Category Archives: Fuel Efficiency

Don’t Make Driving a Drag: Fuel Economy Tips

Fuel Economy Tips

If you were paying attention in your high school physics class, you know that engine size and acceleration are only partially responsible for how fast you go and how fast you burn through a gallon of gas. Fuel economy also depends on things like weight, wind resistance, friction and driving habits.

As part of President Obama’s plan to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil and lessen the environmental impact of gas pollution, all new cars and light trucks will have to average 54.5 mpg by 2025. By improving one or more of the components that determine fuel efficiency, car manufacturers can achieve that goal. As a driver, you can also do your part when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Fuel Economy Tips: How You Can Improve Your Gas Mileage

Aggressive driving can result in a five percent decrease in gas mileage in city driving and as much as a 33 percent decrease at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Rapid acceleration, speeding and hard braking makes your engine work harder and need more fuel.

Carrying too much weight in your vehicle is also robbing you of better mileage. While you don’t want to throw Grandma out the back seat, avoid hauling all that junk in your trunk. While putting 500 pounds in the back of your Dodge Ram pickup truck won’t have much impact, if you put that same 500 pounds in a Honda Civic, it will.

Other things that you can do to gain better mileage are to make sure your tires are properly inflated, turn off your engine instead of letting it idle for 10 minutes and keep your car tuned-up.

Wind Drag and Aerodynamics

Auto manufacturers and engineers use wind tunnels to test the aerodynamics of a new or redesigned car. By shaping parts of the body of the car, changing the grill or making the car lower to the ground, they can reduce the drag on the vehicle. If you have ever stuck your arm out of the window of a car traveling at 70 mph, that powerful force that pushes against you, is the same force that your car must overcome. Turn your hand sideways and it becomes more aerodynamic, like an airplane wing, and you will need less strength and energy to keep your hand and arm in place.

When the 2009 Ford Flex hit the showroom floor, it had a coefficient of drag of just 0.355, significantly better than its Asian competitors. According to the Flex team, the wide, low stance of the vehicle reduced wind resistance by forcing more air over the vehicle and not under it, where it could create the most drag.

Driveline Friction

The vehicle’s driveline also contributes to its fuel efficiency, TireBuyer adds. That includes your drive shaft, transmission and axles, which receive the power to turn the wheels and propel your vehicle. Using lighter materials like aluminum instead of steel and manufacturing the driveline parts to precise specifications can reduce friction and add a few miles of travel distance to each tankful of gas. Unfortunately, to do this, you’d need to take your vehicle to a body shop, and changes to these areas could result in voiding warrantees.

No matter what model vehicle you own, if you understand some basic concepts of physics, you can make your car more efficient. Good habits like keeping enough air in your tires, accelerating slowly and not keeping your set of 50 pound dumbbells in your trunk will help give you better gas mileage. Friction, drag and inertia can all rob you of fuel efficiency. A car manufacturer can make a more aerodynamic vehicle, but can not control the way you drive it. Be smart about the way you drive and you will use less gas, save money and also do something good for the environment.

Hybrids on the Horizon: The Future Looks Green

Since the first hybrid vehicle hit the U.S. in 1999, with the Honda Insight Hybrid, people looking for a greener ride found their answer in hybrid vehicles. But environmentally minded consumers don’t make a large market share, and it wasn’t until the promise of savings at the pump that flocks of consumers were finally noticed by automakers.

After the introduction of the Insight, followed by Prius in 2000, the number of available hybrid vehicles, including popular sports vehicles, soon began to grow — as did hybrid technology and consumer interest.

Hybrid Image

Sticker Shock

It took several years of refinement before hybrids truly gained traction in the minds of the average consumer. One of the biggest challenges has been the premium price tag. Automakers have had to educate consumers on looking past the initial sticker shock and determine whether they could save money over the lifetime of the vehicle, given the lower cost of fuel and maintenance. But as battery technologies improved, the gap between a hybrid vehicle and its conventional counterpart has lessened. The higher initial cost of many of today’s hybrids can almost always be justified by fuel savings during the lifetime of the car.

Understanding Hybrid Technology

How does hybrid technology work? Hybrid vehicles feature a smaller, fuel-efficient gas engine that works in tandem with an electric motor. While some plug-in hybrids charge overnight, much like a full electric vehicle, most hybrid vehicles today rely entirely on the battery recharging as the vehicle is driven. Hybrids make use of a special braking system called regenerative braking, which recaptures energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and uses it to refuel the battery, instead.

Essentially, the electric motor can be used to slow the car, which allows it to act as a generator in charging the battery. Earlier hybrid batteries were larger and less efficient than today’s hybrids, which hasn’t only helped improve the vehicle’s efficiency but also lowered its price.

Another advancement in hybrid technology has been the periodic engine shut off. As a hybrid car is stopped in traffic, the engine temporarily shuts off and then restarts again when the car moves.

Hybrids have also greatly improved in advanced aerodynamics. This is important in achieving high-fuel efficiency because it helps to reduce drag. Similarly, some hybrid cars sport lower-rolling resistance tires which are more narrow and stiffer, and thus produce less drag.

The steady improvement in technology hasn’t only caused the price to decrease, but has vastly grown the number of hybrid vehicles available, with new models hitting the showroom floor yearly. New, more affordable hybrid family cars at multiple price points, as well as additional SUVs and light trucks, are joining the ranks of current hybrids. Together, new and existing models are expected to grow the market share for hybrids to double its size within the next five years. Fast forward a year and finding Phoenix Chevrolet dealers with green options will be easier than ever before.

Emerging Technologies

Hybrid technology is expected to continue to improve, which should boost market share even further. While improvements in battery technologies hold the greatest potential, other technologies — such as improvements in regenerative braking and aerodynamics, as well as the emergence of new alternative fuels such as fuel cells — are expected also to have a generous, green impact.

Solar Electric Cars more efficient than most Biofuels

“The analysis considered land-use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and took into account the production and use life cycles of both the fuels themselves and the vehicles they power. …all things considered, a pretty clear win for solar-powered electric battery vehicles.”



