roadtripHalf of toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S. are caused by motor vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The organization also reported the total miles people travel by vehicle rose 178% between 1970 and 2005. It’s easy to overlook our responsibility to reduce our impact and offset environmental pollution when summer travel is just around the corner. But there are several ways to help reduce your carbon footprint on a road trip without compromising on fun. Here are a few easy and innovative ways to help contribute to the health of our planet one emission-reducing technique at a time.

Choose a Low-Carbon Vehicle
Trade in your gas guzzler for an environmentally friendlier low-carbon vehicle. An electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf generally won’t generate CO2 if it’s fueled by clean electricity. Aside from helping the environment, an electric car can also be cheaper than driving with traditional fuel options. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, annual fuel savings typically range from $750 to $1,200. Electric cars and hybrids are often cheaper, or only marginally more expensive, than traditional options and may come with tax incentives and reductions, making this an even more economical option.

Take Care of Your Tires
You can improve the fuel efficiency of your car without having to trade it in for a new one. Start with your tires. Keeping your tires well-maintained and properly inflated can save up to 700 pounds of CO2 a year. Choose tires that offer high fuel-efficiency, fuel-saving options and responsive handling to further reduce your carbon footprint. Shop online to find the best selection of environmentally friendly tire options.

Use Renewable Fuels
Seek out alternative fuel options that are made from renewable resources like corn. Flex Fuel vehicles can use E85 fuel with a combination of ethanol and gasoline in case you can’t find alternative options on the road. Diesel vehicles can be driven on biodiesel fuels made from diesel and biodiesel. Don’t let finding alternative gas stations intimidate you when planning your next summer road trip. Instead, use the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fueling Station Locator with nearly 17,000 alternative fuel station options across the country.

Drive Conservatively
Your summer travel planning should include a look at your driving style and an efficient route to your vacation destination. In addition to keeping an eye on your tire pressure, look to see what's inside your car and how you're driving it. Clean out your trunk to reduce weight and travel with fewer suitcases to use up less fuel. Before your summer trip, keep your car in good condition with regular maintenance to avoid overworking your car and burning off unnecessary fuel.

How you drive can also affect your carbon footprint and your emissions use. Avoid heavy traffic when possible, accelerate slower, don't speed and watch your braking. Accelerating and braking aggressively can use 30% more fuel, not to mention increase the maintenance needs of your car.

Purchase Carbon Offsets
It’s not always possible to reduce your carbon footprint and emissions as much as you would like, especially when summer road trips are involved. Businesses have been investing in carbon offsets for years to compensate for the emissions and pollution produced. Individuals can also buy offsets and help contribute to global projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other areas. The idea is if you can't reduce your own emissions, then you can balance it out by removing the same amount of emissions elsewhere. TerraPass offers the purchase of offsets starting at $5.95 per 1,000 pounds of CO2 to support sustainable emission reduction projects.


Susan Finch is a freelance writer with a passion for travel and helping small businesses find their online voice through content marketing, blogging and beyond. She is an eclectic writer with more than 10 years of experience contributing to guidebooks, magazines, iPhone apps, online publications and more. Susan can be found at