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:

  • 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 econfuel economy labelomy.  
  • Look for the Fuel Economy Labelto help you understand how fuel efficient the vehicle is, including the estimated fuel cost over a five-year period for the vehicle compared to the average new vehicle. There are labels for gasoline vehicles, plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
  • 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 a plug-in hybrid, battery electric or fuel cell electric vehicle. 
  • These cars have lower fuel and maintenance cost and don't emit harmful tailpipe emissions when driving in electric only mode. There are a variety of these cars available and some may even qualify for a state rebate or federal tax credit of up to $7,500. CT is a "range confident" state, with more than 300 publicly available charging stations
  • For more information, 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. Use overdrive and cruise control for highway driving
  • Don't idle, it's the law. 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. Check out DEEP's Waste Busters video to find out why Idling Is Fuelish! 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
    • 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 University of Bridgeport, University of New Haven, Albertus Magnus, Yale, Trinity, Wesleyan, Connecticut College and UConn. Or check out other Car Sharing opportunities.

Maintenance Tips

drawing of tireA 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 station’s 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.

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 January 2018