…this is an interesting study, however it is not considering a much more efficient ethanol crop, algae!

Check this out:

World’s Most Aerodynamic and Efficient Production Car

Volkswagen: VW XL1 Headed for Production at 261 MPG
A bit more than 10 years after the first prototype was shown, the Volkswagen XL1 is now officially on its way to the marketplace as the most efficient production car in the industry and the most aerodynamic production car ever. The tale of the tape: A nifty 261 mpg combined in the European testing cycle and a coefficient of drag of just 0.189—to put that into perspective, the 2013 Toyota Prius manages a Cd of 0.29 and the notably slippery 2013 Tesla Model S comes in at 0.24.


Artist Spotlight: The Grownup Noise Part II – Touring, With a Side of Fries

It has been about two months since Boston based musicians The Grownup Noise completed a veggie oil fuel conversion on their superfly 1980’s van. The band became committed to make a positive impact on the planet during their cross country tour this past summer and their veggie fuel conversion was a giant, carbon reducing step in the right direction. As a frequent visitor to the band’s Myspace page, I had been keeping up with the progress of the van and the band through terrific blogs and photos they were able to post along the way. It was enjoyable to read how people reacted to the van.

My main contact in the band, bass player Adam Sankowski, also kept me up to date through emails detailing some of the challenges they faced on the road as well as funny success stories related to their ability to acquire veggie oil. One of my favorite quotes came from a blog written by Katie Franich (Cellist) when she referred to their fuel collection efforts as “death-defying grease missions”. Luckily, all four band members (also including Paul Hansen, vocal and Attis Clopton, drums) were able to thwart an early demise in order to share their travel journal with us, greasy thumb prints and all.

Feel free to read back over the first two installments of this tantalizing saga; Part I is here and the mid point story here.

After touring on both gas and veggie oil, tell us a little about how they compare.

Well, first off there are the obvious differences like paying for gas versus not paying for gas. There is a lot more work that goes into running on grease including the collection of it and the learning curve that goes with the whole system. For example, there is a system of three filters that need to be changed, but there is no exact rule to follow for when to do such. If you find “dirty” grease then its about 2,000 miles, but cleaner grease can go to 4,000 miles. And we learned that you want to change all the filters at the same time cause nothing stinks more then no knowing what filter is dirty and changing a filter and still not having it work.

The funniest thing/ scariest thing is that there is no sensor or alarm that goes off when you need to change a filter. The engine just cuts off and stops working… so suddenly you have to pilot the van to the side of the road while going 80mph and, of course, you then have no power steering when the engine cuts out. After a while we got really good at preemptively changing filters, but there was a BIG learning curve for us.

The other main thing is that a part of your day is taken up with finding grease. Eventually we got our system down, but it does take up some time. But… it’s nothing that is so time consuming or tough that I would discourage people. In larger cities it can be hard to find grease, but in the suburbs and rural areas it is still very easy to “score” grease.

Do you feel that the band saved money overall on travel expense as compared to prior tours?

Oh my god, it’s not even comparable. We ended up spending about $400- 500 on fuel for the ENTIRE tour. That includes starting in Boston, then going to NYC then back to Boston and then traveling on the most random zigzag trip across the country. From Ohio to Minneapolis to Denver to Seattle to LA then back up to San Fran… and we ended up actually buying pre filtered veggie oil twice. So about $300 was on veggie oil and $200 on diesel fuel. We ended up buying veggie oil because in LA and Austin Texas we found it very difficult to find veggie fuel.

Do you feel you reduced your carbon footprint?

Without a doubt. At first I thought that it was zero, but we started to hear conflicting reports. Here is the direct quote from [Grease Not Gas] (the BEST website on running on veggie oil ever, Mike who runs it is our hero, and the main person responsible for us doing this)

This testimony is the best scientific proof I have that running on veggie oil is environmentally sound, although I was shocked to hear that its not a zero emission’s vehicle:

Mike is quoted as saying:

“When I purchased the Winnebago Lesharo (nicknamed Soy George) for the Grease Brother’s project, I got a trip permit for the shoot and then actually got it registered with the state, after the conversion. When I pulled into the DEQ (Department of Emissions Quality) I told them, “This vehicle can run on either diesel fuel or vegetable oil” They were intrigued and asked me, “Well what do you primarily drive on?” I told them I planned on running it on vegetable oil as much as possible, to save money. They said, “Alright, go through on vegetable oil and we’ll how it goes”. The results were amazing. They said that it was by far the cleanest diesel they’d EVER seen. In the curiosity they asked if I’d drive it through again, this time on diesel. I picked up my “pass” certificate, purged out the veggie on a short drive and went through again, this time on diesel. They said these results were more what they would expect from a junky old motor home. I would have barely passed on diesel, whereas with veggie I made it with flying colors. It was a very interesting experiment; I wish I still had the results. Maybe one of these days I’ll replicate the experiment.” – Mike Parziale,

Being that our van is already cleaner burning than a motor home when running just on diesel, I think that we saved a ton of emissions!

Was it easy to acquire fuel on the road? Is this something all four-band members took part in doing?

The ease of acquiring grease was completely dependant on the area of the country. The west coast was difficult and the rest of the country was easy. We found that every third restaurant or so (non-west coast) was receptive and totally cool with us taking their grease, or that had clean enough grease for us to take. We definitely got our grease routine down after a while… and it did take all four of us. First we would scope out their grease trap, and then if it looked clean, Katie and I would go in and ask if we could grab some. That’s when the language barrier adventure began, trying to explain that we had a car that ran on their used waste. We heard “like the back to the future car?” more than once!

I’m going to be honest and admit that we did have to grab it sometimes without asking, and after a while we developed our “grease ethics”. We always asked first but exceptions were if the restaurant was closed or if it was Taco Bell. Sometimes though, there would be a grease trap in the middle of a parking lot that no restaurant would claim, so we would just take it from there. We starting calling these “blockbuster’s” grease trap, as there were several Blockbuster video stores that had grease traps near them for no apparent reason. Very weird. We started hypothesizing that they have an underground Chinese buffet that they are running.

