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Drivers, here’s how to reduce your carbon emissions

If, like many people, you are trying to live a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly life, then you’ll probably know that re-thinking how you get from A to B can make a big difference.

Many of us love driving – or at least find it hugely convenient – but the hard fact is that road transport makes up around 20% of all emissions. It’s one of the biggest sources of air pollution, leading to health problems in some people. So what can we do?

Next time you get into your car, there are several steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, here are a few to try:


By making small changes to the way you drive, you can not only cut emissions, but also save money on fuel, even more important these days!

The eco way of driving centres around being more mindful of the roads and road users around you and adjusting your driving style accordingly.

Here’s a few ways you can cut your emissions:

  • Slow down: According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), for every five miles per hour you drive over 60 miles per hour, fuel economy is lowered by 7%[1].
  • Read the road ahead to anticipate obstacles, giving you time to slowly take your foot off the accelerator rather than slamming down on the brakes at the last moment. Aggressively accelerating or braking can lower your fuel mileage by up to 30% at motorway speeds[2].
  • Empty the boot: the heavier your car, the more strain it’s under and the harder it has to work; handling may be affected too.
  • Remove roof racks when they’re not being used as they’ll create drag, impacting fuel efficiency.
  • Plan your route in order to avoid roadworks and congestion – which will mean you’ll spend less time sat in traffic idling or crawling along.
  • Shift up early to a higher gear: change up a gear at around 2,000rpm as driving at lower revs can help to reduce fuel consumption.

Stop idling

Many newer cars automatically turn off when stationary in neutral. If yours doesn’t, then switch off your engine if you’re stationary for more than a minute or so.

In some cases, cars can pump out almost twice the emissions while stationary as they do while in motion.

What’s more, leaving your car idling is looked upon dimly by the law. The Highway Code clearly states: "You must not leave a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road." Drivers can face a fine of upwards of £20 for leaving the engine on while in a stationary car. (link to car-idling article)

Go easy on the air con or heating

Air conditioning and heating put a strain on the engine and can burn more fuel, especially when travelling at low speeds. 

The Energy Saving Trust says air conditioning can increase your fuel consumption by as much as 5%[3]

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use it, of course, but try and do so a little more sparingly than you would normally.

 Keep your car well-maintained

Reducing your carbon emissions doesn’t stop when you turn off your engine. There are also other steps you can take to make your car even more eco-friendly.

One is to ensure you keep your car well maintained and have it regularly serviced. A properly maintained vehicle can improve your gas mileage and fuel economy by 4%[4].

Crucially for fuel-efficient driving, this includes keeping your tyre pressure up to reduce resistance; it’s good practice to check your car’s tyre pressure once a month and before long journeys. It’s also important to have the oil and air filter cleaned out regularly.

Use better fuel or try cleaning agents

As a car gets older, harmful deposits can build up in its engine. This may mean it doesn’t work as efficiently and the harmful emissions coming out of the exhaust can gradually increase[5].

There are a couple of things you can do to try and fix this problem. One is to try adding a cleaning agent into the fuel system. If you do this every three months, it can help to remove the deposits and lower the emissions – for more information, Green Flag has a helpful article looking into the effectiveness of these products. 

It’s also worth considering using a premium fuel that already contains these additives, as this could also help improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Buy a cleaner car

Not everyone can afford to splash out on a new car. But if you are ready to change your car, then aim to get one that is as environmentally-friendly as possible.

There are now plenty of environmentally-friendly options to choose from, from the Renault Zoe to the Tesla Model 3. If you’re seriously considering making the switch, find out whether an electric car would be right for you (link to Rias electric cars article)

If you’re curious to find out how clean your existing car is, you can try the Cleaner Vehicle Checker on the London Gov website


[1] https://www.c2es.org/content/reducing-your-transportation-footprint/

[2] https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.jsp

[3] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/ecodriving/

[4] https://www.c2es.org/content/reducing-your-transportation-footprint/

[5] https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/emissions/11-ways-to-reduce-your-car-emissions/