Vehicle emissions make up more than 50% of the average household’s carbon footprint. That’s more than appliances, heating, and cooling, and waste combined. As a result, highway vehicles release about 1.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year and contribute to global climate change.
While it may not be practical for every household to simply stop driving to reduce emissions, there are plenty of things you can do to make your car’s carbon footprint smaller. Staying on top of maintenance, shopping for a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and removing extra weight are just a few of the ways you can reduce emissions by driving smarter. Learn more about these and other tips for reducing your car’s carbon footprint.
- Avoid driving when possible: For quick trips around the corner, consider walking or biking instead. Look into carpooling and public transportation for longer trips whenever possible.
- Drive a vehicle with low emissions: When car shopping, look for a vehicle that has a high-miles-per-gallon rating. This will save money and the environment. Use the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide to identify cars with the best fuel economy and emissions.
- Switch to a hybrid vehicle: Use a hybrid vehicle, and you’ll dramatically cut down on the level of gasoline and emissions your vehicle puts out.
- Use green power for electric vehicles: Use solar, wind, or other renewable energy as an electricity source to power your plug-in hybrid vehicle.
- Keep your old one reasonably efficient and in good working order: Vehicle manufacturing accounts for about 30% of each car’s carbon footprint, so maintaining an older car with reasonable gas mileage is just as smart as buying one with lower fuel economy and emissions. The new one is shiny, but you will need to come up with another reason to explain the purchase.
- Take it easy on the pedals: Avoid speeding, unnecessary acceleration, and hard braking. Take it easy instead, saving gas and money while making your driving style safer. Drive the speed limit, maintain a steady speed, and anticipate stops and starts so you can simply remove your foot from the gas pedal rather than continuing to accelerate and then braking hard.
- Don’t idle: Turn off the engine if you’re stopping for more than just 10 seconds, as it wastes fuel. If you are sitting for more than 10 seconds, idling will use more fuel than restarting. Of course, if you’re sitting in traffic, this isn’t practical, but it’s important to keep in mind when parking, picking someone up, or even waiting in a drive-thru line.
- Turn down air conditioning: Don’t blast the AC unless you really need to. Use it on the highway on the lowest comfortable setting, and while you’re driving on surface streets, consider just opening the window on mild days.
- Keep tires inflated properly: You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3% by keeping your tires inflated to their proper level.
- Stay on top of regular maintenance: Keeping your engine tuned, using the correct motor oil grade, replacing air, oil, and fuel filters, and fixing issues like faulty oxygen sensors can significantly increase your fuel efficiency.
- Warm up your car: Cold engines burn more fuel and put out more exhaust, but warming your car up with a block heater can help it get ready before you start it cold and improve your fuel economy.
- Stay away from traffic whenever possible: Shift your work hours, take a different route, or carpool so that you can take the HOV lane instead of sitting in traffic. Plan ahead and time your trips so that you’ll avoid the worst congestion. Use a traffic app to tell you the most efficient way to get where you’re going.
- Combine trips: If you’re heading out to run an errand, consider what other errands you can knock out at the same time so that you can take fewer trips.
- Use cruise control: Cruise control is generally more efficient than human drivers. Using this feature can help you make it easier to drive and increase your fuel efficiency.
- Remove heavy objects from your vehicle: Avoid carting around sports equipment and other heavy items, as any excess weight can reduce your fuel efficiency. However, if you have something big to carry, it’s best to do it inside if possible, as large objects on the roof will decrease aerodynamics and mileage.
- Remove your roof rack if possible: If your vehicle has a removable roof rack, take it off whenever you’re not using it to remove weight and improve aerodynamics.
- Telecommute when possible: Whenever you can, work from home to avoid sitting in traffic on a daily basis. Some employers allow working from home one day a week or more.
- Use renewable fuels if possible: If you drive a Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV), consider using E85 for your fuel whenever it’s available. Diesel vehicle drivers can fill up with biodiesel blends.