It’s no secret that driving causes greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, according to the EPA, transportation is the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Of course, for most commuters, giving up driving just isn’t practical. That’s why many forward-thinkers are looking for ways to offset their vehicle’s carbon footprint.
1. Maintain Your Vehicle
Some basic maintenance tips go a long way in improving your fuel economy and reducing your carbon footprint. The simple act of keeping your tires inflated properly can boost your gas mileage by as much as 3%, according to fueleconomy.gov. You’ll also save money in replacement expenses since properly inflated tires last longer. Well-maintained tires are also safer which is especially critical when preparing your car for winter.
You may also want to get your engine checked. If there’s a serious problem, you could end up improving fuel economy by as much as 40%. Even a simple tuning can deliver a 4% improvement!
You may also want to reconsider that generic motor oil. Using your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended brand can boost fuel economy by 1%-2%. Whenever possible, check the bottle to see if you’re using “Energy Conserving” motor oil. It contains additives that reduce friction, further improving your vehicle’s performance.
Replacing your air filter is a cheap and simple repair that often goes overlooked. When your air filter is clogged with dirt, dust, and other debris, your engine is forced to work harder than normal to compensate. Your vehicle ends up using more fuel than is necessary which naturally leads to higher emissions.
In general, if you notice an issue, get it fixed as soon as possible. Not only can ongoing problems compound over time, but poor-performing vehicles tend to use more gas. If you hear an odd noise or if a dash light comes on, you’re better off taking care of it quickly instead of waiting for the issue to get worse.
2. Upgrade to a More Efficient Car
If you’re driving a pre-1990 vehicle, the best solution is to upgrade to a more modern car. Of course, that’s not always financially viable, but it can be a major improvement if you’re trying to reduce pollution.
Improving your car’s fuel economy is naturally a great way to reduce gas emissions. At the same time, however, better gas mileage doesn’t always mean a greener vehicle.
For example, you may think you’re reducing your carbon footprint by trading your 1995 sedan for a vintage scooter from the ‘60s. After all, the scooter gets 75+ miles to the gallon, right? The reality is that your scooter may actually be polluting more than the car that only gets 22 mpg.
Many pre-1990 vehicles were created before recently improved emissions requirements were imposed. In 1990, the Clean Air Act was amended to include several important new emissions and vehicle standards. That means that even if your vintage clunker gets amazing gas mileage, it might still be polluting more than you think.
If buying a more efficient new or used vehicle isn’t an option (or necessary), improving your car’s fuel economy maintenance and other means is the next best thing through. Not only will you reduce your vehicle’s carbon impact, but you’ll save some money on fuel costs too.
3. Install Heat Shields
Using aftermarket car parts is a great way to improve the overall performance of your vehicle, including improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. An exhaust wrap or heat shield is used to manage heat in your vehicle and can improve your car’s overall efficiency by keeping heat inside of your engine.
There are component-specific heat shields that can be used to isolate certain engine parts that are producing too much heat and overworking your vehicle. However, the overall concept is that when you lower the overall temperature of your car using a heat shield, you end up wasting less fuel—and that means fewer emissions. You also get the added bonus of boosting your vehicle’s power!
If you’re considering a heat shield treatment, you may want to speak with a professional if you’re not confident in your ability to work on cars. A good mechanic should be able to advise you on where to place heat shields to deliver optimal performance.
4. Adjust How You Drive
After years of driving, it’s so easy to solidify bad habits without even realizing it. How you drive plays a major role in your vehicle’s fuel economy, so being more aware of exactly what you’re doing may help you to burn less fuel.
For example, do you ever find yourself idling for long periods? On average, one hour of idling wastes around a half-gallon to a gallon of gas. Additionally, your engine is pumping out carbon dioxide, a gas that’s harmful to the atmosphere.
Little details add up over time and readjusting how you approach the road can lead to positive lifelong habits. Even just driving a little bit slower can save you quite a bit of fuel. Try to accelerate slower and only when necessary. If you have an opportunity to coast, take it.
5. Drive Less Frequently
The most effective way to reduce your car’s carbon footprint is simply to use it less. That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about driving, but if there’s an opportunity not to drive, why not take it?
Maybe you’re just going to the corner store and you could easily walk, or maybe you could carpool to the office with a coworker. These little changes may not seem like much, but they can make a big difference if everyone does them.
You’re aware of your vehicle’s impact on the planet, and that fact means you’ve already accomplished something — awareness is a crucial first step. Try to keep making changes whenever the opportunity arises, even if they seem inconsequential. In the future, you’ll find that all of those little steps have turned into a giant leap forward.
Jordan McDowell is a writer and second amendment rights advocate. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation.