Some days, it feels like we spend most of our time in cars— commuting to and from work, running errands, driving carpools, taking a road trip, you name it. While this may be great for some car karaoke, hitting the road comes at a steep environmental price. Cars are a major contributor to global climate change, emitting roughly 20 pounds of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere for each gallon of gasoline burned. In fact, cars, motorcycles, and trucks account for nearly 1/5th of all U.S. CO2 emissions.
Want to do something about it? The first and most obvious way to cut your car’s carbon output would be simply to drive less. On nice days, spend more time outdoors, and choose to walk or bike. Not only will you save money on gas, you will get exercise and maybe build up that summer tan!
Can’t avoid the car? That’s okay. Here are a few tips to clean up your tracks and reduce the carbon footprint of your transport...
While we’d all like to believe we could be on The Fast and the Furious in another life, impatient or reckless driving can really increase your carbon output! Speeding, rapid acceleration, and unnecessary breaking can lower your gas mileage by 33%, which is like paying an extra $0.12-$0.79 per gallon. What a waste. So, accelerate smoothly, drive steadily at the speed limit (use Cruise Control), and anticipate your stops. Your fellow drivers will thank you. After all, slow and steady wins the race.
Combine errands to make fewer trips. Remove excess weight from your car. Avoid traffic! Traffic wastes time, gas, and money— it can also be a mood killer. So, try leaving earlier, waiting it out, or using traffic apps to find a different route. You’ll cut your emissions and be happier for it.
Maintain your car
Nobody likes seeing a car puff black smoke from its tailpipe or leak an oil stain onto the asphalt at a red light. It’s gross! Keep your car tuned and running efficiently. Replace air, oil, and fuel filters. Simple maintenance fixes, such as fixing faulty oxygen sensors, can immediately improve your gas mileage by up to 40%. And who doesn't love extra gas mileage?
Invest in a greener vehicle
Hybrid and electric cars use electricity as fuel, generating fewer emissions than their gas-guzzling counterparts. Plus, if charged with clean electricity from renewable sources, electric cars produce zero CO2. Using cleaner fuels and a fuel-efficient car helps too. Some fuels can reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to gasoline! Go ahead and check out the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide. Depending on where you live, after incentives and gas savings, it can cost next to nothing to swap your car for an electric one.
Some more interesting Stats
- Driving accounts for 47% of the carbon footprint of a typical American family with two cars.
- The average American spends around 42 hours a year stuck in traffic. Even more if living in/near cities.
- Properly inflating your tires improve your gas mileage by 3%.
- A typical vehicle emits roughly 7-10 tons of GHG every year.
- For each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph, you pay an estimated $0.17 more per gallon of gasoline.
Offset your carbon footprint
Calculate and offset the CO2 created by your vehicles. The Ocean Foundation's SeaGrass Grow program plants seagrass, mangroves, and salt marsh in coastal areas to absorb the CO2 from the water, while terrestrial offsets will plant trees or fund other greenhouse gas reduction techniques and projects.