All About Cars and the Environment: What You Should Know

Cars account for 20 to 25 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. Owning a vehicle makes you accountable for part of that statistic — but you can take measures to limit or control your car’s carbon footprint.

Changing Cars

One of the best ways to keep your carbon footprint down is by keeping your old vehicle. Getting a repair service for your auto, and switching the necessary parts is a lot more environment-friendly than buying a new one, even if you own a Porsche, a Rolls-Royce, or a Bugatti. Car manufacturers account for close to 10 percent of worldwide carbon emissions, with 12 tons of carbon sent into the air to produce a single mid-sized car. Even switching to an electric car won’t offset the carbon costs of production.

The production of electric vehicles has an even bigger carbon cost — almost 75 percent more than gas-powered vehicles or up to 20 tons of carbon for a mid-sized car. It would require more than ten years of use before electric vehicles somewhat make up for their production cost (in carbon). That’s if you live in a country that doesn’t rely too much on fossil fuels for its energy production like Iceland, New Zealand, or Sweden.

Opting for an electric car in the US, China, or Russia isn’t environmentally sound, particularly because these countries rely on fossil fuels for the majority of their power production. If you really want to save the environment, keep using your old car and switch to a smaller model when it finally bites the dust.

To Idle or Not


Idling got itself a bad rep. But sometimes, leaving your engine on is better than turning it off. Your car produces more particulates and pollutants during the first 500 meters of driving than it does for the next 5,000. Your car’s built-in safeguard to reduce pollution is its catalytic converter, and it requires a bit of driving to warm up. The majority of pollutants your car emits (around 90 percent) are produced as you start your engine and during the first few minutes afterward, mainly due to a cold catalytic converter. Shutting down your car for 15 minutes shouldn’t be an issue in the summer (your catalytic converter will probably stay warm). But it might be better to idle your engine during winter.

Stop Fuming

If your vehicle is a smoker, maybe it’s time for a tune-up. A well-maintained vehicle is a lot more fuel-efficient and produces fewer pollutants. Have your engine cleaned while you’re at it as deposits can build up inside your engine, especially if you aren’t using premium fuel. Make sure to replace your air filters if you have to and check if your catalytic converter is still running properly. You can even install additional exhaust filters to your ride; they don’t affect your car’s performance and can reduce its particulate and carbon emissions by up to 8 percent.

Owning a vehicle automatically makes you accountable for all the carbon released into the air during its production. All you can do is take measures to reduce your emissions or maybe opt for a smaller car further down the road.

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