The actual “grease getting” included one person with a “dirty bucket” in the trap and then transferring it to a “clean bucket” that put it into the filtration system. That way were weren’t dripping grease everywhere. We tried to be “grease boy scouts”, not leaving a trace… especially at the restaurants that were really nice to us. Nothing would be worse to piss them off and make them think that people who burn grease are slobs. We learned all of our “greasing” techniques from Aaron Stuart from Angel City Motor works… he’s the one who used to be in Piebald and who installed our system and who took us out “greasing” all around Boston and taught us the ropes.

What was the most common type of place you acquired your veggie oil?

There really wasn’t a formula. We usually would start by checking out all of the Asian restaurants in our area, because that was the advice given to us. But we soon found that Mexican restaurants were good, and even some chain ones. Asian restaurants are good (especially Japanese and Thai) because tempura has to be a golden hue; therefore they can’t get away with dirty oil and must change it more often. The more they change it, the better it is, and often times the better the restaurant is. You can tell a lot about a restaurant from their grease trap! Props go out to the Olive Garden, Taco Bell, and Denny’s. Shame goes to IHOP, and Ruby Tuesdays…

We also started calling ahead to the venues that also served food and they would save their oil for us. That worked Portland, Oregon and in Washington D.C.

Did anyone flat out tell you no?

Yes, and some meant it and some didn’t. There were a few Chinese buffets that had no idea what we were asking for, and they thought that we were trying to sell them something.

In some major cities and the west coast there are “bio diesel” companies springing up that are starting to pay restaurants to take it (although they are totally being ripped off) so they said no to us. The reason that they said “no” was that they were already “under contract” from these companies, even though they were paying them next to nothing for their oil. The silly thing is how some wouldn’t negotiate with us, even when we offered to eat at their restaurant in exchange, i.e. paying them much more than the grease companies were. We felt that the “contract” was a sticking point… especially if maybe the restaurant had some workers who weren’t legal… they might have felt like they couldn’t break a contract. One restaurant in Minneapolis totally was cool with us eating there in exchange for like 80 gallons of grease. I love that this allowed us to “barter” our way around the country. There is a whole industry that is springing up around used veggie oil, and its part beautiful American enterprising and part sleazy bottom feeding… taking advantage of people who don’t know the worth of what they have. Often times bio diesel companies are paying the restaurants 5-20 cents a gallon for their grease and then reselling it for 3 dollars. I’m sure that an owner of such a company would debate me on this, but it feels sleazy to me… or at least they should lower the price for broke bands! This kind of business is fine if the restaurant just doesn’t care and doesn’t want the oil, but many of them didn’t even know that it was returning such a profit. We found that part of our job was then educating the restaurant owners to the fact that they have a gas station in behind their place. A restaurant in Asheville, NC is actually now going to convert their delivery vehicle as well as a Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield, CA.

Somewhere between the restaurants and the bio diesel companies are where we exist; Bands that are simply trying to be able to afford to create art and play music. It makes me want to start a used veggie oil collection company that makes a profit but that also gives it away to any bands on tour… I have actually already been talking to some other grease car users around Boston to create a veggie oil collective so that we can survive when things get weird around here like they already have on the west coast.

I actually talked a lot about bio diesel companies and us competing with them in a blog that I wrote on the tour. Here is an excerpt of it here:

“As far as the veggie oil goes it is amazing what we are witnessing out here. I feel like I am first hand seeing an industry taking shape. Seeing the “American dream” in action. It is impossible to score grease in L.A. because all of the restaurants have already contracted out to bio-diesel companies, where as just a hour and a half east in Bakersfield no one has heard of running your car on veggie oil and the manager of the Mexican restaurant we stopped at was amazed and excited to watch us take 50 gallons of his grease and load it into our van. It’s becoming harder and harder for bands to score grease in larger areas, like in Austin it were impossible, and every grease trap was locked. Its really cool that this is becoming an industry but I just hope that the restaurant owners realize what a profit is coming from their waste. One of the companies that we met pays their restaurant owners 20 cents a gallon and then re-sells it for 3 dollars a gallon. I mean, don’t get me wrong, one of the main reasons we converted was for the environmental reason, but it’s also the only way that a band like us can afford to tour. I just wish that these companies would make acceptations for broke touring bands, because we are both competing for the same grease. And in the end, we’ve become very sneaky and good at “grabbing” it from grease traps. I just wish that restaurant owners would realize that they are basically sitting on a gas station and that they should at least convert their delivery vehicle before they sign their rights to their veggie oil away to some “bottom feeding” grease collection company. But I guess that this is all capitalism and the way that things work… also; I understand that not paying for gas was too much of a good thing to be true. At least we have made it this far, from Boston to Cali and back to Nashville at this point on only about $200 of diesel fuel. And I can sleep well on the fact that I haven’t ruined the planet too, too much in the process.”

How long of a process is it to gather the oil (from locating to filtering to installation)?

It’s actually pretty fast once you have found some decent oil. That’s what really takes the time. But that’s why our conversion cost us so much too… you can get “do it yourself” kits for next to nothing to convert your diesel car, but then you have to be able to filter veggie oil at your house. Aaron, who installed our system, put in a custom build 90-gallon tank with a built in filtration system, so we literally just pour the grease in and its filtered. But you have to be very vigilant on changing filters… that’s where the learning curve comes in. It really doesn’t take too long to get the oil though, and when we were just taking the oil or being “grease ninjas” we could grab it really quick!

As touring musicians how easy did you find it was to run this kind of fuel source?

I mean, it has its issues, and you have to work more time into your tour (kinda), but I can’t imagine any other way to tour now. Paying for gas? Destroy the planet to play music? Nope! At least right now, it’s not that hard to do.

