-rising gas prices got me to really take a cold, hard look at the car I’ve been driving for years. It’s an SUV, and it gets 15 mpg in the city.

Do I feel guilty for driving an SUV? No. It’s paid for, in great condition, and gets my kids and their friends where they need to go safely.

However, the price shock at the pump made me long for a more fuel-efficient car. So, I started down the road of car shopping, and where I ended up was quite unexpected.

I began by creating a list of all the things I wanted in a greener car.

I wanted something with room for six people that got at least 30 miles to the gallon. That would cut my fuel cost in half every year.

When I started doing the math, though, I realized that a new car was going to cost more than I’d save.

For one, I don’t drive a lot each year. Because my office is a mile away from my house and I make it a goal to shop within a five-mile radius, I drive an average of 5,000 miles a year.

That would only generate an annual savings of about $600 in fuel at $4 a gallon. Then when you factor in the cost to upgrade, even with my trade-in, I was still looking at spending at least another $10,000 for the features I wanted.

So, here I was at a crossroads. I had decided to invest in fuel savings but was concerned that a new car just might not be the most cost effective way to go.

That’s when things took a turn. Our clothes dryer died in the middle of the weekly laundry routine. The answer was made for me: I could invest in fuel savings of another kind, the fossil fuel that powers my home.

So I chose to make my investment in upgrading inefficient 17-year-old appliances. I ended up spending a little less than $1,000, and the energy and water savings were instant.

Plus I discovered during the process that using a clothesline isn’t as hard, or inconvenient, as I thought it would be. In fact, over the past two weeks I’ve only used my new clothes dryer for a total of 30 minutes, and that was to fluff the towels to prevent that crunchy feel.

Line drying even half of our laundry combined with the energy efficiency of the new washer will save more than $200 a year on my utility bills.

This car-buying journey was not what I expected, to say the least.

However, I met my goal to make an investment in something greener that will also save me money. You can get help determining if upgrading to a greener car makes sense for you at DoYourPart.com/columns.

I know I am going to upgrade to a greener car eventually. For now, there’s nothing wrong with me being totally in love with the two new appliances right downstairs.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of DoYourPart.com, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.

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