How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When You Travel

Adopting environmentally sustainable travel practices can help you significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Learn how you can integrate climate-friendly strategies into your travel routine.

Transportation accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the generation of electricity, according to a information published by the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as Yale University’s Environment 360 magazine. This is likely due to two overriding factors: electricity generation is moving towards renewable sources (such as wind and solar) and away from coal, and transportation systems remain largely unchanged. Though electric and hybrid cars are becoming more commonplace, trucks, trains, planes, and boats still rely upon fossil fuels and emit nearly two billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly.

Personal transportation, including cars and trucks, are responsible for approximately one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that a single person foregoing car travel for one year would save approximately 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide. While not driving at all isn’t a viable option for many of us, here are a few ways you can minimize your carbon impact when you drive.

  • Keep a moderate speed. Efficient driving not only reduces emissions, but it’s also better for your car. This means maintaining a speed that doesn’t require aggressive acceleration or deceleration.
  • Follow a regular maintenance schedule. Keeping your car well-maintained will keep your emissions low and your car functioning efficiently.
  • Check tire pressure. Low tire pressure affects fuel economy — always make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Avoid air conditioning. If you’re on the open highway, opt for rolling down the windows rather than turning on the A/C.
  • Keep your car light. Take inventory of your trunk — is it packed with items that add unnecessary weight?
  • Carpool whenever possible. This effectively divides the emissions amongst the riders in the car.
  • Employ the cruise control feature. If you’re driving for long stretches. This helps conserve fuel.

If you’re in the market for a new car, here are a few factors to consider when deciding on a hybrid, electric, or gasoline model:

  • Consider your charging options. While electric cars seem more environmentally friendly than their gasoline-powered alternatives, it’s important to consider whether your state’s electricity supply is generated from fossil fuels or renewable sources. If you live in a state that generates electricity using coal or natural gas, your electric car will actually contribute to greater carbon emissions than a fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car.
  • Check that the car is SmartWay-certified. SmartWay certification is a U.S. government program that issues its certification to the lowest-emitting passenger vehicles, factoring in smog ratings and carbon emissions data.

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