Although it did take a bit of time to do, I feel like it really helped the band to connect on a different level. Nothing bonds a band together like all donning aprons and headlamps and getting totally dirty. I would recommend it to any band! It really made us feel like a family. Also, it actually helped cut down on stress levels in relation to finances. Its not like we made money (we took on a lot of debt to convert the van and other tour things) but it definitely was calming to go and get grease rather then stress out every time you had to put gas on a credit card.

Did you have any issues with breaking down or running out of fuel? How did you learn from those experiences and change to accommodate for them?

Like I said, it took us some time to realize how to budget time to change filters. The other problem was that none of us were mechanically inclined at all so we had to go to a Jiffy Lube every time we wanted to change the stock fuel filter/ water separator. Now I know how to change that, so it shouldn’t be so much of an issue. You become mechanical really quick when you run on grease!

As far as running out of fuel, it doesn’t happen because you can always switch back to diesel fuel. We had to do that a few times in order to make it to a show on time, but then after the show we would find veggie oil and would be good to go!

What is your most hilarious experience with gathering oil?

Outside NYC we found a diner that ha d a beautifully full grease trap. We pulled up and the owner was outside in the back. There was a language/ mental health barrier though and he thought that we were trying to sell them cabbage. He just kept screaming at us that he didn’t want any more cabbage and that we should go away. Finally his son came outside and explained what we wanted. He then started laughing and told us to take whatever we wanted… we ended up fueling our drive from NYC to D.C. on their grease.

Do you think this type of conversion would be practical for people who drive far less miles?

Maybe… if you are driving from say Framingham to Boston everyday, yes. If you are just driving around Boston, maybe not. For us, parking is an issue being that we have the largest van ever made, so sometimes I’ll take me car (don’t tell anyone) because I know that I can’t park downtown. Although I just parked last night during a Red Sox game in the Back Bay! Basically if you are going to drive anywhere on a regular basis for a half hour or more at a time then it’s worth it.

Did it surprise you to learn what areas of the country had and had not heard of such a thing?

Not really! With the political climate right now, I’m not surprised in the least bit that people are either not informed or unaware of anything. Sorry, I’ve been freaking out about political things recently and their inevitable environmental impact.

Did your fans take interest in learning more about your conversion?

The fans did to some degree, but the other bands that we played with were the most interested. Many of them were amazed that they would be able to tour again without going into extreme debt. Many were so excited!

What is the most important thing you learned about using alternative fuel sources?

That it is still an inexact science at best, but that you’ll learn a lot about yourself while doing it.

Now that you are back home, do you plan to continue to drive the van or will it be reserved for long distance touring only?

Well, we are definitely going to use it for all of our regional touring. I am writing this at my girlfriend’s house right now, and I got here in the van. I have no money for gas, so I’m going to be using the van a bunch as long as the weather is warm because you can run it much more on veggie oil in warmer weather (you have to run it for longer in cold weather to heat up the engine and before you can switch to veggie fuel). I am looking forward to eventually selling my car and buying an old diesel car and converting it. I can’t say enough about running on veggie oil. The weirdest thing is when you switch it from diesel to veggie when the van is going 80mph and you notice no difference at all. Diesel engines really like running on the oil and if anything we noticed an increase in performance. Also, when we were desperate, we put some gross and dirty grease in there, food particles and all, and although we would go through filters faster, the van ate it up and we didn’t notice any chance in the way it drove. Diesel engines can put up with a lot! And nothing beats driving for 10 hours and having the fuel needle stay in the same spot the whole time.

Smart Energy Technology:

OM’s Eco-Business Profile Spotlight: MPG Stickers

MPG Stickers was originally established in 2004 as a sideline Cafepress business to spread awareness about fuel efficient vehicles in the United States and around the world. By obtaining drivers of fuel efficient vehicles to proudly display an MPG sticker on their automobile they promote fuel efficiency as an indispensable alternative method for the environment. It also inspires other drivers on the road who see it to consider changing their habits and switching to a more fuel efficient car.

Harmful emissions contribute to the current global warming crisis which negatively impacts all aspects of life. It’s crucial that as a nation we take important steps to prevent further pollution of our planet. Although, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 sanctioned to increase the MPG rate standard to 35 by 2020 we should not wait until it’s the law to help the environment. Vehicles such as the Honda Insight, Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Jetta Diesel, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Suzuki Swift, Mitsubishi Mirage, and the Pontiac Vibe have excellent MPGs. There are many vehicles used and new that have a quality MPG that can reduce your share of air pollution.

MPG Stickers would like to help others set an example for the world to take notice. They provide bumper stickers that you can place on your car to bring awareness and encourage others to do the same. If your car has 30MPG or more MPG’s stickers are are essential. I had the honor of conducting an interview with Pierre Delforge one of the owners of MPG Stickers which I’ve posted below.

How did MPG grow from an online Cafepress shop into this major non-profit organization?

The MPG Stickers web site was created by Charlie Gordon in 2004, from a desire to encourage people to conserve energy and reduce the use of natural resources. Charlie managed the site by himself for the first 4 years, selling hundreds of stickers all over the U.S. and Canada. In March 2008, he was joined by Pierre Delforge, who had experienced environmental campaign management with his involvement in the Cool Cities campaign, a Sierra Club initiative advocating for climate action by local Bay Area governments.

Pierre and Charlie redesigned the web site to turn it into the cornerstone of a grassroots campaign, leveraging both traditional and online campaign techniques such as flyer distribution, social networking and online ads. They transitioned the campaign to Acterra, a non-profit environmental organization based in the Bay Area, to become a non-profit campaign. All proceeds from sticker sales are reinvested in online advertising to spread awareness and expand the campaign.

The redesign of the site, coupled heightened public interest in fuel efficiency due to gas prices, resulted in a doubling of sticker sales as soon as the new web site was introduced.

What significant role do you think the adoption of fuel efficient vehicles in the U.S. will play in world’s environmental crisis?

Vehicle fuel efficiency touches on several environmental, economic and security issues, from air pollution, to climate change and energy independence. Fuel efficiency is one of the most cost effective ways to address these problems, saving people money, reducing the need to import foreign oil, and slowing down climate change.

Vehicle fuel consumption is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution and CO2 emissions in the U.S.: Cars and light trucks generate over 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases in the U.S. alone, or 18% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (EPA).

However, despite its significant benefits on the environment, we recognize that vehicle fuel efficiency is just one of many solutions required to mitigate climate change. Other critical solutions include clean energy technologies, energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, industry and the rest of the transportation sector, and halting global deforestation. By focusing on one of the key contributors to the world’s environmental crisis, MPG Stickers and everyone who display an MPG sticker on their bumper are doing their share to help transition to a sustainable world.

Are there any additional green projects you envision MPG participating or funding in the near future?

Not for the moment. There is still plenty to do on the vehicle efficiency front, and we want to continue driving change where we can do it most effectively.

What advice would you give someone who is considering investing in a fuel efficient vehicle?

If you can afford a new vehicle, look for one of the most efficient in its category. Your choice sends a message to auto manufacturers, magnifying the environmental benefits you will derive from the vehicle itself.

If the most fuel efficient cars such as hybrids are beyond your budget, consider a used vehicle: there are many very fuel efficient used cars on the market. For example I drive a 1997 Honda Del Sol which gets me approximately 40 MPG, pretty close to a hybrid. There are many other inexpensive, fuel efficient, fun to drive used cars on the market.

But you don’t even need to change your vehicle to have an impact: just display an MPG sticker on your current vehicle, help spread the word, you can have a great impact at virtually no cost!

How can eco-conscious individuals support the MPG Sticker Campaign? What is the most important step a person can take in promoting the use of fuel efficient vehicles?

There are several simple and effective ways to support the campaign:
1. Display a sticker on your car.
2. Download our flyer and distribute it to your family, friends and colleagues.
3. Send the MPG Sticker web site address to your friends, or just stick it in your email signature.
4. Become an online activist: Join our My Space or Facebook groups. Invite your friends to join too.
We have an Activist Guide on the MPG Sticker web site which gives people many other tips on how to support the campaign.

Care about fuel efficiency?
Say it with an MPG bumper sticker!

Green businesses are pivotal for universal change. Companies like MPG Stickers help everyday people adjust to a more sustainable lifestyle.

MPG Stickers can be purchased online at Cafepress.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight The Grownup Noise – Part I: The Band Gets a Van

It may be difficult for some to grasp the concept of a touring musical act to be focused on going green as there are sure to be many days of long distance driving, resulting in gas consumption, trash accumulation and emissions that are unmatched by the average driver. This was something The Grownup Noise was concerned with as well and as they began making plans for a 2008 summer tour, the concept of a conversion van running on veggie oil became more and more appealing. In Part I of our discussion, Adam Sankowski (Bass, Vocal) was kind enough to share some of the feelings the group (Additionally comprised of members Paul Hansen – Guitar, Vocals; Katie Franich – Cello, Keyboards, Percussion, moral support; Attis Clopton – Drums, Percussion) had with regard to their scheduled conversion and why the band as a whole is so focused on being as eco-friendly as possible.

Keep an eye out for Part II of this interview which will be the follow up detailing how the band enjoyed their tour using the converted van as well as photos of the veggie van in action!

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

Well, I kind of work two full time jobs. Both music related… I work as a music therapist at a Children’s Hospital and I play in / manage “The Grownup Noise”, which is a full time job, just not one that I get paid for. Most days start with going to work at the hospital at 8 am, I then get out around 3 pm, head off to some private Music Therapy clients or guitar students, and then have a rehearsal most nights around 6 or 7. I have a very understanding girlfriend as I am usually tied up with music all day.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Really, any artist who is creating for the right reasons. Musically, I respect any band that is in it for artistic reasons and who is passionate about what they do. That might sound rather general, but there are a lot of musicians on the national level who are just playing songs that other people wrote for them, or who are record label creations. Luckily with technology the playing field is becoming much more leveled. The veggie oil conversion is part of that. The fact that these days an independent band can hit the road without major label tour support and make it work is huge. The fact that bands don’t need a label to make art or need someone telling them what is marketable is so awesome these days.

More specifically I really like a ton of bands that are out right now from classic bands like R.E.M. to the newer pop bands from Canada like Stars, New Pornographers, or Broken Social Scene. There are so, so many great bands out there right now. And there are a ton of cool artists in Boston.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Yes, but you have to work at it to refine it. Children can create all day long; adults have to work a bit more at it. And as far as music goes, you don’t just wake up a good musician… well some do, but most don’t. I know I put my time in. I had my few years of not talking to many people and spending a lot of time in a practice room… or you are the guy at the party always playing guitar and trying to get people to jam with you. I think as far as song writing goes, that’s the ultimate reflection of the refinement of art. Nobody is born a great songwriter. Whenever you talk to anyone who writes good songs they talk about they wrote nothing but crap for years. And how the best songs just “come to you” but that it takes years to realize that. I can’t write songs though, I’m too self-critical. Paul takes care of that in the band… and he’s my hero. I just work on arrangements and parts. Writing a good part to a song is much the same process though. A really good part that helps to move a song along takes creativity and maturity.

Who or what inspired you to become a musician?

Some kid on the bus in 7th grade. I over heard him talking about how easy the guitar was to play (he was wrong), and I got inspired. I had always loved music from playing the trumpet from 4th grade on. Once I got my hands on a guitar that is all I did, and then moved from there to almost every other instrument at some point.

Did you think it would ever be possible to go green while touring?

No, because I figured that was something that people with a lot of money could do… by buying carbon credits or something. Then I heard about veggie oil conversions a year or two ago and my mind got going. The price of gas pushed me over the edge.

Why was it so important to go green?

Well, first there is the reality of gas prices and the fact that they make touring for a band the conventional way a money losing proposition. But the conversion is a much of money too. But then I started thinking about if I would really feel good about driving around the country when in the back of my head I knew that it wasn’t good for the environment. And the reality is that we need to get off oil NOW. It’s going to happen soon though, whether it’s because of market forces, or the other developing nations, or just the fact that we will finally realize what we are doing to our planet. So, I just decided that I wanted our band to be part of a solution rather then a problem so I got a loan and found a diesel van!

Tell me a little about your conversion from gasoline in your van, are you excited to get on the road to test it out this summer?

Yes, we are super excited but a bit nervous too. Without taking up too much space, the basic concept is that diesel engines are workhorses that can totally run on vegetable oil. In fact I think that I read somewhere that was what they were originally designed for. That’s all “bio diesel” is, veggie oil that has been thinned out with acids and other chemicals. We aren’t using bio diesel, we are going on straight veggie oil (SVO). Veggie oil on its own is too thick for the engines fuel injectors, so what we do is keep the diesel system and tank intact and then add in a separate tank for the veggie oil. Then you install a small radiator in the veggie oil tank and run some of the coolant from the engine to it. So you have to start the van up on diesel fuel and then the diverted engine coolant heats up the veggie oil in the tank and thins it out to where it can go through the fuel injectors. After about five minutes you flick a switch from diesel to veggie and you’re good to go! You also have to switch back before you stop to diesel. So you do have to buy some diesel fuel, but only about a tank per cross-country trip… not too bad.

We are installing a hundred gallon tank too so that we don’t have to stop all the time, and we can go for about 1,500 miles on a tank. That way we can get grease on our days off and not worry about making sound check. Aaron from the well known local band Pie Bald is installing the tank (he owns Angel City Motor Works in L.A.) and he does this full time for bands so he knows how to make it the least stressful and most fun for bands to tour on grease. He’s the best.

What do you think people will think when they drive behind your van on the road?

That we are cooking! I actually ended up behind a turbo diesel Mercedes the other day that was burning grease. I know he was because when it first drove by me, I was like “are those his breaks burning?” but then it smelled kind of sweet. I talked to Aaron about it and he said that all grease smells different but that our tank will be airtight and we’ll only smell it in the van at stoplights.

I’m excited about how it will smell because diesel fuel smells horrible. Some old man yelled at me the other day for “parking my smelly van in front of his house”.

What are some other ways you have incorporated green into your work (aluminum water bottles on stage, etc)?

Ah… good question. I didn’t even think about that… but we do that anyways. Our guitarist’s brother works in product development at Nalgene so there is no shortage of reusable bottles around. I’m a recycling fanatic anyways. I’m always the one cleaning out beer bottles from the practice space and bringing them home.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

Basically Paul (our guitarist singer) writes the songs and then I arrange them/ change them around with him. Then we present them to either our drummer (Attis) or our cello player (Katie) to work on next. So they go through a process and at any point they can be drastically re-worked. We are fairly democratic and our rule is to always try everyone’s ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. You always try everything, as we’ve been surprised how things have worked out that sounded like they wouldn’t. Recently though we’ve been bringing songs into rehearsals in a more beginning form and letting them take shape with the band all throwing in ideas at the same time.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

For this band? From the moment I heard Paul’s songs I knew that I wanted to be in a band with him. I then set myself to learn the bass (guitar was my main thing before) so I could play with him because he’s the best guitarist I’ve ever met and I didn’t need to compete with him, and we didn’t need another guitar. I’ve been told that I play the bass like a guitar anyways.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I have become really good about always unplugging EVERYTHING so that I am not draining energy from my cell phone charge, etc. during work. I bike everywhere that I can, and like I mentioned, I am the “recycling chief” of my apartment.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Well, it’s just not really an option anymore. I mean, you can chose not to, but it’s always on my mind and I feel so guilty not doing my part.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Getting anyone to listen. Getting booking agents to call/ email me back. People are listening now, but booking agents are still the bane of my existence… but I love them too and they do a thankless and amazing job for all of us though.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

The Internet rules! First off the fact that you can book an entire national tour via MySpace is amazing, and you really can. That’s all we use to book. Craig’s list postings do the scouting for us, and once we find our venues we just MySpace them. It’s great for cutting down on paper and being environmental. I can’t imagine how they did it in the 80’s, 90’s or even early 00’s, sending out CD after CD, press kit after press kit, hoping that somebody was listening, and then calling and calling. Now you can blast an email to every club in a city with the dates that you are looking for. They can instantly go on your MySpace and see if you’re cool, and then book you.

Plus, we have met so many great people who simply stumbled upon us via MySpace, who now come out to shows and who came out during our last tour. This blog and article is a great example of the internet as well. The Internet is the main thing that helps level the playing field for all artists and musicians. Yeah, yeah, people don’t buy Cd’s anymore… but if our band existed in 1991, and we weren’t on a label, then no one would be “stealing music” but there would also be no way for anyone to hear about us. The internet is really the best, and the musicians in bands right now are SO lucky that it’s hitting its stride and that “social networking” is really working well right now while we are all around trying to get our name out there right now.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To do this as a living while remaining true to the art. And to release a couple of truly great and lasting records… even if it’s only a limited number of people that hear them. Great art lasts… there have been so many great records that have been discovered well after the band ended or they stopped promoting. Truly great art spreads by word of mouth the best. Just look at Neutral Milk Hotel. They are indie rock legends now and that album (in the airplane over the sea) is ten years old. Most of my friends that are into them just heard about them in the last few years, almost a decade after the band was done.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

Well, we are always writing. We just released our latest album; self titled “The Grownup Noise”. We have more than half of the tracks for that written and the basics (drums and bass) tracked for it in the studio already. Our biggest stuff right now is just promoting the record through the tour with the veggie van.

What are your long-term career goals?

Just what I already mentioned. To make a living at this without becoming “cheesy” or making artistic compromises.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Like I said, anyone who is creating for the “right” reasons. The bands that I listen are endless…

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Be really nice to everyone… nobody wants to book someone who is full of themselves. Just be really, really nice. And make sure the music is really good… it’d like to think that we put in our time on that part the most…. you can have all the promotion and money to promote in the world. But if your music isn’t engaging live, and interesting, nobody is going to care. It’s an old term, but it really is about the music! Once that is locked up though, then worry about promotion. It seems like some do it the other way around.

