DEEP: Reducing Your Environmental Footprint

Reducing Your Environmental Footprint:
Information on Purchasing a Vehicle, Driving, and Maintenance Tips

An environmental footprint is a measure of how much our individual actions impact the earth. Driving a car has a significant impact on the environment, from the resources used to manufacture the vehicle, how we drive and how much, to the final disposal of the vehicle. You can reduce your footprint by following these tips.

Buying A Vehicle With Your Dollars And The Environment In Mind

With rising fuel prices, gas mileage is becoming a more important consideration when buying a new car. Here are some tips that may help you make a better choice for your wallet and the environment:

  • {drawing of gas pump} When you buy your next car, look for the one with the best fuel economy and lowest emissions in its class. Better mileage not only means more money in your pocket, but also means fewer emissions and better air quality. See how your vehicle rates on fuel economy.  
  • Look for the California Environmental Performance Label to help you understand how clean the vehicle may be. For more information on the California Environmental Performance Label, see Environmental Performance Label Fact Sheet.
  • Buy the smallest vehicle that you feel will meet your needs for comfort, safety and utility. Smaller cars will save you money and fuel. SUVs and trucks use much more gas and create more pollution.
  • Think about the color. Darker colored vehicles will be hotter in summer and will require more air-conditioning to cool down.
  • Consider an "advanced technology" vehicle, such as a new plug in electric, a hybrid or partial zero-emission vehicle (PZEV). These cars have great gas mileage and greatly reduced tailpipe emissions.  Some may even qualify for federal or state tax deductions.
For more information on hybrids, visit:

Driving Tips

How you drive and maintain your vehicle determines how much impact your car has on the environment. All drivers should:

  • Accelerate and decelerate smoothly and avoid jackrabbit acceleration. According to the EPA, aggressive driving will lower your mileage by 33% on the highway and 5% around town.
  • Drive 55. For each 5 mph over 60 mph, you will use about 7% more gas.
  • Clean out the car and avoid hauling on the roof. You will decrease your gas mileage by 1-2% for every extra 100 pounds weight you carry in your car.
  • Use overdrive and cruise control for highway driving.
  • Don't idle. When you idle, you are getting zero miles per gallon. Turn off your engine (other than at stop signs or light) when you will be waiting more than a minute or two.
  • Plan your trips and combine errands. If you make a lot of short trips, your exhaust system does not warm up enough to function properly and your car will be emitting air pollution that is harmful to people and the environment.
  • For some tested gas saving tips, see "What Really Saves Gas? And How Much?"

Alternatives to Driving

  • Try a different work schedule. Can you work at home for some of the time? Investigate alternative work schedules or telecommuting options with your employer.
  • Take public transportation or car or van pool. 
    • Visit CT Rides for a list of available vanpools, trains and other commuting options, including trying rides for FREE!
    • NuRide can provide information on carpools and you can earn rewards for not driving alone. 
    • For more information on carpooling, contact Rideshare at 800-972-3279.
    • Obtain bus information and schedules at CT Transit
  • Consider walking or biking.  For more information visit Bike Walk Connecticut
  • Try car sharing. Do you travel for business or go to college in a large city and only need a car occasionally? ZipCar has vehicles at several CT colleges, including Yale, Trinity, Wesleyan, University of New Haven, Southern CT State U, and Connecticut College.  Or check out other Car Sharing opportunities.

Maintenance Tips

{drawing of tire} A well-maintained vehicle produces fewer emissions and gets better gas mileage. You should:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated. You will get more than 3% better gas mileage, and more life out of your tires. Your tires may also lose pressure in the colder months, so make it a habit to check the pressure once a month during the winter.
  • Avoid "topping off" your tank. Overfilling can cause spills and may damage the gasoline-vapor recovery equipment on your car. Also, that extra gas you are trying to pump into your tank may actually be fed back into the stationís gas pump, so you may be paying for gas you don't actually get.
  • Check the vehicle gas cap and replace it if it is damaged. Make sure it is on tightly as it keeps the gas from vaporizing.
  • Get regular oil changes, and check air and fuel filters. Replacing a dirty air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. Remember: If you do your own work on your own car, dispose of used oil and other vehicle fluids properly. Never pour used oil down a drain, storm sewer or on the ground. Just a single quart of used engine oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of ground water.

For car maintenance tips, go to Car Talk - Driving Tips or you put "basic car care" in a search engine and find many resources and videos to help you.  

Educating The Next Generation of Drivers

Teach teenagers about the importance of car maintenance and driving habits that will contribute to a cleaner and healthier and safer environment. Here are some tips for teens about car care and the environment.

Content Last Updated on December 2012