Also, the one practical tip I have is. Don’t play a thousand smaller shows that you have to promote. Play a big one, once every few months and really make a big deal/ fun night out of it. It makes everything more memorable. But play absolutely every other random show and coffee house that you don’t have to promote before that to practice playing live… you aren’t above playing ANY show.
And try and tour as much as possible (with your veggie van of course)

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

Your bike. Especially in Boston. It’s pretty safe to bike around here if you aren’t in a hurry and aren’t crazy. And nothing can save you money faster or the environment more then not driving.

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

Oh, I didn’t even think about vegetarianism as an environmental thing, but of course it is! Being a vegetarian myself, I’d say go for it! There are so many convenient products and soy food out there now… they all are yummy and there are plenty of “bad for you” veggie food as well. Just try veggie for a while. But I’d say getting the habit of unplugging and turning off all your electrical stuff when you are out, would be a great place to start. Not that I am perfect about it, but I really try to be. It’s so funny how most environmental stuff turns into a direct savings too, so turn it off, turn the heat down and save some money!

How would your friends describe you?

(I hope that they would say) Nice, dedicated, passionate, funny (when you get to know me), caring, always busy, driven, and when I say that I’m going to do something I do it.

Do you have a website or online presence?

Of Course!!!!!
The Grownup Noise on MySpace
Official Website
Check out our Tour Dates on either! Tell your friends in far away places! Support independent artists trying to be green and come out to a show!

Smart Energy Technology:

Reduce Gas, Save Money & Environment

With current rising gas prices, environmental concerns, and financial worries in a potential unstable economy it is more important than ever to learn new methods to conserve. Reducing your gas usage will instantly save you money and limit further air pollution caused by harmful emissions. There are nine super easy tips you can follow to help save the planet and your pocket through reduction of your dependence on gasoline.

• Regular Tire Maintenance – Taking the time to make sure your tires are properly inflated is essential for fuel efficiency. The average driver wastes thousands of dollars of gas a year from driving a under-performing vehicle. It’s usually free or extremely inexpensive to inflate your tires.

• Follow the Speed Limit – Speeding can do more than simply get you a ticket. It’s also a major waste of gas. Many drivers who stray from the recommended speed limit are bound to make extra trips to the gas pump. Stay within the speed limit.

• Take it Easy – Try not to accelerate quickly and avoid hitting the brakes hard. This common bad driving habit can cost you valuable money and limit your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

• Tune it Up – If you can’t afford to invest in an alternative fuel vehicle than regularly tuning up your current automobile is important. A well-tuned car will not emit as much pollution.

• Check Air Filters – Air plays a major role in the function of your engine. Dirty filters hinders your car’s efficiency. Check your filter frequently and replace it if needed. The environment is worth it.

• De-Junk & De-Clutter – Most drivers have additional weight in their automobile which causes the engine to go into overdrive consuming larger amounts of gasoline than necessary. Clear out any items in your car that you do not need. The less the better for a high performing vehicle.

• Eliminate Wind Resistance – Having a roof rack causes the car to use additional fuel to get from point A to point B. Remove your rack and save cash. It’s really a simple task you can do quickly.

• Research Your Vehicle – Different models and makes have specific flaws that can contribute to low fuel efficiency and environmental hazards. Research the model of your car and find out what to be on the look out for. Correcting these small issues can assist in reducing your fossil fuel use.

• Monitor Check Engine Lights – Mal-functioning check engine lights are often a sign of a more serious problem. They also cause poor vehicle performance.

Saving the planet is an ongoing process that we all must participate in. Although, it may not seem like much taking small steps in reduction of fossil fuel wastes and dependency can greatly improve the amount of daily pollution. Becoming more environmentally conscious can save you money at the pump as well. Try taking little baby steps in reducing your need for gasoline and slowly you will adjust to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

* Follow our next 10 post series on Gas, Cars, & The Future for tips and ideas on how to conserve at the pump! Break your dependence on fossil fuel and save the planet in the process!

Smart Energy Technology:

Green Cars in Paris

From AutoBlog Green:

Paris Mayor announces more details about EV public rental service

Paris is a city with its fair share of traffic problems. It’s also the largest city where a public bicycle rental service is being used, very successfully (Ve’lib) and we already knew about the city’s plans to install a similar service featuring electric cars. An EV rental plan even helped the Mayor win re-election, and more information about this plan has now been unveiled. First of all, the fleet is going to be exclusively electric, with 4,000 units. That’s a very large order for a single model of a vehicle – but which model has not yet been announced. The system, called Auto’lib, which means “Auto à libre disposition” (Help-yourself car) will not only be installed in the city itself, but it will cover the suburbs (banlieue), expanding the range that the bike rental service operates in.

The scheduled roll-out date is late 2009 and to handle the 4,000 EVs the system will have 700 stations (with 200 of them underground) and a powerful computer system coordinating the rentals. Prices aren’t yet known (rumors hint at about €250 per month, including full insurance), but it seems likely that Parisians will be able to enjoy the service with their regular “Navigo” mass transit cards.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight – Gary Lord, Decorative Painter and Mural Artist

Gary Lord is an artist, business owner, teacher and published author living and working in the Cincinnati area. He has completed specialty wall treatments for over thirty years through his company Wall Options and now offers classes in these effects through Prismatic Paint Studio. Gary has seen many changes in product use and green design focus over the years and was excited to share his knowledge with us.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

My work day varies a lot as does most small business owners. I own two businesses, a decorative painting contracting business and a school / distributorship for the decorative painting industry.

For my contacting company I seldom work in the field doing paint finishes for more than 16 hours a week unless I have a tight deadline, a new complicated finish, or a very large project to complete. Other hours are spent marketing and selling the projects as well as designing the finishes and making the samples. I also schedule and interact with all my employees about current and future projects.

For my school and distributorship I will be either teaching or helping my office manager with any of the many aspects of running a painting distributorship and a school.

Who or what influences your work and why?

I by nature am a very curious person and therefore I am always looking for the new or interesting wherever I go. I derive many new decorative paint finishes from fabrics, wallpapers, clothing styles, nature, art, photographs and many other ways.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

I do believe that is easier for some people to tap into their creativity than others. I think it is there for all of us but not to the same degree. Everyone has there own strengths different from someone else.

Who or what inspired you to become a Faux Finisher and Mural Artist?

I have a degree in art from Ohio State University. When I started painting in 1975 I knew of no one that did what I was doing. I had always had my own businesses of some sort, landscaping, window washing, grass cutting etc. So when I got out of college I met a new homeowner in a new homeshow home in my town and I did two murals for them for the homeshow. I made the newspaper, printed up business cards, worked the show and started what is now called a decorative painting business.

When teaching classes at Prismatic Paint Studios, how much emphasis do you place on green habits?

When I started my business the commonly used products for glazing finishes was oil based products, which I used for over 20 years. I am now 100% water based products that I use and teach for the last 12 plus years.

Why was it so important to go green?

I switched 12 years ago because I did not what to be exposed to all the toxins any longer. It also reduces that risk to clients and my staff as well. It is also better for the planet to use sustainable products.

How did you approach your first client with green design concepts?

The first “green only” product I used because it was “green” was a product called JaDecor. JaDecor is an all natural product made mostly from cotton, plant fibers and mica flakes. This product had been in Europe 30 years and the Untied States about 12 years. I saw it at a trade show, loved its unique look, and brought it back to my town to show my designers.

How long ago was that and were they immediately receptive?

I have been using this product for about 7 years. Like many new ideas some people liked it right away and others did not. I have used this product in home shows for years to expose the public to it in my market place.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

The client has a need which I will listen to, I then show a selection of samples from my portfolio I think my fit their need. These samples are selected because of the patterns, texture, scale and color in them/ I then will decide with the client which elements from the samples they would like in their design. I then have the client come to my studio with their fabrics, carpet and tile swatches so I can make a sample just for them in the design of their choice.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

The same place the last one did. Who knows? A combination of life’s experiences and the experimentations that comes along with that.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

As time goes on more and more

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

We have a hybrid car. We are using fluorescent bulbs at work and at home. We have a computer controlled thermostat we set at home. We car pool at work now. We are going to a 4 day work week this summer to conserve energy at work and gas.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

The life of the planet and everyone on it is affected by our current actions on the planet.

What challenges have you had in your work?

I was told by a friend many years ago that if you were good the hardest part of your job would be scheduling. They were correct.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

Positive. It is a great tool for marketing and selling your business concepts on. There is no better tool for research and education available.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To be the best I can be. All the while of course knowing that the goal is elusive because I am always looking for ways to improve and raise the bar to a new level.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I have 30 jobs currently in one stage or another. My staff and I are always looking to have fun and do something new and different.

What are your long term career goals?

To retire. Start then the second part of my life giving back to others.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Too many to list. I am always inspired by anyone that creates unique beautiful concepts. Some of my favorite artists are Maxfield Parrish, Edgar Degas, Salvador Dali, Thomas Moran, and many others

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Follow your passion, do not give up, always do your best.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?


What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

Buy a hybrid for your next car. Car pool more

How would your friends describe you?

curious, funny, caring

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

Wall Options; Prismatic Painting Studio

Smart Energy Technology:

Tips To Drive Green

Although, the constant rise of gas prices are frustrating it may be the perfect opportunity for individuals to become a “green driver.”Adding simple ways to reduce your daily fuel consumption is key to becoming a more environmentally responsible driver. Driving green can cut gas costs and decrease fuel consumption which reduces pollution and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

There are two easy methods you can practice today to drive “green.” The first method every environmentally responsible driver should practice is keeping your filters clean. Many drivers are unaware that having a dirty filter can reduce your mileage by almost two miles per gallon. Maintaining clean air filters or purchasing reusable filters help in improving gas mileage and the environment by reducing waste. It is suggested that air filters are changed every 12,000 miles. If you are seeking additional savings on gas than you should invest in a performance air filter for your vehicle. They use cotton or foam for filtration which is more permeable. The average performance air filter for vehicles can last up to 1,000,000 miles. The second method to practice today to drive “green” is keeping your tires properly inflated. Most drivers are operating with at least one under-inflated tire. This often lowers gas efficiency. A tire with low pressure uses extra gas to move the tires against higher friction along the road. You can increase your gas mileage up to ten cents per gallon by practicing this method. Using a quality tire gauge to check your tire’s air pressure every month is the best solution to under-inflated tire issues.

For individuals who use a truck as their main transportation vehicle there is an additional step you can incorporate into your daily routine. This method involves the usage of covers. Adding tonneau covers for truck beds will automatically increase gas mileage up to 10% by decreasing drag. Drivers who do not use covers produce wind resistance which adds to your regular fuel demand. The less gas you use and waste the less harmful emissions seek into the Earth’s atmosphere.

There are green driving programs in certain cities that you can participate in as well. “The City of Seattle’s One Less Car Challenge” is a green driving program designed to help people save gas money and the environment by living with one less car in their life. They focus on teaching drivers how to get around through other methods and give out great incentives for doing so. Their program consists of two levels of participation. The first level is called trial separation from your car in which you commit to not drive your car for an entire month. This level hopes to prove to drivers that they do not need their car for transportation as much as they may think. The second level is called the break up with your car. This level involves the participant in selling their car and pledging not to replace it for a year. Incentives for “The City of Seattle’s One Less Car Challenge” includes commuter vouchers, free membership in various bicycle clubs, $50 gift certificates, drawings, and $20 in cash per person you refer to the program. This challenge is only for drivers in Seattle area but it is a great example of the type of programs that other cities should implement as well.

Smart Energy Technology: